Mitsubishi Takes an Off-Road Approach to Promote SUV

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With the number of sport utility vehicle models increasing each year, the need for car manufacturers to have their model and its features stand out is becoming more challenging.


Mitsubishi's efforts in this market included sending a cardboard replica of its 2001 Montero to nearly 5,000 people. The replica -- which opened up like an accordion to reveal detailed information regarding the features and benefits of the automobile -- was the second component of a two-step direct mail campaign. The mailings were part of a fully integrated marketing effort that included print and Web advertising as well as a national TV spot.


"We can't outspend companies like Nissan and Toyota, so we have to outsmart them and be innovative," said Steve Gough, director of marketing at Mitsubishi, Cypress, CA. "The market is cluttered with SUVs. The people who buy them are affluent and busy, and we have to put something in front of them that is going to get their attention."


Though the piece may look costly, those who designed it said this is definitely a case where looks are deceiving.


"The piece is nowhere as expensive as it looks," said Michael Dambra, director of West Coast sales at Structural Graphics, Essex, CT, which designed the cardboard version of the automobile. "It's probably more expensive than a regular direct mail piece with an informational pamphlet and some pictures, but it's more effective. It's a keepsake that you can put on your desk and play with."


Structural Graphics was brought in by Deutsch Advertising, Los Angeles, the agency that worked with Mitsubishi on the overall campaign, to create the 3-D brochure. The total cost of producing the two mail pieces was in the area of $7 combined, Gough said. The second piece, which included the cardboard version of the SUV and a CD-ROM test drive, cost between $4 and $5.


"It is probably double or triple the cost," said Gough, though he would not disclose the total cost of the campaign. "The bottom line is, we are selling cars and the [return on investment] has proved to be cost-effective already. People liked the piece."


Before mailing the cardboard version of the Montero, Mitsubishi first sent 100,000 envelope-style mailers to an even mix of previous Montero and Mitsubishi Eclipse sports coupe owners, as well as to new prospects.


The piece opened up to reveal a Montero refrigerator magnet along with several pictures of the SUV in different settings, including a river, the desert and on Park Avenue in New York. A short list of features was included with a personalized letter asking people to request a CD-ROM test drive and 3-D brochure.


Recipients were told that if they responded before June 30 they would be eligible for a special test-drive promotion. They could respond by telephone, by visiting www.mitsubishimontero.com or by returning the business reply mail card.


Laura Sanchez, vice president and account director at Deutsch Advertising, said most of the people who responded were already customers. There were slightly more responses via e-mail than there were via the BRC.


Gough said the first piece generated a 2.3 percent response rate, resulting in Mitsubishi shipping more than 4,500 of the 3-D brochures and CD-ROM test-drives. People who didn't receive the first mailing could have requested the second piece after seeing the print ad or TV spot and visiting www.mitsubishimontero.com.


The cardboard car and CD-ROM test-drive pieces, which went out in May, arrived in a box designed to look like a garage. The cover read: "When you look inside, you'll wish this really was your garage. (Plus your travel & adventure CD-ROM is parked here, too.)" Inside was a personalized letter discussing the contents of the CD and some new features of the Montero. Details on how to get a $25 gift certificate from Amazon.com for taking a test drive also were listed.


The CD-ROM contained detailed information on the Montero along with images of its interior and video images of it performing in different terrain. A video of it in an off-road race also was included, and a link back to Mitsubishi was provided so users can get their Amazon gift certificates. The response rate to the second piece has been 3.1 percent.


The four-month print and TV campaign began in April. Mitsubishi ran one print ad in magazines such as Vanity Fair, Food & Wine, Road & Track and Motor Trend.
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