The Alpha Series
MSA

Changing Minds in Changing Times

Challenge

MSA, one of the major international suppliers of safety equipment to firefighters, invited us to a briefing about a series of innovative products they had been developing. The basic firefighter mask and the SCBA or self-contained breathing apparatus had remained largely unchanged for several decades. Taking advantage of new developments in material science and electronics, MSA had now brought the SCBA into the 21st century. But would firefighters be willing to trade in what had been an old and trusted friend for a new model with fancy bells and whistles?

Insight

Firefighters are by nature technically oriented. However before they would accept a re-imagining of their equipment, they would have to be sure that their safety wasn't compromised and that the new technology provided genuine added value.

Method

Our strategy was two pronged. First, we wanted to provide a clear distinction between the new product line and classic versions, which would still be available. We developed a sub-brand, the MSA alpha series. Products would be printed with an alpha logo and be given names such as “alphaCLICK,” “alphaSCOUT” and “alphaBASE.” The products in general would be referred to as "alpha-powered."

To highlight the down-to-earth practicality of the innovations, we also developed a brand language to be used in all of the product descriptions. The alpha logo itself was extended with the tagline, "make sense technology." This was framed with word groupings like "simple, sensible, smart" or "alpha-powered for efficiency" to be used as heads or closing statements. Finally we introduced a backstory connecting the new product launch with MSA's hundred-year history of technological breakthroughs. Promotional material included print advertisements, brochures, trade show materials and an interactive DVD that combined real footage with 3D animations detailing the technical aspects of the new product line.

Results

The product launch was a major success for the company. The new alpha products quickly outsold classic versions and alpha became a new industry standard. The product line continues to be developed and improved on.