Blackie McDonald’s ‘Back to Nature’ Digital Imaging campaign drove key message penetration and achieved more than 95 per cent positive coverage for Panasonic’s range of SD Card camcorders and digital still cameras by effectively demonstrating the key messages and improving the evaluation methods used by journalists.
The objectives of Blackie McDonald’s campaign were to raise awareness and change existing negative opinion about Panasonic’s SD card technology used in Panasonic’s digital camcorders and LUMIX digital still cameras. The ‘Back to Nature’ launch event, held on the Great Barrier Reef at Lady Elliot Island, was designed to showcase the capabilities and key technologies and demonstrate how they were perfect for an adventurous, mobile lifestyle.
The multi-faceted campaign resulted in more than 80 print, TV and online articles, generated from the launch event, product announcements and product review program.
Panasonic’s digital camcorders and still cameras use SD memory card technology to store video, including High Definition video, and still images. This recording format allows cameras to be smaller and more durable, and SD cards are highly flexible, making sharing and editing easier for the user.
The issue for SD card technology was the perception that SD memory cards were currently too expensive with relatively small storage capacity. Other competing storage formats, such as Hard Disk Drive (HDD) with high memory capacity, were favoured by consumers, particularly in camcorders.
The introduction of SD card camcorders in 2007 was met with muted enthusiasm by consumers, with total sales of just 717units1 for SD card camcorders in 2007.
Media coverage of SD card camcorders had been somewhat negative in tone.
“Panasonic has been able to pack this device into such a small unit because of its use of SD cards as the recording medium... It’s an interesting approach, but at this stage it is still contentious. On the plus side is the fact that such cards are easily transportable and transferable. At this point in time, however, there are reasons ranged against it - chiefly capacity and price.” Roland Tellzen, The Australian, 23 October 2007
“[The Panasonic HDC-SD5] is a solid product let down by the price of its recordable media. We’d therefore recommend it to people who already have a large collection of SD cards (or an even larger wallet).” Chris Jager, Good Gear Guide, 19 September 2007
Panasonic was concerned consumers were unlikely to consider its products because they believed that the cost of SD card media outweighed other benefits such as compact size, durability, speed and ease-of-use. Blackie McDonald needed to consider how these opinions had been formed and counter them with an engaging and effective communication program.
In early 2008, Panasonic engaged Blackie McDonald to develop a PR campaign to launch its new range of SD Card Camcorders and LUMIX digital still cameras as well as a high capacity SDHC memory card.
Panasonic found that media coverage, in particular independent media reviews, are the most persuasive resources for consumers making purchasing decisions regarding consumer electronics products. Blackie McDonald scrutinised media reviews during the previous 12 months and found a correlation between suspected consumer opinion and media reporting.
The majority of product reviews mentioned the cost of SD media as being a deterrent, while only a small number of reviews believed the small size was a considerable benefit. See Appendix A.
Blackie McDonald’s analysis suggested that these opinions were being formed because many journalists did not have an opportunity to test the equipment in environments where the small size, speed and robust quality would be advantageous.
Many journalists reviewed the products in limited or controlled locations – trialing the equipment at their home or office – rather than trialing them by travelling to locations and environments favoured by users.
Panasonic identified the “aspirational user” as their target market for Panasonic’s SD technology camcorders and LUMIX digital cameras. The small size and robust quality of the products made them ideally suited as travel companions for capturing active adventure in the outdoors, and other aspirational pursuits, rather than traditional use indoors.
Aspirational user – ‘Flashpacker’ travelers, young adventurers and budding filmmakers/photographers who use the latest tech gadgetry as part of their active, mobile and social lifestyle. They take a camera everywhere they go, especially for leisure activities or when they travel, to record their experiences and share with online social networks.
- Active lifestyle – travellers, adventurers, lovers of the great outdoors
- Tech-savvy, early adopters of digital technology and online video content creators
- Youth market (18 – 35) with disposable income
- Desire for quality, ease-of-use and the latest technology
- Amateur to aspiring moviemakers and photographers
Traditional users – Current digital camcorder and camera owners who record family moments such as birthday parties, weddings and children’s activities.
- Families and older consumers
- Seeking quality, ease-of-use, as well as value
Australian Retailers - consumer electronic retailers and photographic retailers
Panasonic ambassadors who capture inspirational photography and filmmaking
- Award-winning landscape photographer, Ken Duncan
- Legendary surf filmmaker, Jack McCoy
Key influencers and opinion leaders in the Australian Media
- Consumer technology media
- Bloggers and online media
- Travel media
- Lifestyle media
- Specialty photography / video media
- Retail / trade media
Blackie McDonald sought to highlight the positive attributes and change existing negative opinions about Panasonic’s digital camcorders and still cameras by demonstrating how the technology fits perfectly into an adventurous, mobile lifestyle. This would be in the interest of consumers as it gave them an opportunity to associate the product with aspirational activities.
In addition to highlighting the size of SD cards, Blackie McDonald also wanted to demonstrate other advantages such as the durability of the format, the high capacity available, the ability to swap SD cards between different devices and the robustness because of fewer moving parts.
- Compact size and portability – SD allows camcorders to have more compact designs so they can “go anywhere”.
- Durability – SD media has fewer moving parts making it a more robust and durable format. SD cards also allow Panasonic to make ‘rugged’ products that are waterproof, dust proof and impact resistant, so they are perfect for taking outdoors, even to the beach or snow.
- Capacity – SD Cards have an increasingly higher capacity with Panasonic announcing the world’s first 32GB SDHC card.
- Flexibility – SD media is highly flexibility and can be easily replaced on the go. SD cards can be used in other devices such as computers, Blu-ray Disc recorders, DVD players or Plasma TVs to share the footage with family and friends.
Blackie McDonald developed the Back to Nature concept which would see journalists travel to Lady Elliot Island – an eco island on the Great Barrier Reef – for the weekend in mid-February, 2008 and experience the lifestyle of the active adventurer. It was an environment where journalists could see the benefit of the smaller size of SD cameras and evaluate them under the same conditions experienced by the user.
Stage One: Key message development and materials
Blackie McDonald consulted with Panasonic to develop the key messages and bring these to life through well-written press materials and presentations. Two Panasonic technology ambassadors were approached to support these key messages and provide third-party endorsement.
Stage Two: Media selection
As the young, adventurous and tech-savvy demographic was reached mainly via online media, Blackie McDonald selected a range of journalists who were trusted reviewers of consumer technology and had a strong online presence. Media was chosen from a range of sectors and publications including consumer technology, lifestyle, travel, specialty photographic and trade media.
Stage Three: Launch event
The Back to Nature tour was attended by 17 journalists, from around Australia, transferred by a special charter flight to Lady Elliot Island in Queensland.
Blackie McDonald developed a comprehensive itinerary for the media so they would enjoy a range of activities on the island to fully evaluate the technology.
Key Message Demonstration
- Compact size and portability - Journalists carried the cameras with them on tours of the island and outlying reefs, where the size and lightweight design was a significant advantage.
- Durability – A demonstration of the durability included burying the Panasonic SW20 camcorder in sand before submerging it in water and dropping it on the floor. Journalists then took excursions to snorkel on the reef with the camcorders and underwater housings.
- Capacity – The journalists were given a 16GB SD card and 8GB SD Card which they used to capture high definition video as well as still images throughout the weekend.
- Flexibility – Journalists were encouraged to swap SD Cards between products as they trialed them. A Panasonic Plasma TV was also available so the media could insert the SD card (into the TV’s dedicated slot) and playback on the big screen.
The relaxed environment of Lady Elliot Island ensured that the journalists had time to discover many natural wonders (including green turtles, reef sharks, tropical fish, tree frogs and sea birds) and had plenty of opportunities to explore and experiment with the products’ many features and technologies. The involvement of Panasonic’s technology ambassadors – awardwinning landscape photographer, Ken Duncan and successful surf filmmaker, Jack McCoy – was a key factor in the success of the communication. Both were celebrated and highly successful photographers and film makers who had travelled the world and captured many inspirational images. Ken and Jack accompanied the journalists throughout the experience, providing one-on-one tutorials in photographic and video techniques.
Stage Four: Media briefings and Product Review program
After the launch, Blackie McDonald identified the key targets for reviews and one-on-one briefings, including key media who were unable to attend the event. The key media were provided with press materials and the relevant products for several weeks so they could use the product extensively. Several journalists were encouraged to travel with the product on their holidays or take it with them on their weekend excursions. A total of 40 product reviews took place, contributing strongly to the overall coverage.
Stage Five: Reporting
As part of the final report, Blackie McDonald provided Panasonic with ongoing media analysis in a weekly summary, detailing the coverage for the week, including key messages, the publication’s circulation and the overall tone.
From 18 February until April 30, 2008 more than 80 print, TV and online articles were generated from the event and associated press announcement and product review program. This represented an average of more than one article per day. Many articles included photos taken from the event, with one journalist creating an online gallery of his images.
A high level of key message penetration was achieved throughout the coverage with approximately 97 per cent mentioning one or more of the key product messages. Key technologies and product features were mentioned consistently in a positive or very positive tone, including Panasonic’s SD memory card aswell as other technologies such as Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto feature and high-quality wide angle Leica lens. SD Card technology was the strongest message with mentions in 53 per cent of total coverage.
- Television – 1 Story
- Print – 28 articles (includes magazine and newspaper)
- Online – 69 articles
The campaign achieved a high degree of positive tone with 98 per cent positive to very positive coverage. Most notable was the shift from the earlier negative messages (see Situation Analysis) which cited the price of SD cards as a major deterrent for consumers. This opinion had largely shifted to recognise the many benefits offered by SD card technology and, in some coverage, to the belief that SD card technology was the future for image and video capture.
“If there had been any doubts in our minds that Flash memory was the storage wave of amateur photography of the future, the SD9 silenced them. Rated 8 out of 10” Roland Tellzen, The Australian, 18 March 2008
“The benefits of SDHC media far outweigh the costs, including longer battery life, sound-free operation, smaller camcorder size and instant ‘cable-free’ playback on SD-compatible computers. It is becoming rapidly obvious that flash memory media is where the future of camcorder technology currently lies. Rated 4 stars.” Chris Jager, PC World and Good Gear Guide, February 2008
The sales of SD Card camcorders increased by 650 per cent (an increase of 4671 units) in the period 1 January – 30 April 2008. Panasonic’s share of the market grew during this period from around 11 per cent to a commanding lead of over 50 per cent2.
Panasonic received high praise from the attending media. The relaxed, friendly nature of the event was helpful in building relationships and sustaining the positive association with the technology.
Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson, Courier Mail - “I just wanted to say thank you for a truly enjoyable and unorthodox camera launch. You took really good care of all of us, and it was helpful and instructive to test the cameras in some pretty amazing surroundings. My colleagues are very jealous and I can’t blame them!”
Nick Ross PC Authority - “All launches should be like that! One of the very best.”
David Hague Australasian Camcorder - “This has been, in my view, one of the very best trips I have been on as a freelancer, in over 20 years!”
Peter Eastway, Better Photography - “…an excellent weekend – really enjoyed myself and listening to Jack and Ken was awesome. Well done!”
Kymberly Martin, Counterpoint - “Thank you again for inviting me to the most relaxing new product launch ever! Great company, perfect location and cameras to match. I was delighted to be part of it and my special thanks to all involved for making it so fabulous.”