3-D Mailers Show Volvo Group's New Dimensions

The Volvo Group used a dimensional mail campaign to investment analysts, government leaders and journalists to rebrand the company as a leader in the commercial transportation solutions market.

The mailers feature pop-up figures portraying various aspects of Volvo's business, such as jet engine components, to convey the message that the company no longer is about automobiles. Many still identify the Volvo brand solely with cars even though it sold its automotive business to Ford in 1999.

“That is something that is not well known in North America,” said Marjorie Meyers, manager of corporate communications at The Volvo Group's North American headquarters in New York. “People only associate us with the car company.”

Burton Hall & Associates, Park Ridge, NJ, designed the mailers, and Structural Graphics, Essex, CT, produced and fulfilled the campaign, which ran last fall. It included a series of six mailers, with a new piece dropping weekly through the end of the year.

The final phase featured two different mailers, one targeted to New York and the other to Washington. The New York mailer featured an image of the Nasdaq building in Times Square while the Washington version showed the Capitol Building.

The campaign, sent to 2,000 people, offered gifts such as hats and shirts to those who returned a reply card. Response overall was good, Meyers said, though measuring response from some in Washington was harder because elected officials are barred from accepting most gifts by law.

The campaign produced several new relationships with journalists and investment analysts, she said. Though branding often is done through mass media, in this case direct marketing was appropriate because Volvo had a selected pool of individuals to whom it wanted to convey its message.

“We weren't interested in any specific numbers,” Meyers said. “We were interested in getting out there and visible, showing who we are.”

Though The Volvo Group doesn't make cars anymore, it does make Mack trucks, buses and construction equipment. Each mailer focused on one aspect of its business.

“It was great to isolate each one,” said Michael Maguire, president of Structural Graphics. “Each business can be symbolized by a tangible product.”

Burton Hall, president of Burton Hall & Associates, said he envisioned the campaign having a cereal-box, collect-'em-all appeal. Copy on the back of the mailer encouraged recipients to “Collect the Whole Set!”

Doing dimensional mailers in a series is unusual, and most marketers who use them settle for one piece, Maguire said. Structural Graphics used a technique known as “staging” to enhance the illusion of a three-dimensional image. Opening the postcard-sized mailer revealed a pop-up figure in three components or stages: background, middle ground and foreground.

The background appears on the inside cover of the postcard. The middle and foreground images unfold one in front of the other when upright, creating an illusionary 3-D scene.

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