Lexus Debuts 'Plug 'n' Play' Effort

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Luxury automaker Lexus, not content to settle for standard print communications, is using a gizmo known as a "pocket hard drive" to deliver information to qualified consumers about its 2004 RX 330 vehicle line.


About 21,000 of the devices went out in two waves -- one May 5, another May 30 -- to consumers who had requested more information about the car model during Internet and mail campaigns to prospects earlier this year. The pocket hard drive plugs into the USB ports of most home PCs running Windows 98 or later and has a capacity of 16 MB of storage.


The Lexus pocket drive carries a program that gives consumers an interactive demonstration of the RX 330, which has an MSRP starting at $35,600. The demonstration includes a rotating 360-degree view of the interior, a photo gallery and videos showing its optional navigational and safety capabilities. When finished, the consumer can erase the program and carry personal data on the device.


This marks the first time Lexus has opted for the novel and high-tech approach. As such, as one of the campaign's authors admits, it was not an easy sell to the folks in charge of the company.


"It's a first time for Lexus, which always presents a challenge," said Robin Pisz, interactive marketing manager for Lexus, Torrance, CA. "When you present a new idea to executive management, their reaction is, 'Is that going to work?'"


She would not disclose budget details of the campaign but said Lexus kept expenses within bounds by mailing only prequalified, opt-in prospects so that the campaign was not much more expensive than most Lexus mail efforts.


Lexus generated qualified prospects in several ways. For example, it used an interactive banner ad on Web sites such as Kelly's Blue Book and Carpoint.com to gather e-mail addresses.


The banners ran from February to April. Lexus also ran an e-mail and traditional direct mail campaign to 871,000 consumers to coincide with its national "Putting the Industry on Notice" television branding campaign.


When opting in online, consumers clicked a box bearing a label that asked whether they wished to receive more information about the RX 330 on a "pocket hard drive." The label alerted prospects that the mailer might be unusual and piqued their curiosity, Pisz said.


Those who asked for more information received a heavy brown package that Lexus hoped stood out among the clutter of mail consumers get daily. When possible, Lexus e-mailed targeted prospects to let them know the piece was about to arrive, and synchronized the mail campaign with national branding efforts for maximum effect.


"When this thing arrives in the mail, they're already aware of the RX," Pisz said. "When this arrives, they're going to open it because they've been exposed to so much media at that point."


Pisz said she thinks the unusual nature of the pocket drive won't intimidate prospects. The Lexus customer demographic tends to be sophisticated enough that even if prospects don't understand how to use the pocket drive, someone in their families will, she said.


Though campaign results are not yet available, Lexus will track how many pocket drive recipients go on to buy a vehicle at a Lexus dealer. By using the company's prospect database, Lexus will measure the success of the campaign based on how much sales revenue it generates, Pisz said.


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