Beyond.com CEO buffs up appearance
By Janet Kornblum, USA TODAY
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- The several hundred thousand viewers who caught
CNBC's early- morning Squawk Box show Tuesday saw a little more than the
usual talking heads. They, in fact, got a whole torso.
Guest Mark Breier, CEO of online
software store Beyond.com, decided that
to properly portray his Internet
company's marketing strategy, he
needed to step out of the box, but not
quite out of his boxers. While Breier
appeared on the screen to be naked, he
was actually wearing Beyond.com
The stunt was a play on the company's
television advertising campaign featuring
a naked guy working from his home to demonstrate that a he can order all
the software he needs without having to leave his desk -- or get dressed.
The naked grab for publicity appeared to work, at least at first glance.
noted that traffic to the site, as well as sales, increased after the brief
appearance, filmed from a studio at Stanford University.
"We woke much of America up this morning," Breier says. "We're exposing
the power of digital downloading."
While Breier was laughing (and fully clothed) after the interview, he also
realized that the ploy, conceived by a public relations man at Beyond.com,
could have backfired.
Just look at former San Francisco mayor Frank Jordan, who agreed nearly
four years ago to be interviewed in the buff on radio while showering with
two disc jockeys. Many attribute Jordan's election loss to pictures (from
hip-up) that subsequently appeared in media outlets nationally.
"We knew it was high risk, high reward," Breier says. "I'm in the Internet
world, where people are doing all kinds of things."
Because people expect wackiness from Internet companies and because
Breier's unclad state was tied to Beyond.com's marketing campaign, the stunt
probably will be successful, says Jeff Goodby, co-creative director for ad
Goodby Silverstein & Partners.
Internet companies, many of which have no parallels in the off-line world,
"are going for sheer notoriety and name recognition, and that's it," Breier
says. Nontraditional advertising generally works "as long as you're not
anything that's morally offensive."
But, he added, "I think you have to be careful of just adopting your
No pun intended.