Personalization Fuels Well-Oiled Campaign

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A small California oil company has hit the jackpot with a personalized business-to-business print and Web campaign appealing to that ever-reliable DM response motivator, greed.


The campaign to 3,700 independent lube shop owners garnered a 6.2 percent lead-generation response by inviting recipients by name to a personal Web site to see how much they could save by switching to oil start-up North American Lubricants Co., San Juan Capistrano, CA.


A typical lube shop account is worth about $300,000 a year, said Larry Read, North American Lubricants' chairman of the board. Because contracts are involved, closing on leads can be a lengthy process.


As a result, response to this campaign was so overwhelming that North American has canceled a third drop. The second drop occurred in April.


"I've done a lot of [direct response] advertising and was prepared for a typical low response," Read said. "This response blew us away. At first we were excited, and then we said, 'How the hell are we going to call all these people?'"


So far, North American has visited about 20 of the respondents, closed 12 deals and has more than 200 potential accounts to visit, Read said.


The list for the campaign was the Automotive Oil Change Association's membership roster.


The mailing collateral was an 11-by-5-inch postcard with the headline "[Recipient's First Name], Is big oil putting the squeeze on you?" over a photo of a screaming bald man with a C-clamp on his head. Under the photo was the offer: "Find out how you could possibly save up to 50% on bulk oil costs!" The back of the card featured a photograph of North American president Garry Rooney and copy with his signature inviting recipients to call a toll-free number or visit their personal site to calculate how much they could save by switching to North American.


The recipient's address was placed inside a graphic of the campaign's signature C-clamp next to the tag line, "Feeling Squeezed?"


The Web sites at www.save-on-bulkoil.com were personalized simply by using the recipients' names. An example is available at www.save-on-bulkoil.com/jeff-tarran. Once at their sites, respondents were greeted by the question, "Tired of getting squeezed, [first name]?"


The cards and sites were produced by Nimblefish, Emeryville, CA, which specializes in creating digital individualized collateral.


To determine how much respondents could save by switching to North American, the sites asked how many stores they owned, how many days per week they were open, the average number of cars serviced per day per store and the price they were paying per gallon of oil.


Respondents then were sent a follow-up postcard with a personalized headline incorporating the respondent's first name, the lube shop name and the savings figure calculated during the Web site visit. For graphics, the card featured the C-clamp squeezing a roll of $20 bills.


"Personalized stuff gets people's attention, but what made this work was we followed it up with relevant content that proved something right then and there," said Jeff Tarran, president of MCA Direct, Oakland, CA, the agency that created the campaign. "This will work anytime you can provide an instant rate comparison."


To bolster the campaign, North American also handed out small C-clamps at the AOCA's annual trade show, the Fast Lube Expo, in Reno, NV, in April.


"We were the hottest booth in about 200,000 square feet of exhibitors," Read said. Some trade show attendees began wearing the C-clamps as earrings, he said.


"The other oil companies were there, and they were laughing at us," he said. "But they were what I call oil heads. They've been marketing oil the same way for 50 years."


Typically, BTB collateral in the oil industry will feature a photo of a refinery and some specifications, Read said.


"These things [specifications] come out of labs and chemists, and nobody understands any of that," he said. "What we decided to do was not market it as oil, but as a business opportunity."


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