MIT professor and social robotics pioneer Cynthia Breazeal is the creator of Jibo, which is billed as the world’s first family robot, and founder and chief scientist at Jibo.
The company hired Inner Circle Labs last year to prime the market for the robot’s launch and drive pre-orders.
"When we first approached investors in early 2014 for Series A funding, we realized we needed two things – a prototype and evidence of consumer demand," explains Jibo CEO Steve Chambers. "So we built a prototype and launched an Indiegogo campaign and an accompanying PR effort."
The idea was to position Jibo as a family helper through media and blogger outreach, social media engagement, and the Indiegogo site. Breazeal served as the primary spokesperson. A small ad spend with Google AdWords and Facebook helped drive traffic to the Indiegogo site and myjibo.com.
The fundraising effort ran from July to September, and a goal of raising $100,000 through pre-orders was set. A video exploring the vision of Jibo as a personal helper launched the same day on YouTube.
The Inner Circle team promoted the Indiegogo campaign in conjunction with Rainfactory, the marketing agency that designed myjibo.com and handled social media ads. Tactics included media outreach and a series of flexible pricing plans tied to pre-order milestones.
Brittany Votto, manager of Inner Circle Labs, and her team worked with Breazeal to tap influential roboticist colleagues to contribute content for Jibo’s blog. Pre-launch posts focused on building buzz around social robotics. Product- specific post-launch content was intended to drive sales and investor interest.
A Twitter feed for the robot launched on June 2.
"The goal on Twitter is to let Jibo speak in his own voice," Votto explains. "At first he used numerical robot-speak. Then he began to learn English and respond to followers and provide campaign updates, as well as information about the robotics industry."
A Jibo Facebook page, where the team shares updates, media coverage, and general robotics news, launched on July 16. Top-tier media outlets and blogs covering tech, business, and general consumer topics were briefed and shown the Jibo prototype in early July in New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, and Boston.
Breazeal gave the keynote for the robotics track at the International Consumer Electronics Show. Jibo didn’t have a booth at the show, but Breazeal gave top-tier journalists and bloggers private briefings with the prototype in a hotel.
"Our CES presence was about making contact with select press regarding the field of social robotics," Chambers says. "We had Jibo on the show floor briefly for an interview with The Wall Street Journal, but we didn’t want to do too much publicly with the prototype because we didn’t want to put a bull’s-eye on the product for competitors."
On January 21, it was announced that Jibo had managed to obtain $25.3 million in Series A funding.
The $100,000 goal was hit within four hours of the Indie-gogo launch and Jibo grossed $2.6 million in pre-sales from 5,500 buyers. The agency reports Jibo is the fifth-most-funded campaign of all time on Indiegogo, and the most successful technology campaign.
The video had more than 8.3 million YouTube views as of mid-February and its Facebook page had about 50,000 likes. Fifty-six earned stories ran on July 16, and more than 3,000 have run to date. Outlets covering the story included Time, CNN, and USA Today. Inner Circle was named AOR for Jibo as a result of this campaign’s success.
Breazeal spoke at SXSW in March. Additional plans include ongoing consumer education about social robots and developer hackathon events.
Results are clearly outstanding. Despite the limited capability of the prototype and the vast timeframe between the pre-order launch and the expected 2016 ship date, this team did an impressive job of building momentum. The campaign certainly laid a solid foundation for ongoing outreach as the product evolves. It will be important to continue to drive excitement and engagement this year, and the team seems on track to do just that.