Paul Holmes 13 May 2005 // 11:00PM GMT
Launching XaviX, a new home entertainment system, in a market dominated by monster budgets and big players was a complicated public relations challenge. By leveraging research (focus groups, industry and media trend research) CKPR developed a strategy that appealed to the imaginations of the target market, while establishing the credibility of this unknown brand and positioning it for the future.
As a result, CKPR was able to bring to life a product that had never been seen – all resulting in media attention and positive press coverage nationwide. More than 95 million impressions and 800 articles and broadcast stories included major national outlets such as The New York Times (two stories), WSJ.com, US News & World Report, BusinessWeek, MSNBC, ESPN and the television show “Extra!”
XaviX (ZA-vicks) is the first U.S.-marketed product for SSD Company Limited, a small Japanese company founded by the developers of the first Nintendo Entertainment System. XaviX technology “sees” movement, so players don’t sit on the couch and use their thumbs – they’re up and active. The very first products to be launched – XaviX Baseball, Bowling and Tennis – put players’ movements right into the TV screen with interactive sports accessories that have the near-real feel and functionality of actual baseball bats, tennis rackets and bowling balls.
Before 2004 XaviX was a never-before-seen technology platform created by an unknown company that set out to compete in an industry known by the size of its players – Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. SSD executives were unfamiliar with the process of conducting a U.S. public relations campaign, but knew that bringing their unique product to life for the press and for consumers would be a critical component of their U.S. launch.
Because XaviX would be launched with limited and highly targeted advertising, a strong public relations program was needed to create national awareness. The PR objectives were to: create news and coverage around the launch of XaviX, Position XaviX as a technology that promises more than just games and establish the credibility of XaviX and SSD among the big corporate players in the industry.
Focus group testing helped identify the ideal XaviX target audience as 7 – 14 year-olds. Because of the target age, parents – as gatekeepers for many toy and game decisions – would be an important secondary target for public relations. Focus groups also revealed unique product attributes that appealed to the target: XaviX is social and kids liked playing in groups, competing and cheering each other on and XaviX appealed to kids’ imaginations and aspirations – they could be home run hitters or tennis stars right in their own living rooms.
A media review revealed two relevant trends: first, video games generally confounded parents, who do not like the amount of time their children spend playing them. Second, media coverage revealed the growing issue of childhood obesity (more than 700 stories were written in 2003 alone), suggesting XaviX’s potential to get the typically sedentary video game players get of the couch could capture and hold media appeal.
These two trends helped the team find a positive platform for XaviX as an easy-to-play and social game that got kids active, unique from other games.
Finally, industry insights revealed that big players and big budgets dominated the market, so building credibility would be key. As a new entrant into the marketplace, SSD would require press materials that would bring the brand and the games to life and legitimize XaviX as a serious, cutting-edge technology truly ready to make a big splash in the U.S.
CKPR recommended a two-prong approach to build buzz for XaviX: give reporters a “tease” at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to get those first positive reactions that would pave the way to a strong launch when the product was available in stores in the summer.
Among the thousands of exhibitors at CES, CKPR garnered major coverage of XaviX with the following tactics: Booth design with playing stations at the corners; crowds gathered to play and cheer on each other (social factor).Spokesperson Steve Garvey (and his 7-year-old son, Ryan) lent his celebrity to illustrate the “imagination” appeal of XaviX. Visitors to the booth had the chance to play with – and beat – a baseball legend, creative press materials reflecting target insights (tagline: “Welcome to a new reality”) and four-color press kits representing the four fields where XaviX saw itself in the future: Games, Home, Education and Entertainment and major media blitz using the pitching points established by our research: CKPR customized pitches that differentiated XaviX – its appeal to the imagination, the social aspects, and the “getting-off-the-couch” factor.
Competing with the big names meant throwing an event that would attract attention. Tactics included: national press event at ESPN Zone, New York with the theme, “Where imagination and reality merge.” The event drew crowds inside the venue and outside the windows to watch, reality TV star spokespeople brought the virtual reality theme to life; CKPR enlisted Amber Brkich and Rob Mariano from “Survivor,” and Ereka Vetrini and Katrina Campins from “The Apprentice” to compete against the kids and adults who attended the event, b-roll feed and media tour brought the games to life – the spokespeople described how much fun it was to play the XaviX games, and the visuals in the b-roll drove home the fun, social aspect of the games and national mailing to reviewers was conducted post-event; the buzz was high, and reviewers were eager to get their hands on their own set of XaviX products.
The effort generated more than 70 individual reporter interviews, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Associated Press; another 35 reporter interviews at launch; all played the games and spoke with executives. In all the campaign resulted in 95 million impressions and counting, including more than 25 TV segments; more than 530 radio segments; more than 120 newspaper articles; and more than 150 Internet articles.
More than 85 percent of reviews positioned XaviX as more than a gaming technology; stories mentioned future applications for the technology.