CAMPAIGN: BlackBerry pitches as the must-have of 2004 - Technology PR

Campaign: The BlackBerry 7230 UK launch of email on the move Client: Research In Motion PR Team: Hotwire PR/in-house Timescale: Ongoing from May 2003 Budget: Undisclosed

Having launched its BlackBerry 5800 and 6700 series smart phones in the UK to corporate customers in 2001, Canadian wireless systems manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) saw an opportunity to expand into the consumer market. It predicted that a lower-priced, simpler version of the product would be popular with small business and private users who travelled a lot, because it could send and receive email instantly across multiple accounts.

Objectives

To launch the BlackBerry 7230 in the UK and Europe, available at launch through T-Mobile, then O2 in October, followed by Vodafone in November.

Strategy and Plan

Hotwire PR was taken on to help RIM with the product launch in the UK and Germany, targeting gadget-loving predominantly male professionals and professional consumers aged 25-45. The idea was that they in turn would influence ordinary consumers to buy in.

Stuff was chosen to break the story, a month before the launch and an exclusive was secured. BlackBerry 7230 appeared on the front cover and inside as 'hot stuff' in the 2 June issue, coinciding with the launch day.

The strategy of targeting the 'early adopters' continued with demonstrations and briefings to The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times technology correspondents by RIM senior communications manager, Europe, Tilly Quanjer and Hotwire PROs.

Once reviews began appearing, the next step was to get the product into lifestyle, business, travel and more technology magazines, such as Arena, easyJet's and British Airways's inflight magazines, small business magazine Mind Your Own Business, and PDA Essentials and MacWorld.

In the run-up to Christmas, the team sought to reinforce the consumer campaign by pitching the product as one of the 'must haves' for 2004, using broadcast media. This led to the BlackBerry being named 13th in a Sky TV programme on top 100 products for 2004.

The team had only 20 smart phones to lend journalists for testing, which required careful scheduling of briefings. Some journalists were more tech-savvy than others, which called for different approaches to demonstrating.

Relative unfamiliarity with such gadgets among the press led to one of the campaign's more creative moments. When the Sun ran photographs of David and Victoria Beckham on 30 September using the BlackBerrys Vodafone had given them, it described the smart phones as MP3 players. Hotwire took the opportunity to correct Sun Online features editor Jonathan Weinberg, which resulted in a further feature the following day.

The pictures were also syndicated to Heat, Closer and Hello magazines.

Measurement and Evaluation

The BlackBerry 7230 received 116 mentions between launch and January 2004 across daily and Sunday newspapers, PC and computing, internet, mobile phone, business, travel, trade and lifestyle magazines. It also featured in The Real Beckhams over Christmas, and on BBC Radio 2. Eleven website mentions included ZDnet, mobic.com, 3G mobile and Netimperative.

Results

The number of subscribers in the US, Europe and Asian markets for all BlackBerry models rose by 154,000 to 865,000 between 30 August-30 November 2003, with 100,000 in Europe and Asia. Vodafone says half its 1,750 non-call centre staff also adopted the 7230.

'Hotwire was very pro-active,' says Weinberg. 'The fact that they tied BlackBerry to two of the biggest celebrities in the world - Posh and Becks - was perfect timing.'

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