Rosetta Stone Shops Project Work

Search down to finalists

Beset by declining sales—particularly in the U.S.—Rosetta Stone is leaning on marketing for help.

Last month, the maker of language learning software launched a new brand image campaign and began a search for a new creative shop. The search is in its late stages, with a handful of finalists.

The assignment in play is a project: a U.S. campaign that will break in summer or early fall, according to Eric Duehring, svp of global marketing and general manager of the company's U.S. consumer business. Duehring declined to identify the contenders.

The company's U.S. media spending exceeded $70 million last year, down from about $100 million in 2009 and more than $120 million in 2008, according to Nielsen. Those figures don’t include online spending.

The winning agency will face myriad challenges. Rosetta Stone's core product is relatively expensive—$179.99 for a single level of instruction and up to $479.99 for a five-level set—and often, a one-time purchase. Also, a major retailer that sells Rosetta Stone, Borders Group, filed for bankruptcy in February and is shuttering stores. Moreover, learning software represents a discretionary purchase that recession-wracked consumers can live without.

Still, "the U.S. is a huge language learning market," Duehring says. "We're sort of the only player in our space. The way I would describe it is there’s no Pepsi to our Coke." He added, however, that there are "a lot of low-priced digital apps that are showing up on iPhones, other platforms and some free Web services. But you pretty much get what you pay for there."

Rosetta Stone also sells to corporations, governments, and schools and, as a global company, is seeking growth in emerging markets, such as China and Brazil.

The company's current campaign, from Pappas Group in Arlington, Va., includes a 60-second TV spot that features men and women of different ethnicities and footage of historical events, such as the Berlin Wall coming down. The tagline is, "More than words. Understanding."