T-Mobile targets celebs with new phones - for free
13 August 2004 by axxxr
T-Mobile wants to make sure Paris Hilton, Nicole, Lindsay and other luminaries in young Hollywood are seen with the Sidekick II in the months before it's released
Paris Hilton has the world in the palms of her hands -- and now it looks like she's got the fate of a trendy new cell phone in them, too.
T-Mobile wants to make sure Paris, Nicole, Lindsay and other luminaries in young Hollywood are seen with the Sidekick II in the months before it's released to the masses this fall. Such an endorsement is more powerful than a 30-second blast of TV advertising, company officials say.T-Mobile recently held an invitation-only launch party at The Grove, where celebrities and trendsetters were invited to trade in their Sidekicks for the newer version slated for release in late September. Among the attendees mingling around the party's towering skate ramp were Adam Brody from "The O.C.," Lenny Kravitz, Owen Wilson and Elisha Cuthbert.
Local "influencers" such as DJs, publicists and promoters were also among the illustrious 300 guests who received advance versions of Sidekick II. "We're not just giving them out to random people," said company spokesman Jackson Jeyanayagam.
Getting the Sidekick cameos in music videos is also playing a leading role in launching the phone into the mass market stratosphere -- a strategy that worked well for the phone's first incarnation in the fall of 2002."It's the single biggest thing you can do organically in the youthand urban markets," said DJ Skee, president of Hype PR in Los Angeles, which planted the phone in music videos for 50 Cent, Bow Wow and Hilary Duff. "We put products in the hands of people they look up to."
The horizontally held phone, made by Silicon Valley-based Danger Inc., comes equipped with e-mail, instant messaging and a built-in keyboard, among a host of other functions. Sidekick II, with an estimated retail value of $299, will come with a camera and detachable rubber bumpers available in an array of bright, youth-friendly colors.If the BlackBerry popular among corporate types is an "office in the hand," the Sidekick is essentially "your social life in the hand," said John Clelland, T-Mobile's senior vice president of marketing and sales.
"The younger consumer set expects to be able to use the Internet whenever they want," said Matt Flegal, representative for Danger. "They're online all the time."It's one of the reasons direct marketing just isn't as persuasive as it used to be, Clelland said. When it comes to teens and having the most cutting-edge gadgets, he said, kids don't really pay attention to the big-budget Super Bowl TV ads.
"(Teens) are extremely savvy and more cynical about (direct marketing)," Clelland said. But when teenagers see artists from all walks of life using a product, DJ Skee said, it suddenly becomes credible.That's why making sure the Jamie Kennedys and Jack Osbournes are seen with the phone is critical to capturing a youth market that's heavily influenced by celebrities, Jeyanayagam said.
In fact, Clelland said T-Mobile is relying entirely on this kind of product placement for now.The only drawback of the less costly marketing technique is that there's no way to quantify "buzz." While TV viewership is heavily documented and tracked, Clelland said guerrilla product placement is a much more elusive art. Still, the company's banking on the power of celebrity status for now.