Top photographers showcase the Extreme Pro's attributes

SanDisk asked Cohn & Wolfe to help with the September 14 worldwide launch of the Extreme Pro, a professional-grade flash memory card for cameras.

Top photographers showcase the Extreme Pro's attributes

Client: SanDisk (Milpitas, CA)
PR agency: Cohn & Wolfe (San Francisco)
Campaign: SanDisk Extreme Pro Launch
Duration: March-September 14, 2009
Budget: Approximately $300,000

SanDisk asked Cohn & Wolfe to help with the September 14 worldwide launch of the Extreme Pro, a professional-grade flash memory card for cameras. Primary goals were to raise awareness among creative professionals, differentiate the brand and product, and drive sales.

"We wanted professional photographers' opinions... in their own words about what's important in the card," says Wendy Sept, director of worldwide retail PR for SanDisk. "It puts it in a context and provides a halo for consumers."

C&W led global strategy and US execution, while Text 100 executed in EMEA and APAC. IMS Marketing handled Latin America.

The team assembled an unpaid "Extreme Team" of seven professional photographers specializing in fashion, sports, nature/outdoor, and weddings, says Chris Knight, VP at C&W. The photography categories were selected because speed and reliability are vital to them - and the new card touts both. The photographers' images and stories would help engage audiences and illustrate product uses.

Messaging was planned to go out through microsites on, traditional media relations, blogger outreach, and social media channels.

Core messaging and materials were developed in the US and localized and implemented in 25 countries.

An Extreme Team microsite hosts written photographer profiles and photos. Video profiles were posted on SanDisk TV, as well as on SanDisk's branded channels across about 13 video sites, including YouTube, MetaCafe, and Vimeo. Knight says videos were also helpful in educating and engaging retail associates.

About six months prior to launch, members of both the PR team and the Extreme Team began using Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, Twitter, and Delicious to reach professional and enthusiast audiences with information, including the videos, photos, and tips.

The effort also targeted photo, tech, and gadget trades and bloggers. To build awareness about product innovations and SanDisk branding, the team also engaged top-tier consumer media, Sept explains.

"We led with the card and the innovation and backed that up with the... photographers," Knight adds. "Showing their images in press briefings and telling why the card features matter to professionals helped bring the product story to life."

A paid shoot with photographer Chase Jarvis was also used to gain attention. For nine days prior to launch, the speed of the card helped Jarvis capture images of ski jumpers in New Zealand. He wrote about the shoot daily on his blog and revealed on launch day that he'd used SanDisk's new product.

In the three weeks post-launch, 43 Extreme Pro cards were sold on, bringing in more than $25,000. Sept declines to disclose overall Web traffic, but she reports launch day metrics include a 59% rise in homepage traffic, compared with the same day the previous week, and more than 2,800 Extreme Team page views. Knight adds that two more photographers were secured to join the Extreme Team.

Jarvis' blog drew more than 40,000 views a day while he was in New Zealand. All social media audiences increased, with Facebook showing the biggest jump from 370 fans in March to 2,270 in December. Comparing the same months, audiences increased from 341 to 1,503 on Twitter; from 103 to 235 on MySpace; and from 34 to 169 on Flickr.

Print and online audience reach exceeded 112 million, with more than 750 stories appearing in outlets including The New York Times, Wired, Gizmodo, and CNET.

"Everyone is very pleased," Sept says. " We exceeded objectives, helped reinforce our leadership in flash memory, and increased brand awareness."

Sept says SanDisk will continue to use the Extreme Team. "We want professionals to talk more to consumers," she adds.

PRWeek's View
This campaign serves as a powerful example of the value of influencers. It yielded nice immediate results and it should also prove to be a great long-term investment for SanDisk, as its PR team continues to draw on the Extreme Team to reach broader audiences. Connecting with influencers such as respected photographer and blogger Jarvis was wise, as was letting all the photographers speak directly with audiences. This team did an outstanding job of not only producing quality video and copy, but in circulating it.

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