'Sleepover' event awakens media to the benefits of Zeo

Three sleep-deprived Brown University students founded Zeo (formerly called Axon Labs) in 2004.

Client: Zeo (Newton, MA)
PR agency: Schneider Associates (Boston)
Campaign: Zeo launch
Duration: June 2009-February 2010
Budget: $300,000

Three sleep-deprived Brown University students founded Zeo (formerly called Axon Labs) in 2004. Last June, the company launched its sleep monitoring device and coaching system, also called Zeo. The system is a player in the growing sector of consumer digital health monitoring devices. CEO Dave Dickinson explains that PR helped to introduce the product and the company to consumers.

"Zeo defines a new category - sleep wellness," he says. "We needed to educate consumers about the need to understand their sleep and show them a new way they could address it."

Zeo tapped Schneider Associates to drive brand awareness and sales with an educational campaign.

"Everyone sleeps," Dickinson says. "It's a unique advantage. Very few products can touch so many people personally. [We believed] introducing Zeo to media on a personal level would translate into coverage."

The team tailored its PR plan to first reach out to early adopters of technology, then target health outlets.

Julie Hall, Schneider's EVP, consumer practice and social media, says the team aimed to build rolling momentum.

"Starting with top-tier national coverage in tech and healthcare would drive ancillary media coverage and social media coverage," she explains.

A June 19 "sleepover" event in New York kicked off the launch, giving media firsthand experience with the product.

National consumer editors from health, tech, sports, women's, and men's outlets were invited to the "sleepover" at the Standard Hotel (itself newly launched). Dickinson hosted the event, while Zeo founders and scientific advisory board members were on hand to talk about the product, as well as answer questions before journalists went to their rooms to test it. The team was also available to answer questions throughout the night.

The next morning, journalists attended a breakfast and two-hour presentation. Then the team and a variety of experts, including Dr. Michael Breus, author of Beauty Sleep, manned stations providing additional information on topics such as sleep's impact on mental and physical performance, wellness, and beauty. Other stations focused on the science and technology behind Zeo and the features of Myzeo.com.

Messaging focused on the science behind Zeo and its benefits. Other key outreach targets included tech bloggers, tech influencers, and celebrities who have been vocal about sleep concerns. Media outreach continued past the event.

The Web site also houses tools and educational materials, including media coverage detailing firsthand experience with Zeo and a "zeology" blog.

The team used Twitter and Facebook to further circulate coverage and engage consumers. Dickinson also tweets about Zeo on his personal account.

Dickinson declines to report specific numbers, but says the campaign boosted sales.

"When the Today story hit on December 15, sales were huge," he says. "As a result, December sales were as much as the first four or five months combined."

Dickinson adds that Zeo's Google search frequency spiked, while its rank on Amazon.com shot up from 5,000 in electronics to 127. "All a result of PR," he notes.

Thirty-four media members attended the "sleepover." From June to December, the effort earned placements in outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune, and Popular Science.

Schneider reports that from July 1 to December 31, traffic at Myzeo.com more than doubled (112%). The campaign also landed 692 Facebook fans and 1,597 Twitter followers, exceeding its goals of 500 fans and 1,100 followers.

Zeo and Schneider will continue working together. Dickinson says key consumer targets this year will include women and college students.

PRWeek's view
Dickinson is extremely knowledgeable and articulate about PR. He really understands it from both a value and execution standpoint. His appreciation for the discipline combined with Schneider's deep product-launch expertise made for a potent team. The sleepover event in New York was clever and ap-propriate, while the resulting coverage provided enormous momentum for Zeo. The level of media coverage, accompanied by a boost in sales, is testament to the strength of this campaign's strategy and execution.

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