Porsche Goes Full Throttle to Gather Leads for New SUV

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An ongoing direct and interactive marketing campaign for Porsche Cars North America Inc.'s new Cayenne sport utility vehicle has crossed 110,000 leads.


Of those leads, 25,000 came from direct mail and 85,000 from a Web microsite, call center registrations and point-of-sale. An estimated 75 percent are hot for dealer follow-up for test drives when the Cayenne hits showrooms, according to Porsche agency Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis.


"Direct and interactive marketing enabled us to establish demand and build a database of qualified hand-raisers well in advance of the vehicle launch," said Anthony Romano, account director for relationship marketing at Carmichael.


The campaign's numerous tactics serve an overall call to action: ask affluent consumers willing to pay $55,900 for the Cayenne S and $88,900 for the Turbo version to visit porschecayenne.com. Visitors can get the inside scoop on the development of Porsche's first SUV and its first non-sports car in 54 years.


Under the hood were multiple objectives. First, the goal was to generate response and capture prospect data. Second, Porsche wished to strengthen anticipation for the Cayenne. Third, it sought to build support and credibility for the vehicle. Fourth, it wanted to offer in-depth information. Fifth, it wanted to provide exclusive nuggets on the vehicle's development. Finally, Porsche aimed to actively drive qualified dealer traffic.


Porsche's direct outreach began in December with mail to 200,000 qualified prospects.


Creative tied in with the print advertising's theme of focusing on Porsche as an automaker with a rich heritage. The headline on the box mailer read: "Only one sport utility vehicle has bloodlines like these." Images of Porsche's 356 coupe, the 959 and the 911 Turbo accompanied.


Inside the box was a 12-page booklet, personalized letter from a Porsche North America executive and a response card to gauge purchase intentions and timing. The mailing list was compiled using current Porsche owners, respondents to past campaigns and callers to Porsche's toll-free number. Leads from dealers, subscribers of auto and lifestyle magazines and owners of rival SUVs, sports cars and sport sedans and wagons also were targeted.


All names were screened to create a proprietary profile, with attitudinal and purchase intention data that reflected the makeup of the prospective Cayenne buyer. The model was built using owners of Porsche and other big-ticket cars, plus data from an attitudinal segmentation study.


Preliminary response based on such modeling yielded satisfactory results, according to Carmichael. Eighty percent of the respondents said they were likely to buy an SUV. Forty percent said they planned to buy one in seven to 12 months.


A second mail piece in February to respondents of the invitational mailing was accompanied by a personalized e-mail to all porschecayenne.com registrants, informing them that the second chapter on the site was ready for viewing.


The theme for this round was testing, chronicling Porsche engineers' experience as they tested the SUV in extreme conditions around the world. A letter, brochure and video with on-location footage went out.


A third mailing in March to all hand-raisers and e-mails to site registrants informed them about the third chapter online. Called "Revealed," it showed teaser snapshots of the Cayenne. A letter, photo and sketch of the vehicle were in the package.


A fourth mailing to the same hand-raisers and a complementary e-mail effort, called "Technology," went out in June. Recipients were privy to 360-degree shots of the SUV and specs.


In September, a fifth mailing to the hand-raisers will include a limited-edition hardcover book under the "Building Cayenne" name. This book highlights the people and places responsible for the Cayenne.


Another mailing will drop in November, delivering a short emotional film on the Cayenne as well as a full Cayenne model brochure.


"Not too far after mailing six there are preliminary plans to conclude this campaign with a launch mailing to hot prospects that will be timed with the dealership launch of the Cayenne," Romano said. "The timing of this is confidential right now."


This tiered, episodic effort to build and sustain anticipation over a year leading to the Cayenne's U.S. debut was buttressed by online ads. Banners and e-mail sponsorships on sites such as edmunds.com, MSN's Carpoint, motortrend.com and caranddriver.com drove traffic to the Cayenne site.


The first phase of ads in December and January focused on Cayenne's heritage. Efforts on the same sites in March involved the first official "reveal" timed with the release of teaser photos at the Geneva Auto Show.


Clicks in the first phase ranged from 0.95 percent to 4.7 percent on banners and 12.5 percent to 17.2 percent on e-mails. In phase two, click-throughs on banners were 0.8 percent to 2.3 percent and as high as 12 percent on e-mails.


A final phase of banner and e-mail ads runs into the fall.


Also, the automaker's flagship site at porsche.com has been responsible through banners for generating traffic to the Cayenne site and registrations. The Cayenne site alone has generated more than 80,000 registrations, 70 percent of which are considered hot.


Ads in auto enthusiast and lifestyle publications continue to support the program.


Neither Carmichael nor Porsche would disclose the cost of the campaign or the cost per lead except to say it was "very favorable." Romano said all media tactics met or exceeded expectations. He said it compared well with efforts for rival SUVs.


"Unlike the multi-staged direct marketing campaign for the Mercedes-Benz M-Class launch, Porsche achieved ... response without ever showing the vehicle in the first two mailings or Web microsite chapters," he said.


Of course, Porsche knows it has a rough ride ahead, especially from fellow German carmakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Plus, the Cayenne must contend with the launches this fall of upscale SUVs from Volvo and Volkswagen.


But above all, Porsche has to contend with the resistance from consumers to an SUV from a company known for its sports cars.


"So why an SUV? To many it just doesn't seem to fit with what Porsche is all about, especially among the core owners," Romano said. "Needless to say, there has been some healthy uncertainty surrounding this vehicle. To address that challenge, you need a dimensional medium that allows you to deliver a deeper, inside story on a personal level. Direct and interactive give you that."


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