This comes abit late, but last Friday, I had the pleasure of being invited to attend Sony Singapore's event for the launch of the Walkman 252, effectively the second generation of the very recognizable W250 portable player.
There was a bombastic routine of sporty teens rollerblading about with the player, showing how sporty it looks, how clingy it is, how water-resistant it is. They disappeared and shortly returned bearing units for everyone to take home and keep. Everyone was pleasantly surprised and left happy people.
Ladies and gentlemen I'm no PR guru, but here's my greenhorn take on it. This was a great PR strategy, but like a Final Fantasy limit break or DotA ulti, it can't be used often.
It's great because the PR agency (or brand company... you never know who makes what decisions these days) did not commit the elementary but painfully common mistake of trying to attract guests to the event by dangling an expensive goodie bag in the invitation. If you are doing this to traditional media, it's their job to cover the product and they will turn up anyway. And if you are doing it to bloggers, they will, with the exception of a rotten few, think it cheap and insulting of the agency/company to attempt to lure them in like that.
What they did do however was reward those who bothered enough to turn up with a highly unexpected gift of the product itself - not the thumbdrive or messenger bag or press kit in a fancy folder that regulars in the industries would come to expect. Equally importantly, this gift was not accompanied by any sort of implicit or explicit demand to cough up an article or blog post about this hawt new item - just the usual "Go on back, have fun with it, stress it out, tell us and your readers what you think about it if you would."
On that happy note, such a strategy can't be executed too often because it spoils event regulars. It's simple Pavlovian logic - come once you get surprised with the product, next time you get it again, and again, and the fourth time you will go to the event at least subconsciously expecting another gift, if not explicitly waiting for it.
Which brings us to the next point, cost. In this case the W252 is heavily marketed as a secondary, sporty, portable MP3 player (even more so than your usual one). It is not meant to replace your iPod or Creative, it is meant to be one or two things less to carry when you go for a simple jog around your neighborhood. It is also marketed as relatively cheap to go with the rest of its orientation (because how is anything from Sony cheap right... saying that makes me want to laugh at a laptop screen, but that is the fact. Well, their fact.) At S$129 a piece, it has always been too pricey for me (even me) to justify a purchase, even though the 250 was the only player I'd ever taken a serious interest in apart from Creatives and more recently iPods. But giving away for free about 15-20 of these units are a huge PR cost by any measure, and concordantly a far more expensive gamble (hope I'm using that word right). And it's just not practical to do the same for flagship MP3 players that cost thrice this price, or the latest smartphone with the latest OS and the latest ergonomic design, or the latest laptop with the latest chips and cards.
Mind again that such a giveaway doesn't guarantee the company any good thing in return. It creates a very good, higher-than-average chance of attendees excitedly blogging about their latest toy, but there's no telling the exact outcome of such a bold move. Still, applying this strategy tactically will show your attendees that you care about their support and sacrificed time enough to lavish something big on them once in awhile, as way of thanks. And it wouldn't harm to mention that somewhere in the MC or director's script too.
Good job to Hill and Knowlton Singapore. And Sony Singapore. Really lah, I dunno who's idea it was. But you pulled it off.