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Direct Response Marketing

CarMD Delivers Home Remedy for Auto Care

5 Mar, 2010 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response

In a new long-form TV ad, the DR-launched diagnostic tool empowers consumers to keep their cars healthy.


Everyone has experienced, at least once, the aggravation that comes when you pick your car up from the mechanic and glance down at the bill to find a much larger price tag than anticipated. Next thing you know, you are being told that the initial problem you brought the car in for was just the tip of the iceberg. So immediately you wonder, “How do I know all of this work was necessary?”

And that’s how the idea for CarMD came about. Starting with a vision as far back as 1997 — and patenting the name “CarMD” tester in 2003 — the Fountain Valley, Calif.-based company produces a product for automated diagnostics on your vehicle. “Most people don’t know their car has a computer, much less that they need to tap into it or why they need to tap into it,” says Art Jacobsen, director of business development for CarMD. Therefore, Jacobsen’s No. 1 mission, along with the rest of the team, is to educate consumers on the fact that there is a computer in every car, and consumers need to know how to access this information before going in for a repair, or before buying or selling a used car.

The current CarMD diagnostics product — which is small enough to carry in one hand — was launched in 2006. The steps to using the device are simple: put the tester into the ignition of your car, wait four beeps, remove and plug it into your computer. Then, the information from the device is downloaded to a home computer and into your personalized CarMD account. What is happening on the back end is that your car’s information gets connected with the CarMD proprietary database, which has been built during the past 12 years with the help of ASC mechanics. The database keeps information on vehicle models, makes, years and how to fix them, using the certified mechanics that work on these cars everyday. CarMD will report to the customer what is wrong with the car, what needs to be done to fix it, and how much it should cost. If CarMD can’t tell customers immediately what is wrong with their cars, it will get the information to them within 72 hours.

“While there are other scan tools out there, some cheaper, you won’t have the end-to-end solution that we offer,” says Jacobsen of CarMD.

From Home Shopping to DRTV

Although CarMD has been selling its product since 2006, it underwent a major re-launch in 2009, which was spearheaded by its fourth-quarter long-form DRTV show. CarMD had already been selling through HSN since early 2007 and continues to sell well on the network. Recently, during an airing, it sold 6,400 units in four, seven-minute airings. Jacobsen credits its success on HSN to the fact that the product is highly demonstrable. Currently, CarMD has the longest running electronics offer on HSN that has not been tweaked.

“We wanted to use TV as the medium to educate people so that they know they have a computerized system in their cars; here is how you access this information and why you need to access this information,” says Jacobsen. “Once people get it, they use the tool and they like it. Then they tell their friends, and it becomes viral. We just need to get the message out so they understand it.” The ultimate goal is to give the consumer the tools to make smart decisions.

Using the momentum from HSN, CarMD saw an opening to lunge into DRTV. The first long-form ad aired on Oct. 27. But getting to that point was no easy feat for Jacobsen — a chemical engineer by training — who had to learn the ins and outs of DRTV from writing creative to booking host talent. Jacobsen was tasked to research past successful long-form shows, find producers, learn the media buying industry — and all from scratch.

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About the Author: Jacqueline Renfrow





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