Campaign Touts Portable E-Mail Device

Cidco, Morgan Hill, CA, a manufacturer of telephony and Internet appliances, is spending $20 million to market a portable e-mail device called the MailStation to consumers in a wide-ranging campaign.

The second phase of the campaign, which launched last week, includes a series of six to nine banner ads on Yahoo and other Web sites, an e-mail marketing effort, and three print ads scheduled to run in Newsweek, US Weekly and Entertainment Weekly. In October, Cidco expects to roll out the print campaign to another six publications and add billboard and television components that will run until the end of the year.

The campaign promotes MailStation — a portable unit with a small keyboard and screen that plugs into a standard telephone jack — as a home appliance that can give users e-mail access in rooms without a PC. The device costs about $100 and is available in retail outlets such as Best Buy, Radio Shack and Staples. An annual contract for e-mail service also costs about $100.

While Cidco is casting a wide net, the campaign's target audience is a sharply defined group centered around baby boomer women of varying income levels who fit one of two classifications: those familiar with computers and the Internet, and those with little or no experience.

Bill Sole, Cidco's executive vice president of sales and marketing, explained why the company is targeting both experienced Internet users and novices. People who already have computers and Internet access understand the importance of e-mail and would be receptive to a secondary source of e-mail in their homes, he said. Those who are not online might be intimidated by large and costly desktop units and might prefer a simple, inexpensive method of joining the e-mail world, Sole said.

The first MailStation marketing efforts in May and July coincided with the product’s release in the retail market. The print and online campaign, Sole said, tried to provide advertising cover for retailers and to introduce the product to the public just enough so Cidco could conduct focus groups and collect information for the campaign’s second half.

“The aggressive new phase of the campaign extends the brand awareness generated earlier this year,” Sole said. Phase two began in early September, when the company delivered an e-mail promotion to 250,000 individuals who fit the desired demographic profile and expressed interest in Internet products, according to Cidco. The e-mail included links for more information on the MailStation, links to MailStation retailers, and an offer of free shipping for those who acted on the e-mail.

Sole said the e-mail effort is ongoing and that he could not provide click-through results.

The campaign will grow through December to include print spots in consumer magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens, Family PC and Woman's Day; commercials on cable stations such as the Weather Channel and A&E; and posters on New York City buses.

“You don't have large awareness of Internet appliances today,” Sole said. “And much of [the MailStation's] current market is not on the Web, so we have to use traditional advertising means.”

Cidco is counting on part two of the $20 million campaign to go beyond market awareness and actually spur sales of the product.

Sole said the company has sold about 30,000 MailStation subscriptions since the product's spring 2000 launch. The end-of-year — and end-of-campaign — goal is to reach 100,000 sold subscriptions.

In 2001, with an anticipated house file of 100,000, Cidco plans to start marketing additional goods and services to its internal customers. In those efforts, the company expects online and e-mail marketing to be the more important advertising medium.

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