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Rethinking switchgear— and how to market it
You’ve got a breakthrough product. It’s an entirely new approach in a field where innovation is associated with risk. It’s an extremely narrow market and highly technical. The sales process can take anywhere from six months to two years—maybe longer. Plus, you’re trying to capture a premium in a price-sensitive market, one that involves large capital investments that run into the millions. So what do you do?
If you’re GE Consumer & Industrial, you call Sanda.
GE C&I’s Entellisys™ low-voltage switchgear is a dramatic departure from the industrial circuit breakers that handle power distribution at hospitals, manufacturing plants, refineries, airports and other large installations. Over the past 30 years, conventional switchgear has become increasingly complex, with special-purpose hardware and point-to-point wiring to individual breakers for circuit protection. These complex breakers create islands of intelligence that are hard to get to and difficult to work with.
By contrast, Entellisys uses redundant industrial computers as the “brain,” with redundant, high-speed, communications networks routing raw current readings from sensors at each breaker. And instead of special-purpose hardware, Entellisys uses software to perform specific functions.
In theory, it sounds simple. In reality, it involved a cram course on power distribution networks, with required reading from several texts by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and others.
Here’s where GE C&I benefits from using Sanda to develop an integrated marketing campaign: We only had to learn the technology once. Once we understood what Entellisys is and what it can do, we could use—and reuse—the information for product literature, ads, videos, Web content and more. This saved GE money, allowed us to develop several projects concurrently and produced a consistent message that hammers home three benefits: safety, reliability and flexibility.
Because Entellisys is a brand new product, the launch campaign posed some additional challenges. An initial audience for the marketing materials is GE C&I’s own sales force. We had to make sure the materials explain the technology, features and benefits clearly. And at the same time, we needed to convey the breakthrough Entellisys represented so they’d be more effective selling Entellisys to their customers.
As mentioned earlier, the market for low-voltage switchgear is risk averse and price sensitive. Here is where we emphasized Entellisys’ three primary benefits: safety, reliability and flexibility. Entellisys enhances safety with near-gear and remote interfaces that keep operators outside the arc flash energy zone. It is more reliable because the simplified design uses fewer components and less wiring. That means far fewer points of potential failure compared to traditional switchgear. And because Entellisys functions are software based, it’s simple to change or add protection, metering, monitoring and other functions to a customer’s system.
There were also practical considerations. Since seeing is believing—and because video was part of the product launch—we needed to visually communicate how Entellisys works. Only there was no product for us to photograph. GE only builds an Entellisys system when a customer orders one. So, working from design drawings and two existing prototypes, Sanda created a number of 3-D animations that take viewers inside the system and demonstrate how Entellisys works—something impossible with conventional video.
As is often the case when the product is from a large corporation, all of the Entellisys materials—ads, brochures, video and Web site—had to conform to GE’s strict brand guidelines. Not only does they cover use of the GE monogram logo, colors, typography and layout, they also include the style and tone of headlines. We wrote—and rewrote—the headlines and subheads in the print ads until they satisfied both Dave Hurwitt and the GE brand guidelines.
And finally, we did everything while working from opposite coasts—Sanda in Portland and GE C&I in Plainville, Connecticut. In more than a year and a half, we had only a handful of face-to-face meetings. Besides using the phone and e-mail, we also used FTP to post brochure comps, video clips, Flash animations and other materials for GE to review. Location is no limitation.
The integrated Entellisys launch
Like most modern marketing campaigns, the Entellisys product launch includes traditional print ads and brochures as well as video and online media. Sanda developed a consistent look and feel across all media, along with a message that continually emphasizes Entellisys safety, reliability and flexibility. Individual projects include: