By Published on .

With a splash of color and some TV advertising, Motorola turned the dowdy pager from business workhorse into a fashionable lifestyle product for consumers.

"Yes, it was a pager Christmas," says Julie Greene, manager-consumer products for Motorola's paging unit. "We got farther into the retail channel than we had hoped for in our lives. It is a perfect product for many people who never thought of it because it was categorized as a black box."

Social changes (more two-paycheck or single-parent families),lower prices (under $100 plus $15/month for service) and astute marketing made pagers the rage in Motorola's target markets: families and young professionals.

Already owning 85% of the pager market, Motorola went after consumers in April 1993 with a print and first-ever TV campaign, from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Atlanta.

Ms. Greene, then manager-marketing services for the pager group, says she also developed the industry's first integrated packaging and point-of-purchase display program. And she added novel marketing twists: an inflatable two-person raft shaped like a pager-"I understand they're sold in surf shops in California," she says-and a kids' coloring book about pagers inspired by her own young children.

"In focus groups, people would give reasons you never thought of for using pagers. They said they couldn't live without one," adds Ms. Greene, 36. A hundred of those reasons-to screen calls for security reasons, to stay in touch with sick family members, to say "I love you" in code (143)-are collected in a tiny marketing booklet.

The humble pager now comes in a palette of pastels, including Bimini Blue and Totally Teal. For fashion, the pager can be shaded Vibra Pink, Sizzling Yellow or other hues by wrapping them in colored sleeves called "snappies."

"We're building brand recognition right now," she says. "We have a lot more things coming down the road."

Most Popular
In this article: