Panasonic Strategy Seeks To Widen Niche

ToughBook Panasonic's Toughbook laptops have carved out a niche among people who use computers under the most trying circumstances -- think utility linemen, the military, construction workers -- but in this age of belt-tightening, marketing executives with the brand are thinking the brand's durability message may play to a wider audience.

"We've captured that niche -- rugged computing market," Marca Armstrong, director of marketing for Panasonic Computer Services, tells Marketing Daily. "We now see an opportunity to expand that niche positioning to all people carrying a laptop in the field."

As such, the brand has embarked on its first integrated marketing campaign, employing television, print, out-of-home and an extensive digital program with a more emotional (and less product specific) push to grab a wider audience. The new campaign, which carries the theme "Toughbooks for a tough world," is intended to acknowledge that everyone has challenges in their lives, but Toughbook computers can make them easier.

"We understand your world is tough, no matter what you do or where you work," Armstrong says. "You need a reliable piece of hardware."

The television commercial in the campaign depicts people from all walks of life -- a man exiting a building, a woman at a coffee shop avoiding a spill, a utility worker and a man in camouflage, among others -- working or carrying Toughbook laptops. "In your world, you're always on duty. In your world, the unpredictable is predictable. In your world, millions rely on you," says a voiceover.

All the television, print and collateral materials refer consumers to a new microsite, www.foratoughworld.com, which will be dedicated to the Toughbook. Previously, Toughbook ads had referred people to a section of Panasonic's home site. The new microsite will provide consumers with updates on the products, provide experiences with how they are used and include a blog to help continue the conversation about why Toughbooks are a good product choice for consumers. The blog will be maintained by PR company Cohn & Wolfe, but will include postings from company executives on "relevant topics," Armstrong says.

"The idea is it needs to be authentic," Armstrong says. "The important thing is that people are communicating something that's useful."

To accommodate its broader target, Panasonic has more finely tuned its media strategy. While the company had previously run spot television ads in a wide variety of programming, it's now running ads on "CNN in the Morning," where it's more likely to encounter business travelers, Armstrong says. A similar strategy is being employed in out-of-home, where signage is appearing in airports that see a fair amount of business travelers, such as Chicago, Newark, and Atlanta, she says.

"Before, it was a shotgun approach," Armstrong says. "Now, it's looking at where people are going for information."

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