The Biggest Product Launch of the Year

For Calgary-based Pathway Connectivity the biggest product launch of 2004 was a milestone achievement, even though it wasn’t a Pathway product being introduced.

The mega launch of 2004 didn’t happen in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo or some other glamorous metropolis as you might first expect.  It took place on the Atlantic coastline of western France.

The Most Expensive Cruise Ship Ever Built

The company doing the launching was Cunard Line, the legendary cruise ship firm founded in 1839 by Canadian entrepreneur Samuel Cunard.  The product was the Queen Mary 2, the longest, tallest and most expensive passenger ship ever constructed.

The QM2 is the new reigning monarch of the high seas.  The ship cost a billion dollars to build.  She is more than four city blocks in length and is the height of a 21 storey building.  (If you would like to take a virtual tour of the QM2 see the link at the end of this article).

The Epitome of Luxury

More than just a surface mode of transatlantic transportation, the Queen Mary 2 is the ocean going epitome of luxury, prestige and opulence.  She is designed to wow and pamper the rich and famous, and those who would like to be.

She is a grandiose combination of the golden days of ocean liners, 21st century technology and the thrilling entertainment of Monte Carlo, Las Vegas and the theatres of London’s West End.  This is where Pathway, an entertainment lighting company, enters the scene.

State-of-the-Art Technology & Entertainment

Committed to provide passengers with the entertainment experience of a lifetime, Cunard equipped the QM2 with a state-of-the-art lighting system.  A key component of that system is 70 units of Pathway’s own flagship product, the Pathport.

The Pathport units allow the QM2 entertainment crew to effortlessly route Ethernet signals to data hungry banks of spotlights, fog machines and other visual effects equipment.  The Pathport units are installed in the QM2's Illuminations Planetarium and the Royal Court Theatre where they are used to orchestrate visual effects every bit as dazzling as those in shows on Broadway, Vegas and at major theme parks.

Visionary Brand Development

Even though there are a few thousand Pathport devices in service worldwide, the normal order is for ten units or less.  So when the Cunard order came in at 70 units, making the QM2 the largest Pathport installation anywhere, it was a major cause for celebration.  But the QM2 selection was not a blind stroke of luck.  It was the result of a visionary product and brand development program that began 5 years earlier.

A Bold Commitment

In 1999, company president Dave Higgins was looking to the future.  Then known as Gray Interfaces, the company was a respected but low profile supplier of products based on an aging communication protocol called DMX 512.  As Dave looked ahead to the next decade, he was convinced the future of the industry would be based on Ethernet technology.  He also made the bold commitment to be a major player in the Ethernet era..

It was a big leap.  To realize the goal it would take a “bet the farm” R&D investment and a quantum leap in marketing.

The company’s engineers attacked the technical challenges.  Their objective was to create a breakthrough Ethernet smart data port that would meet the exacting demands of the live performance environment.  Meanwhile two outside firms were brought in to help drive the new product to a position of market dominance.

Advanta Design was assigned the task of surrounding the product’s industry leading functionality with a captivating enclosure.  Identicor was called in to create an attention-grabbing product name, re-christen the company, and create a rich brand identity for both.

Claiming Center Stage

The goal for renaming the company was to move Gray Interfaces from the background to center stage, positioned as a leader in Ethernet data networks.  The new company name had to be distinct to stand out.  It had to be memorable and inspire confidence.  It had to appeal both to industry executives as well as technocrats.

Working in close partnership with company leaders, Identicor developed the metaphor of a pathway to convey the network message.  Pathway provided an approachable tone and would become the short familiar form of the company name.  Connectivity was added as a descriptor to impart a technological edge to the formal legal name.

Naming the Flagship Product

After extensive brainstorming and thorough market research, Pathport was selected as the name for the company’s revolutionary new product.  The Path prefix established a clear connection with the company.  Port communicated what the product was – a smart data port.  Short, crisp and memorable the Pathport name was an instant hit.  (See the side bar story for more details on how the Pathport name has contributed to the product’s success)

Product of the Year

The company unveiled its new identity and its breakthrough product at Lighting Dimensions International, the biggest trade show in the industry, in October 2000.  The new company name and supporting brand identity established Pathway connectivity as a leader.  Pathport earned the endorsement of key industry players and won the show’s product of the year award.

Since then Pathway has grown to become the dominant player in the Ethernet data networks.  The company has sold thousands of Pathport units and established OEM partnerships with the biggest lighting system manufacturers in the world.

A great product launch in 2000 paved the way for Pathway to be a part of the biggest product launch of 2004, with more success to follow.