Fallbrook uses PR, event marketing to gain visibility

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Fallbrook Technologies is a San Diego-based start-up that has developed a continuously variable transmission technology with applications for bicycles, light electric vehicles, tractors, automobiles, trucks and utility-class wind turbines. The company wanted to introduce the technology, called NuVinci, to the automotive market as a solution that can improve the fuel economy and performance of cars and trucks. As a start-up, however, Fallbrook had a limited budget and wanted to achieve maximum visibility with a minimal investment. Fallbrook began working with Quell Group, a Troy, Mich.-based integrated brand communications company, to introduce the NuVinci technology to R&D engineers at automakers and tier one suppliers. Quell determined that public relations would be the most affordable and effective way to build visibility and credibility for Fallbrook. In March, the company began a media tour that introduced Fallbrook's CEO and a board member to editors and reporters at such publications as Automobile Magazine, Business Week, Motor Trend, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as key trade press and local broadcast media. Fallbrook also hosted an open house and product demonstration for media and potential customers. The event featured elaborate displays and demonstrations of the technology. “We wanted to introduce ourselves to these companies. We wanted to say, "Here's this technology, and here's what it can do,' ” said Emile Barrios, media relations representative for Fallbrook. The event featured “ride-and-drive” demonstrations of bicycles that have the NuVinci transmission—the first commercial application for the technology. “It's a really fun way to introduce people to the concept and the functionality of the product,” said Jim Cain, senior VP of strategic communications for Quell. “Whether you're using NuVinci on a bicycle, or a Mustang or a military truck, the only real difference is the size of the device; so, if you can communicate the principle and show it in action, it's relatively easy to imagine it in future applications.” The event also featured vehicles that had the automotive applications installed. “The point was that this isn't some pie-in-the-sky thing that's on the drawing board. This is a real technology that's being manufactured right now,” Barrios said. “It was a very powerful look at the reality of the technology.” Fallbrook's PR efforts have paid off with features in Automotive Design & Production and Motor Trend, and with coverage on WWJ-AM. The customer and media event was also a success, Barrios said. “The event exceeded our expectations in terms of both the number of companies that were interested and the level of interest,” he said. “There were several companies who pulled us aside at the event and said, "I have to do a deal with you.' We were totally not expecting that.” Fallbrook is currently planning another media and customer demonstration at the 2009 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturing Association) Show this fall in Las Vegas.
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