The Engine Behind the Automotive Industry1 Oct, 2008 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response
Driving customers from the Internet to the dealership, direct response marketing is steering the industry through tough times.
Long Lead Times
The process of buying a car can be a long one, so a marketer has to plan well for the different stages. Plus, once purchased, a consumer is not shopping around again for several years.
"If consumers buy new cars — on average — every three-to-five years, it's a lot of time to keep someone interested and away from competitors. The management of the relationship is frankly more challenging than with a lower-cost, quicker turn product," says Kristi Vandenbosch, president of Tequila, a New York-based ad agency that is a sister to TBWA and focuses on direct digital and promotional marketing. Tequila handles all direct marketing/customer relationship management (CRM), interactive and experimental marketing for Nissan.
OnStation owner marketing E-mails can be sent out quickly and customized to any part or all of a dealer s database. Campaigns for the parts and services departments are being pushed because sales are low.
Vandenbosch adds, "You need to predict the timing of appropriate messages — when it's time to buy your first car, replace a current vehicle, or add another one to the household — over a pretty lengthy horizon."
Organic is the lead creative team for all of Chrysler LLC s digital solutions (including Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler). The ability of the brand s online marketing to target consumers in market is pushing traditional channels into a supporting role.
When developing campaigns for Nissan, Tequila has to consider whether it's a product introduction (which requires a lot of competitive prospecting), an older model with a loyalist following, or a retail sales event with time urgency. Then the agency develops a marketing mix, often incorporating DRTV, print and online.
For example, this spring Tequila helped Nissan launch the Rogue using a multi-channel marketing campaign to generate consumer interest. "We started at the top of the funnel with awareness- and consideration-building techniques, such as high-engagement online ad units, mobile content and viral video, leading people down the funnel to opt-in to more personalized ongoing communications. Then we developed a program to convert those interested prospects," says Vandenbosch. Converting the prospects for Nissan meant letting them test drive new models.
Many car campaigns, such as Deutsch's marketing for Saturn's Vue, are focusing on touch points such as fuel-efficiency and affordability.
The Rogue campaign used both direct mail and E-mail as successful conversion strategies. The model was marketed as an urban, small SUV that appealed to young, tech-savvy consumers. Not surprisingly, digital channels were most helpful in communicating with this customer base. Not only were sales successful, but "it reinforced the value of viewing direct response as a process rather than an isolated strategy, by demonstrating the power of a clear hand-off, from tactic to tactic, across disciplines," according to Vandenbosch.