As the newest entry in the highly competitive mobile communications industry, Sony Ericsson needed to define its unique position to become the leading provider of imaging and content-rich technology. GCI helped meet this challenge by leveraging the launch of Sony Ericsson’s first “world phone” with a color screen and digital camera (T68i) through an award-winning guerrilla marketing campaign in which actors posed as tourists and bar patrons, engaging consumers in product demonstrations and showcasing the phone’s breakthrough features.
With a strategic approach to message development, GCI struck a successful balance, forging brand awareness and ensuring delivery of key product messages, stemming from the controversy of the “covert” campaign (“Ingenious or insidious?” – as quoted by Peter Jennings). GCI secured a Wall Street Journal front-page exclusive feature (“Marketplace”) on this unique grassroots marketing campaign. This exposure led a series of national and regional coverage, with print and broadcast media highlights including ABC World News Tonight, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, NPR, BBC, CBS, ABC, Time, Toronto Globe and Mail, and Brandweek, which named Sony Ericsson among the Top Guerrilla Marketers of 2002.
Most importantly, in its debut year, Sony Ericsson bypassed its top competitors in ad, promotional and overall brand awareness in a fiercely competitive environment.
GCI was faced with three key challenges:
· Build and sustain positive media coverage while controlling controversy, ensuring delivery of product messages.
· Leveraging campaign solely through public relations support; without the traditional media buys utilized by key competitors.
· Limited time (two months) to corner the picture phone market through feature placements beating competitors to market.
 Through company research and focus groups, Sony Ericsson determined that its communications platform needed to resonate across two key demographic targets: Professional Pioneers (24-59) and Modern Youth (18-24). The Professional Pioneers want to be connected and constantly informed as they seek technology that enhances their personal and professional lives. Modern Youth talk longer on their mobile phones, use them more frequently than wireless subscribers overall, and require more advanced entertainment functions. In order to identify the appeals of their two key target audiences and refine target marketing and promotional efficiency, Sony Ericssonperformed a highly structured media and lifestyle profiling.
GCI conducted research on the impact of The Wall Street Journal story by querying 170+ consumers in seven major markets: Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, and San Francisco. With outreach to five affiliate offices across the country, GCI gathered consumer feedback in each market and qualified the article’s impact on the Sony Ericsson brand. An overwhelming majority of respondents found the Sony Ericsson grassroots campaign to be a positive and innovative approach to marketing. GCI presented this information to the client along with recommendations to focus on broadcast for more control of brand messaging and greater overall audience reach.
  Key objectives included:
· Create consumer buzz and excitement around the T68i mobile phone
· Increase brand awareness for Sony Ericsson as a new company
· Position the brand as a category leader in mobile communications (specifically imaging)
· Maintain consistent Sony Ericsson media presence through product, applications, business and marketing placements.
GCI’s strategic approach was designed to target high-profile outlets for pre-launch exclusive interviews including: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Brandweek. Highlighting the campaign’s unique and controversial direct-to-consumer street marketing tactics, carefully controlled controversy served to generate a continuous stream of coverage. Following the appearance of a national, influential placement, the story could be leveraged to other media for extended national and regional coverage.
The goal with this program was to hit the influential short lead print and broadcast media with speed and focus. The street campaign was a two-month marketing blitz that extended into several key U.S. markets. The grassroots campaign incorporated several layers of direct-to-consumer marketing including outdoor media (billboards, taxi-toppers, subway wraps, and phone booths that showcased the T68i and CommuniCam in action), as well the “fake tourists” and “bar leaners” (actors and actresses hired to pose as tourists and bar patrons and use the new T68i and CommuniCam in these environments to generate buzz).
GCI used a multi-tiered media approach in order to secure several key placements in competitive national outlets within the same time frame. Level one consisted of the Wall Street Journal. GCI secured an exclusive marketing story with The Wall Street Journal that focused on Sony Ericsson’s unique guerilla marketing campaign and was published one day before it launched in seven major markets across the country. As expected, the slightly controversial article spurred an influx of national and local media attention and put Sony Ericsson and the T68i in the spotlight. So much so, that Peter Jennings did over a 3-minute feature on the marketing campaign itself on ABC’s World News Tonight.
Level two consisted of The New York Times, where GCI secured an on-line placement with data that compared Sony Ericsson’s market share before the program and then after the program had begun (two weeks into it). Level three consisted of marketing trades where interviews were arranged with top Sony Ericsson marketing executives in Brandweek and PR Week.
Level four consisted of regional print outreach, and GCI secured a feature story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Los Angeles Times, St. Pioneer Press, and the Dallas Morning News. And finally, level five extended the broadcast outreach to regional markets including ABC and CBS affiliates. In order to help secure stories in these regional markets, GCI produced b-roll that documented the fake tourists and bar patrons as they interacted with consumers, including positive consumer feedback on tactics as well as product experience.
 The most significant result of this program is that Sony Ericsson has become one of the world’s most recognized brands in mobile imaging and content-rich products and is widely recognized for its innovative and creative marketing.
The Wall Street Journal exclusive features marketing program one day prior to the campaign launch in seven major markets. “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings” extended the buzz generated by The Wall Street Journal and ABC World News Tonight, beyond the seven markets where the campaign was executed, through b-roll documenting the fake tourists and bar leaners as they interacted with consumers.
Key sound bytes of positive consumer feedback on the creative marketing tactics and the brand’s innovative new product were integrated into the b-roll package. Brandweek and PR Week featured interviews with top Sony Ericsson marketing executives. Brandweek named Sony Ericsson one of the “Top Guerilla Marketers of the Year.” PR Week named Sony Ericsson one of the top “Brands To Score a Hit in 2002” among such brands as HBO, Jet Blue, The Osbourne’s, and Dell.