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- NETGEAR — Building a Consumer Brand
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Building a Consumer Brand
Founded in 1996, NETGEAR created a solid, profitable if somewhat niche-y business offering a line of reliable, easy-to-use home and small business networking products. In 2002, Sterling began working with NETGEAR to build broader business and consumer awareness of the company in anticipation of a planned IPO. The effort led to widespread coverage of the company in publications such as Esquire, The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. Thanks in part to this heightened visibility, in 2003 NETGEAR had the first successful technology IPO since the dotcom crash of 2001. But soon afterward the company turned to Sterling help it vault an even bigger hurdle.
While NETGEAR had become a recognized leader in home networking, by late 2003 the company wanted to become a true consumer brand and position itself as a force in the growing market for consumer IP communications and digital media solutions for the living room. These were new markets for NETGEAR that would put them in competition with much larger and better-known companies such as Apple, Microsoft and TiVO, among others. NETGEAR asked Sterling to help it broaden its coverage in consumer media, and deliver widespread visibility for a series of completely new products.
The Strategy and Tactics
- Leverage major industry events such as the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to create buzz and generate coverage for new product releases.
- Go head-to-head with bigger brands by piggybacking on their news cycles.
- Aggressively pursue product reviews in wide variety of consumer and lifestyle outlets.
- Build a stable of customer evangelists to provide media with validation of product performance and value.
Sterling’s efforts led to a fundamental transformation in the market perception of NETGEAR. In 2004, the company launched the first in a series of digital media streaming products. The launch was covered by the likes of The Associated Press, Stuff and Wired and won a SABRE Award certificate of excellence. Overall the company saw a 22 percent increase in the reach of its coverage in the first six months of the year.
In early 2006, the company’s launch of the first ever Skype Wi-Fi phone resulted in hundreds of unique pieces of coverage in business, consumer and lifestyle publications. The device was the hit of the 2006 CES, with a photo in USA Today’s opening-day coverage. It made an appearance on HGTV and ABC News as well as in local newspaper and broadcast outlets around the country. Sterling secured its coverage in media outlets such as Engadget, GQ, Maxim, Men’s Health, Oprah Magazine and Popular Science, culminating in its selection for TIME’s annual list of the top 10 gadgets.
In 2007, NETGEAR launched a new set-top box that allowed consumers to stream music, videos and photos from their home computers to their TVs. They launched the same week that a little company called Apple introduced its Apple TV device aimed at the same market. The timing wasn’t coincidental. With Sterling’s help, NETGEAR’s set-top box appeared in stories about the Apple device, positioned as being compatible with a wider variety of digital media and offering more functionality than the heralded Apple box. This ensured that head-to-head reviews of the two products appeared in outlets such as Billboard, the CBS-TV Early Show, CNBC Squawkbox, CNN-TV, Gizmodo and The New York Times.
These examples provide a snapshot of the re-positioning of NETGEAR. After initiating the effort to transform the company into a consumer brand began, Sterling secured literally thousands of pieces of coverage for NETGEAR in consumer and lifestyle publications, from Newsweek to U.S. News, from Lucky Magazine to Popular Mechanics, from the Boston Globe to The Wall Street Journal. Sterling even arranged for products to appear in CBS-TV’s “Big Bang Theory.” NETGEAR now has real mindshare with consumers. Cliff Edwards of BusinessWeek put it best, when he included NETGEAR with Microsoft, Sony, HP and Apple, as the “world’s top consumer electronics companies” — an enviable position for a “router and switch” firm. According to NETGEAR, their press coverage was simply “priceless.”
Four years after engaging Sterling, NETGEAR had risen from #8 in terms of impressions and #7 in article count vis à vis competitors to the top spot, as measured by Cision.