Case Study

Kohnstamm's Magnetic PR Draws Poetic Coverage Magnetic Poetry, the company that helps consumers fashion prose on their refrigerators and filing cabinets, credits a PR campaign with helping it become a $7 million business selling 50 products in just two years. The Minneapolis-based company relied almost entirely on the "Magnetic Poetry Wall Project" campaign to increase sales. It only recently hired a marketing director and has eschewed advertising in general for the $32,000 campaign, which launched in May 1997. The PR-driven marketing campaign produced exposure equivalent to $500,000 in advertising through national broadcast and print media coverage, put 250,000 pedestrians in direct contact with the product, and was instrumental in helping Magnetic Poetry reach sales of $5.8 million in '97. The campaign's success has led to an increased PR budget, to $150,000 in '98, says Joshua Kohnstamm, president of Kohnstamm Communications Inc., which created the campaign for Magentic Poetry. "We were able to show consistently growing sales and could clearly point to PR as the cause," says Kohnstamm, a former Hill & Knowlton account executive. Magnetic Poetry owner and president Dave Kapell knew what he was getting for his PR expenditures, he adds. The campaign received extensive coverage in outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Weekend Magazine, "Entertainment Weekly," CNN and Fox National News. In 1998, the scope of the campaign tripled, including specially designed walls for children's museums. It also attracted the attention of two new clients who hired Kohnstamm after coming in contact with the campaign. Poetry in Motion Magnetic Poetry hired Kohnstamm in 1995, when the PR firm was conducting media relations and product placement for the company in conjunction with National Poetry Month, a great tie-in opportunity that Kohnstamm brought to the attention of Magnetic Poetry. In 1996, the PR firm orchestrated an event at the Mall of America in Minneapolis that featured refrigerators and product samples. The following year, Kohnstamm installed six 8-by-20-foot free-standing metallic walls during National Poetry Month in public places like Wall Street's World Financial Center, complete with a random selection of magnetic word tiles. Other sites included Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Each site hosted its own launch event. The tie-in with National Poetry Month also has helped "push Barnes & Noble into selling the product line," says Kohnstamm. "We wanted something that was simple and elegant, and we didn't want the walls to be a problem to ship or [to] fall down on anyone." Kohnstamm also approached The American Poetry and Literacy Project's founder, Andrew Carroll. Carroll's organization gave away poetry books at Magnetic Poetry walls during the campaign. Carroll also agreed to go on a media tour with Kapell, which garnered media coverage by the Associated Press and other high-profile outlets. Each wall was hosted by a local community-based arts organization, and Kohstamm staffers kept in touch with the hosts daily to get a reading on how the event was proceeding. A potential crisis was diverted early on when it became evident that passersby were stealing the magnetic word tiles off of the walls. Kohnstamm repositioned the thefts into a "quirky human interest angle" for the media, causing the The San Francisco Chronicle to report: "Sex has been stolen. Eternity and poison have disappeared, too." Poetry in Partnership Kohnstamm landed several high-profile strategic partners during the campaign, including Paris-based Lancome. Lancome distributed samples of its new perfume, "Poeme," at the walls, and in return, contributed $30,000 toward the project's expenses. The PR firm also approached New York-based Workman Publishing to collect poems created in the walls and publish them. Workman published Magnetic Poetry Book of Poetry in November 1997, selling 165,000 copies. It now is in its fourth printing. The book had a separate media tour arranged by Workman and Kohnstamm to several of the cities slated for a 1998 Wall Project. This year, the number of sites has increased to 20 in 15 cities, and new partners include Cambridge Arts Council, the Library of Congress, Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky and UCLA. The campaign also attracted Starbucks Coffee [SBUX] as a partner for the 48-city Lilith Fair concert tour this year. "Now, at each Lilith Fair's caf,, there's a customized Starbucks magnetic wall with a customized word list, including 'coffee' and 'cappuccino,' says John Larson, account executive, Kohnstamm Communications. (Joshua Kohnstamm, John Larson, Todd Boss, Kohnstamm Communications, 612/228-9141) Kohnstamm Communications Headquarters: St. Paul, MinnesotaNumber of Employees: 9Billings in '97: $450,000Founded: 1991Clients: Gamewright, Inc., PALCO Laboratories, University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management

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