Introduction

With more than 20 years in Singapore, the Epson brand was widely identified, although closer discussion with various constituents, including the media, implied that recognition and understanding was fragmented. A media audit identified a general appreciation of the brand, but no clear identity and direction which seemed to be a result of multiple and competing messages while the company lacked an identified ‘voice’. In this context, Priority was appointed in 2004, initially to support a major exhibition, and mid-year onwards, to develop a coordinated media relations programme. From the outset, Epson established a mandate to support the sales efforts across the various product divisions.

Challenges

Closer examination identified several key elements that hitherto had not been promoted in any of the company’s marketing initiatives: the company’s technological leadership, Epson as a major local investor with an established manufacturing operation; and finally epSITE, the Epson Imaging Gallery. The latter is essentially an art gallery in Orchard Road and replicates a similar initiative in Japan and is best described as an inadvertent commitment to CSR.

2005 saw a major cutback in the advertising budget and the onus was placed on media outreach to escalate support to the sales divisions. Recognising that all of the major campaign elements would not change, i.e. no new products, no credible spokesperson and no major exhibitions, the only element that could be changed was the way in which the media programme was run. It should also be noted that no additional investment was made in the media programme and so resources needed to be more efficiently allocated.

Objectives

The communications challenge posed to Priority was to support the brand in the face of a significantly reduced advertising budget and to help position Epson as a market leader. The campaign’s success would be measured by way of secured coverage and less quantifiably through the perception of the company within the various target publics.

Implementation

Priority’s first engagement was to implement a media programme for epSITE, the Epson Imaging Gallery. Opened in August 2003, this was a great avenue to promote the brand through showcasing works of renowned photographers and artists, and at the same time, for Epson to be seen contributing back into the local community. In early 2004, the work of Japanese environmentalist Ikuo Nakamura was to be exhibited and this was a major push to position epSITE within the local community.

From mid-year 2004 onwards, Priority was appointed to manage the entire media pro-gramme, thereby ensuring that all messaging was centrally managed. This had start-up challenges as divisions had differing identities, but the overall pluses were measured on continuity and better timing.

The end of 2004 saw a significant improvement in terms of brand recall and recognition within the local media, and coverage saw Epson being credited for the first time as a market leader and innovator. Media tours to Japan, the invention of a micro-flying helicopter and a more ‘info-educational’ approach to the media outreach all helped to boost the company’s reputation. The results of the media programme, measured on a standardised 3x advertising rate delivered a monthly average of S$65k in media coverage which was considered highly acceptable. Major events, such as the Greg Gorman exhibition, saw the gallery in the daily press with multiple full-page features as well as across a large diversity of lifestyle media contributing to wider outreach into new publics.

Supporting further cutbacks in 2005, one element of the media outreach that still had potential for further development within the time and budget constraints was the product review programme. Having said that, we were confident that Epson’s technology was up to par as media were being invited to ‘test drive’ a range of printers, scanners, projectors and other devices and most frequently within a comparative scenario. Media management was important and all within the ‘out-of-the-box’ brand experience which includes device as well as the consumables needed to support it.

Importantly, a product review provides hands-on experience of the brand, and an opportunity to discuss unique features against competitive alternatives in the market. Epson also introduced two relatively innovative products during the course of the year; a picture viewer as well as a portable photo printer – essentially lifestyle concepts, these were a hit with the consumer and lifestyle publications in particular. Having said that, product reviews also penetrated specialist media including the leading local photography publications, on-line technology portals and the local dailies. By regular interaction with the media and active exploration of needs specific to the various readerships, the review programme garnered interest where news releases alone would not.

Please see below a monthly average comparison of media outreach.

Results & Summary

The end of the second year showed excellent results measured against the same number of press releases, interviews and media tours year-on-year, and taking into account that none of the exhibitions introduced international photographers or artists. By changing only the one element in media outreach – the product review programme which ultimately increased by 500%, the company was able to see a significant coverage benefit with PR value averaging $150k per month in 2005 compared to $68k in 2004. In terms of influencing the reader, the product reviews were seen in trade, technology and lifestyle publications as well as on-line and daily press – all supporting and influencing the buying decision.