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Beyond Hype for Skype:
Sterling Launches NETGEAR‘s Wi-Fi Phone at CES
In the fall of 2005, NETGEAR briefed Sterling on its plans for a wireless mobile phone for the immensely popular Skype service for Internet communications. The NETGEAR Skype WiFi Phone was the first Skype-certified device to enable consumers to make unlimited free domestic and international calls to other Skype users over a wireless network, without being tied to a computer. As well as increasing its consumer product portfolio, NETGEAR wanted Wall Street to take notice of this addition of voice applications to its existing smorgasbord of connectivity, multimedia, security, and storage devices.
When NETGEAR launched the first-ever Skype WiFi phone, Sterling’s outreach plan led to widespread coverage in top-tier business, consumer and technology media.
Sterling recommended that NETGEAR make its upcoming wireless mobile phone for Skype the centerpiece of its presence at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. CES has grown increasingly important to the company’s consumer marketing plan and served as a successful launching pad for NETGEAR products in previous years. With tens of millions of Skype devotees worldwide, the product was sure to create a huge buzz within the international CES audience. Sterling recommended that NETGEAR hold its first-ever press conference to reveal a phone prototype, and advised that the event take place prior to the official show opening, in the afternoon between two press parties, to get a jump on other show news.
Sterling laid careful plans for a media blitz that included:
- Coordinating with Skype’s public relations team on a daily basis for six weeks leading up to CES
- Putting a “teaser” for the press conference on the official schedule of CES press events, without revealing the subject of the announcement
- Having Sterling personnel blanket the CES “Unveiled” press party with brightly colored invitations to the press conference the following day
- Refusing to reveal the subject of the press conference, arousing great curiosity among the media at Unveiled
- Holding the press conference at the eBay/Skype kiosk area of the Las Vegas Convention Center, a clear signal to the press of the partners involved
- Conducting a demonstration of the phone’s capabilities by having NETGEAR’s CEO receive a call from Skype’s founder in Europe during the press conference Issuing three press releases discussing the phone after the press conference (the phone announcement, NETGEAR’s overarching trade show release, and Skype’s own “umbrella” show release)
- Conducting outreach in advance of the show to schedule more than two dozen appointments at the NETGEAR booth with press and analysts
- Utilizing market survey research from In-Stat and Jupiter Research in media pitches and press releases to demonstrate the public’s growing interest in Internet-based voice communications
- Securing speaking slots at CES panels and on radio broadcasts from the show floor which offered an opportunity for NETGEAR spokespersons to discuss the phone
Nearly 200 media attended the press conference, including representatives from many international outlets and such top-tier US publications as Barron’s, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and The Wall Street Journal.
“We recouped the entire cost of our booth with that single photo of the new NETGEAR Skype WiFi Phone that appeared in USA Today.” – Doug Hagan, Director of Corporate Marketing, NETGEAR
At the press event the night of the conference, reporters mobbed the NETGEAR table, waiting in line to hold and photograph the model phones. Foot traffic in NETGEAR’s booth the opening day of the show was more than double that of the previous year, based on the number of attendee badges swiped at the reception desk. Executives attributed this influx to the increased brand awareness of the company and the excitement generated by the phone.
The NETGEAR Skype WiFi Phone was included in “best of show” round-ups in virtually every major media outlet. “We received dozens of pieces of positive print and broadcast coverage during CES thanks to Sterling’s hard work,” said Doug Hagan, NETGEAR’s director of corporate marketing. “We recouped the entire cost of our booth with that single photo of the new NETGEAR Skype WiFi Phone that appeared in USA Today.”
In the months following CES, the NETGEAR Skype WiFi Phone continued to generate more public interest than any product in NETGEAR history. Within one week of the show, over 2,000 people around the world had registered on the company web site to receive information on the phone. After one month, the number stood at 10,000, a true testament to the power of the press and public relations. The product was even honored with a Popular Mechanics’ Breakthrough Award before it hit retail shelves.