A traditional back-end provider, Vicinity Corporation had quietly established itself as a lead e-retail infrastructure provider through relationships with Barnes & Noble, Marriott, Starbucks, Nike, Mercedes and hundreds of other Global 2000 companies that were turning their online presence into offline retail sales. The challenge for these retailers was to reformulate their Internet marketing strategies to meet the needs and demands of their tech-savvy customers. The shift from “old economy” marketing to “new economy” success centered on the ability to bridge the gap between online and offline retail. The answer was in “clicks-and-mortar marketing” -- an approach that gave an online extension to traditional brick-and-mortar brands and provided an improved way to direct consumers to the closest retail location. The communications challenge for Fleishman-Hillard was to brand the unknown Vicinity name and introduce its business model to the marketplace. Up to that point, Vicinity had little media awareness outside of marketing trade publications, no analyst relationships, and was in an undefined market space. Not an ideal situation for a company rapidly approaching an initial public offering (IPO). Together, Vicinity and F-H set out on a campaign that would educate the e-commerce industry and the investment community on a company that was driving a new and emerging brand of online marketing called e-retailing. 


The primary goal was to build a stronger awareness of the company and its products in time for the IPO in early February 2000. F-H determined the first step would be to educate the industry that, despite the hype surrounding the Internet, brick-and-mortar sales would not decrease or diminish in importance, but rather continue and even expand in its role for quality customer service, fulfillment and distribution.  Using secondary research, F-H found that 99 percent of all retail transactions were still taking place offline. Even with optimistic analyst estimates, this figure was expected to remain above 93 percent through 2004 (Forrester Research).  Therefore, F-H would create a program that showcased Vicinity’s unique product and distribution network against the increasing need for neighborhood businesses to connect with Web users.  Vicinity would become the leading infrastructure-marketing tool for using the Internet to drive customers to retail stores, thereby closing the gap between online and offline retail. 


Three key objectives in branding Vicinity for the IPO were 1) Increase brand recognition for Vicinity Corp. as a leading provider of Internet-based marketing infrastructure services, 2) Establish a strong competitive differentiation in a market with significant growth opportunities, 3) Establish a foundation with target media and analyst contacts that would lead to a successful IPO and create a voice in the market for Vicinity Corp.


Key challenges included 1) A highly crowded and volatile IPO marketplace, with well-known consumer brands going public the same week. 2) Difficulty in providing compelling information to the media without violating strict quiet-period concerns. 3)  Having to develop an optimal media schedule for the day of the IPO, 4) An overly conservative legal and underwriting team that squashed several high-profile media opportunities. 5)  Establishing an understanding and acceptance of the company’s long-term business strategy, versus the short-term “dot.com buzz.”


To overcome these difficulties, F-H developed the following strategies:  1) Utilize a combination of intensive business, computer trade and consumer media relations and industry visibility tactics to convey leadership and the value of Vicinity services, 2) Showcase the Vicinity offering and announce premier customers and affiliations with key third-party strategic partners through ambitious national communications programs, 3) Leverage strong partner relationships (GTE, Inktomi, Lycos, Omnisky, Sun Microsystems) and use the customer base as validation of the company and its technology (Barnes & Noble, FedEx, Ford, JCPennys, The Home Depot, British Airways).


Because Vicinity was virtually unknown in the business-to-business e-commerce industry and e-retailing was a fairly new concept, it was important to execute an aggressive pre-IPO public relations campaign. F-H began an aggressive media relations campaign around the time Vicinity filed the S-1 for its IPO, creating an initial buzz among the business press well before the company’s offering.

Pre-and-post IPO activities:

  • Developed key investment messages supporting Vicinity’s long-term overarching business strategy
  • Prepared a comprehensive timeline and detailed IPO media strategy 
  • Arranged and executed an East Coast road show, including Bloomberg, CNN(fn), Dow Jones, Reuters and others
  • Worked with Vicinity in preparing internal and external investor relations materials
  • Prepared an internal employee memo to engage Vicinity employees in the IPO “buzz”
  • Wrote and distributed strategic press releases announcing the filing of the IPO and the successful completion of the IPO 
  • Coordinated and secured pre-brief interviews with top analyst firms
  • Pursued and secured in-person broadcast meetings 
  • Pre-IPO proactive news bureau:
  • Developed and distributed a steady stream of press releases focusing on new products and services, partnership agreements and ownership of vertical-market segments
  • Coordinated and staffed executive briefings with top broadcast organizations and business, technology, marketing and daily trades (Ad Age, Adweek, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Business Week, Channelseven.com, CNBC, CNN, CNNfn, Dow Jones, E-Business Solutions, Electronic Advertising & Marketplace, Executive Technology, Information Week, Interactive Week, Marketing Computers, Marketing News, San Jose Mercury News, Stores, Wall Street Journal, and more
  • Developed contributed articles for trade publications, including one for Franchise World magazine called “E-Retail: Driving Web Traffic to Local Franchises”

Analyst relations:

  • Coordinated and staffed executive briefings with top analyst firms (Forrester Research, Gartner Group, Jupiter Communications, Zona Research, and others)

Aggressive speakers bureau:  

  • Placed executives at top industry speaking venues, including the Direct Marketing Association’s 2nd Annual E-Commerce & Demo Workshop and InfoTech ‘99


The increased awareness about Vicinity Corp. and the value of its marketing-based infrastructure services led to a highly successful IPO for the company in February of 2000. At close of first day of trading, Vicinity witnessed an increase of 187% from $17 a share to $48 a share, a testament to the market anticipation created by a successful and effective pre-IPO campaign. For a company that was largely unknown the year before, Vicinity Corp. was now proclaimed as “one of the hottest companies to keep your eyes on” by CNN(fn).  Other key results included:

Newfound relationships with the nations leading e-commerce media and industry analysts generated critical references from Carol Ferrara, Gartner and David Cooperstein, Forrester Research

Added exposure from the nation’s top-tier broadcast and print media (Bloomberg, CNBC, CNNfn, Redherring.com, Reuters, San Jose Mercury News, Upside, USA Today) as they watched the Vicinity IPO unfold

Overall, Vicinity garnered a total of 169 clips (primarily in business and daily publications) with a circulation of over 63 million immediately following the IPO

Vicinity continues to receive coverage and has been featured in stand-alone articles and placements on The Motley Fool radio show, Raging Bull, The Street.com, Industry Standard, InfoWorld, Interactive Week, ZD Interactive Investors, and several others

Vicinity continues to garner attention from industry analysts, business and daily news outlets for its continuing success in the e-retail market (Aberdeen, Beyond Computing, Building Online Business, Business Week, C/Net, Darwin, eCompany, Family PC, Fast Company, Forrester Research, Industry Standard, Information Week, InfoWorld, Jupiter Communications, New York Times, PC World, Revolution, Smart Business, U.S. News & World Report, Wireless Week, ZD Interactive Investor, Yankee Group)

Since its February 9 IPO, Vicinity has signed up an additional 120 customers, which include Alta Vista, Best Buy, Best Western, Domino’s, GTE, Merle Norman and Wal-Mart, to name a few

From June 1999 to June 2000, media coverage generated on behalf of Vicinity accounted for 712 clips for a total circulation of over 236 million.  Much of the media coverage centered around the IPO topic, with a total of 202 clips garnered or 29% of the total

Vicinity has witnessed an increase in brand recognition and competitive differentiation since the IPO (between Feb-June 2000) in that it has received an increase of interview requests from industry analysts (10) and top tier publications (55), which include Aberdeen Group, Business Week, CNN, Computerworld, Darwin, eCompany Now, Fast Company, Forrester Research, Jupiter Communications, Industry Standard, InfoWorld, Line56, M-Business, New York Times, Reuters, Revolution, Smart Business, U.S. News & World Report, Wireless Week, and others
Since the IPO, Vicinity has secured several speaking opportunities at top venues (“Direct Marketing Days in New York,” “Internet World’s EC Roundtable,” “Institute for Int’l Research’s Optimizing Online & Offline Campaign,” “Wireless Developer Network/CTIA,” “E-Commerce for Travel” and “Wireless Symposium 2001”