High Impact, High-Velocity Campaign Boosts Media Coverage 6X and Brand Visibility for Increased Sales and Capital Investment
Ohio-based Stirling Ultracold faced a public relations and marketing opportunity both promising and overwhelming: The company of 150 employees needed to quickly scale global awareness as the sole provider of Ultra Low Temperature (ULT) freezers with a temperature range suitable to safely store all versions of the COVID-19 vaccine. The company engaged 10Fold for rapid launch of a visibility campaign that led to a 6X increase in media coverage; reaped 56% Share of Voice (SOV) among 5 competitors; and ultimately helped secure new customers, capital investment and an eventual deal to be acquired by BioLife Solutions.
When the global pandemic hit in 2020, Stirling Ultracold found itself as the manufacturer of the only ULT portable freezer with a temperature range wide enough to safely store and ensure last mile delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to patients. The product, which can accommodate storage temperature requirements ranging from -20°C to -80°C (-4°F to -112°F), had been invented a decade earlier, but its unique nature in solving this sudden, global and hugely urgent use case required a trusted public relations and marketing partner.
Stirling Ultracold chose 10Fold Communications to quickly raise brand awareness and educate the B2B markets in life sciences, biopharma research, “cold chain” distribution and clinical healthcare on the unique requirements around safe storage and last mile delivery of the lifesaving vaccines to patients. The challenge was to tell the story of how this existing product could uniquely meet an emerging public health need.
And it had to happen quickly: By the fall of 2020, researchers were already publishing storage temperature guidelines for vaccines headed toward FDA approval, meaning competitors had specifications in hand to potentially build competing products to what Stirling Ultracold was already offering. The urgency was further underscored by the approaching noise of the presidential election in November. 10Fold was tasked to launch a campaign within weeks of joining the effort in early October 2020, so that Stirling Ultracold could mobilize awareness for market visibility and dominance.
From Launch to Acquisition
- Create national awareness for Stirling Ultracold to attract prospects planning for the COVID-19 vaccine and educate the market on the importance of reliable cold chain storage and distribution.
- Increase market visibility and lead production through enhanced thought leadership placements, SEO, conversion rate optimization, call tracking and globalization of social media via multilingual social media posts.
- Pivot away from product-centered language, toward the highly relevant business need –including main value propositions and supplemental messaging around sustainability, last mile optimization and portability for global health applications.
- Seed market with strategic messaging aligned to new product expansion initiatives, including campaigns to target dry ice replacement in the cold chain, and aftermarket outreach to its existing user base.
Communications Strategy and Challenges
- Simultaneously raise brand awareness and educate the industry: The public relations lift was considerable on several fronts. Cold chain distribution and the community of manufacturers of ULT freezers were not widely understood in the media and was a highly technical and complex topic. COVID-19 provided an opportunity to elevate brand awareness for Stirling Ultracold, if the company could seize its compelling narrative into a digestible one that would resonate with media, analysts, influencers, customers and investors.
- Execute and scale quickly: 10Fold hit the ground running in early October 2020 to get ahead of several strategic time constraints: Storage temperature requirements of upcoming vaccines were common knowledge by then, and Stirling Ultracold’s advantage of having the only suitable product currently on the market wouldn’t last forever. Also, the approaching 2020 Presidential Election risked increasing the media noise around COVID-19 vaccines. By leveraging thought leadership and media briefings around the news, 10Fold worked to get out front with the story of Stirling Ultracold stepping up in a global public health crisis with the sole solution to last mile cold chain availability of life saving vaccines.
- Multichannel and multi-stakeholder messaging: Beyond the main value proposition, Stirling Ultracold had supplemental proof points and differentiators around several related and high-profile industry concerns – including how the energy-efficient and portable freezer product uniquely addresses needs around sustainability and vaccination in remote or hard to reach populations in isolated areas of the world. The client also needed to unseat competing last mile cold chain options, such as dry ice and liquid nitrogen, with the messaging of supply shortfalls and specialized training and personal protective equipment (PPE) for proper handling. The requirements helped inform strategic message development and multi-channel deployment in cross-industry media, analyst communities and social platforms.
The 10Fold visibility campaign reaped impressive gains for Stirling Ultracold, including an overall return on investment (ROI) of 1,359%, based on business value attributable to the campaign, and 56% combined quantitative and qualitative Share of Voice (SOV) among Stirling Ultracold and its four closest competitors from October 1, 2020 through February 28, 2021.
During that same period, the campaign generated a sixfold (609%) increase in coverage, compared to the previous five-month time frame. These included dozens of articles and broadcast stories in key supply chain, pharmaceutical and business outlets, as well as high-profile coverage in major outlets like The New York Times, Fox Business, ABC World News, CNBC, Financial Times and Reuters.
The campaign garnered millions of potential monthly readers and counting, with the top five Google results for ULT storage all showing content from Stirling Ultracold.
- The Wall Street Journal – Mass Vaccination Sites Will Mean Scaling Up Logistics Coordination
- The New York Times – Companies Crucial to Vaccine Distribution are Seeing a Flurry of Investment
- Fox Business – Stirling Ultracold CEO Looking Forward to Being Part of Coronavirus Vaccine Distribution
- Time Magazine – COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Technology
- USA Today – COVID Vaccine Candidate From Pfizer Must be Stored at Minus 112, Prompting a Rush on Dry Ice
- Financial Times – Company News You Might Have Missed
- Reuters – U.S. States Race to Buy Ultra Cold Vaccine Freezers, Fueling Supply Worries
- Sunday Times – SA-Born Engineer’s Vintage Fridge Could be Key in Vaccine Rollout
- The Hill – Dry Ice Sales Surge on COVID-19 Vaccine News
- Industry Today – Puerto Rico Tackles Vaccination Efforts with ULT Freezers
- Lab Manager – How ULT Storage Will Evolve After COVID-19
- European Pharmaceutical Manufacturer – Stirling Ultracold and Catalent Establish Cold Chain Partnership
- Pharmaceutical Commerce – Catalent, Stirling Ultracold Expand Their Cold-Chain Arrangement
- Direct Industry – COVID-19 Vaccines: The Rise of the Ultra-Low Temperature Freezer
- Air Cargo World – Great Things Come in Cold Packages: COVID Vaccines and Cool-Chain Logistics
10Fold’s campaign had a transformative impact on Stirling Ultracold’s business performance. Sales cycles that used to stretch 12-18 months shrunk to as little as two weeks, with reach beyond COVID-19 to new customers in cell and gene therapeutics, regenerative medicine and the biobanking industry. Stirling Ultracold became the sole designated provider of ULT freezers to the entire island of Puerto Rico and all U.S. embassy locations around the world.
Finally, in a remarkable sign of success, Stirling Ultracold attributes the 10Fold campaign to raised awareness among investors, leading ultimately to the company’s welcome acquisition by BioLife Solutions (NASDAQ: BLFS). In a best-of-all-worlds scenario, this lucrative acquisition was accompanied by the announcement that BioLife intends to keep the Stirling Ultracold brand intact and maintain existing staff and operations in Athens, Ohio.