CAMPAIGNS: Tamagotchi lays a golden PR egg - Product Launch

Japanese toy company Bandai, creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, launched the computerised pet Tamagotchi in Japan towards the end of last year, achieving phenomenal success. Tamagotchi is an oval-shaped plastic toy with an LCD screen. When owners switch on a bird-like creature is hatched from an egg on the LCD display and it is then up to them to care for it by feeding, playing with and disciplining it by pressing buttons.

Japanese toy company Bandai, creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja

Turtles and Power Rangers, launched the computerised pet Tamagotchi in

Japan towards the end of last year, achieving phenomenal success.

Tamagotchi is an oval-shaped plastic toy with an LCD screen. When owners

switch on a bird-like creature is hatched from an egg on the LCD display

and it is then up to them to care for it by feeding, playing with and

disciplining it by pressing buttons.



Objectives



To launch Tamagotchi in the UK using PR only and to make the Tamagotchi

name synonymous with virtual pets and ensure it dominates the

market.



To position Tamagotchi as a must-have product and generate media

interest in it throughout 1997 particularly in the lead-up to the summer

holidays.



A sales target of one million units from the launch date in May to the

end of the year was set.



Tactics



Tamagotchi was launched to the retail trade at the Olympia Toy Fair in

January.



A drip-feed campaign started in February to stimulate media interest

ahead of the launch in May when products would be available. Individual

journalists were targeted with countdown releases, and exclusives

offered.



Only 12 Tamagotchi were available for preview and these were sent out

with a minder. Journalists were not allowed to take charge until they

had been taught how to care for their pet.



Around 200 key journalists were sent adoption papers and invited to a

launch party at London sushi bar Yo! Sushi in early May. They were told

that unless they turned up they would be sent a funeral bill. The party

included the world’s largest simultaneous hatching of the first 140

Tamagotchi in the UK. A photocall was arranged using sumo wrestlers as

the first 150 went on sale to the public at Toys R Us in Brent Cross

during National Pet Week. More than 500 people turned up to wait for the

store to open.



After the launch the Wright Partnership’s objective has been to ensure

continued coverage of Tamagotchi. Various stories have been put out and

the agency has been quick to respond to media requests for information

and interviews.



Many of the stories - for example, schools banning Tamagotchi and

children requiring bereavement counselling after their pet ’died’ -

might be considered negative. ’We were aware that such issues were

likely to be discussed and have a pragmatic approach to dealing with

media requests,’ says Kevin Wright, partner at the Wright

Partnership.



Results



The Tamagotchi has become a craze to rival previous ones such as the

Rubik Cube, Action Man and Power Ranger, and, as such, has received

phenomenal media coverage, including more than one-and-a-half hours of

TV. Even by mid-August around 175 cuttings a week were coming through.

Coverage includes a feature by Amanda Mitchison in the Sunday Telegraph

describing her experiences of looking after a Tamagotchi.



Bandai UK marketing director, Rosie Bavies, says: ’The problem at the

moment is that we are desperately short of stock. We could easily sell

two or three times as many.’



Verdict



Using PR only to launch Tamagotchi was a brave decision, but one that

has paid off spectacularly. Following the success of the toy in Japan,

where almost 1.5 million sold in the first five months, the campaign

expertly built up media interest and public expectation. This has been

cleverly sustained almost four months after the launch thanks to stories

such as a woman in Birmingham setting up a Tamagotchi creche and a

Buddhist temple in Hiroshima offering a virtual pet graveyard on the

internet.



Apparently negative stories such as bereavement counselling for kids are

a sure way of keeping the product in the public consciousness.



The challenge now is to continue to keep the public and media interested

in Tamagotchi. After all, who buys the Rubik Cube nowadays?



Client: Bandai UK

PR Team: The Wright Partnership

Campaign: Tamagotchi launch

Timescale: Jan-Aug 1997

Cost: pounds 22,000



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