Pulling People to Test Drive Raised Range Rover Sales

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A mail campaign that invited recipients to attend a Land Rover test-drive event for its new $72,000-plus Range Rover luxury sports utility vehicle helped sell more cars on a percentage basis.


Recipients who attended one of the six test-drive events recorded a buy rate of 1.25 percent through September, while only 0.52 percent -- or 775 -- of all those who received the invitation mailer bought the SUV. Of the 149,667 mailers sent, 1,040 recipients, or 0.69 percent, attended one of the events.


"Direct mail was critical in finding targeted consumers who met the stringent qualifications of those in the Range Rover segment," said Jason Maloney, management supervisor at Land Rover direct agency Wunderman Irvine (CA). "The events would not have been a success if the spaces were not filled, and DM was the tool to bring the audience to the locations."


The mailer, a card with Range Rover images on strips within, dropped in waves starting in April to synchronize with the six-market event schedule. Recipients were invited to attend the event and, for some attendees, to take advantage of a purchase offer.


Essentially, mail was used for invitations and thank-you responses and e-mail to remind non-responders about the event in their location. A Web site was created for the events and registration.


The events were held in Sea Island, GA; Montauk, NY; Kohler, WI; Dallas; and Sonoma and Santa Barbara, CA. The drop was split almost evenly among residents closest to the six destinations.


In organizing these events, Ford Motor Co.'s Land Rover, like its luxury-brand competitors, aimed to create a lifestyle experience to illustrate the product's upscale nature to an affluent, discerning audience.


So, the automaker created an event where targets experienced specially designed activities to complement that lifestyle. These included picnics, cooking demonstrations and drives along beaches, in alliance with corporate partners like Smith & Hawken, Vieluxe and Kohler.


Around the same time, rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW were having their own versions of show-and-sell events. Venues like the Pomona Fair Grounds in Pomona, CA, and Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles were chosen.


"We instinctively chose not to host our events at parking lots," said Natalie Bow, relationship marketing manager at Land Rover, Irvine, CA. "A luxury car company should not host an event in a stadium parking lot."


Land Rover should know. Existing Range Rover owners made up one-third of its mailing list for the events. Another third comprised names from magazine publisher Conde Nast's subscriber files. One-sixth of the mailing went to American Express Platinum cardholders.


The mail piece also went to new and old Range Rover handraisers, Experian QuickPredict names and BE Ski event attendees.


"These are people who have multiple vehicles in their garage, and this might be the least expensive they have, but it's the one they drive the most often," Bow said.


A study of the performance by list segment is revealing.


Among those who did not attend, Range Rover owners posted the best total buy rate, 1.24 percent, or 610 cars sold. New Range Rover handraisers were next, followed by the BE Ski event attendee list, American Express and old Range Rover handraisers.


Now compare that with the attendee buy rate. Surprisingly, the Experian QuickPredict list performed best -- 3.13 percent, or two cars sold. Existing Range Rover owners registered a 2.67 percent buy rate, or nine cars sold. New Range Rover handraisers and the Conde Nast list followed.


Among attendees, not one name from the old Range Rover handraisers and BE Ski event lists bought the new Range Rover. The American Express list's performance was not disclosed.


"Owners are the best performing list," Maloney said. "For acquisition sources, modeled lists -- those based on Range Rover owner data or Range Rover look-alikes -- are outpulling vertical lists."


There were other instructive findings. Distance from the event location affected response rates. But many people were willing to drive far to participate even though there was no incentive to attend announced in advance. The average distance traveled was 158.9 miles, or 2 1/2 hours from home.


Only when invitees got to the event did they learn that a commitment made on the spot yielded a $2,000 discount on the vehicle.


However, American Express, seeking to ply yet another benefit, stipulated that its Platinum cardholders had to know of the discount in the mailer as a condition of renting its list.


That was the least of Wunderman Irvine's challenges. There was the production coordination of elements like the invitation, Web site, e-mails, on-site materials and thank-you package. Also, the agency had to gather and enter data on attendees and coordinate their photos for the thank-you mailing.


"Current results show that the DM efforts have been paid for," Maloney said. "Final results are necessary to determine the event logistics costs and their effect on final return on investment."


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