Direct marketing is proving itself a worthy vehicle to generate interest and leads nationwide for the new Jaguar XJ luxury sedan.
Since an integrated campaign began in January, Ford Motor Co.'s Jaguar Cars North America has collected 25,000 leads from more than 300,000 unique visitors to the microsite at www.thenewxj.com, 17,800 others from print magazine ads and 7,250 via mail.
“Direct marketing is absolutely working,” said Melissa Grady, relationship marketing manager at Jaguar, Irvine, CA. “We're definitely seeing higher response rates. Our sales are higher than they've ever been. This past September was our highest-ever sales month.”
Jaguar's direct marketing success is in line with findings this month from Cap Gemini Ernst & Young that online ads and direct mail influence car-buying decisions more than TV ads.
According to Cap Gemini Ernst & Young's fifth annual automotive study, only 18 percent of consumers said TV ads influenced their decision, while online advertising on manufacturer Web sites influenced 28 percent and direct mail influenced 48 percent.
Grady would not disclose XJ sales tracked to the DM effort for competitive reasons. But she said the sales resulted from leads counted as qualified information requests on the 2003 XJ — a car that starts at $60,000 and, uniquely for Jaguar, has an aluminum body instead of steel.
Wunderman is Jaguar's global direct marketing agency on the account, with its Irvine office handling the U.S. end. British interactive shop Global Beach Group works on the online effort worldwide and services Jaguar from its Irvine branch.
“These people will be cultivated over the next year for us,” said Jeff Browe, vice president and management supervisor at Wunderman Irvine. “So we have the opportunity to really impact those sales. We have a full sustainment plan in place to manage prospects as they come in market.”
Based on self-reported information from prospects, Jaguar will drop mail or e-mail quarterly to these qualified leads. It is using third-party accolades from automotive press in the communications process to add credibility to Jaguar's message.
The press endorsements, culled from trade and enthusiast magazines like AutoWeek, Motor Trend, Road & Track and Automobile, are critical to helping consumers rationalize a Jaguar purchase.
Like many automakers, Jaguar has a multi-prong approach to its marketing. In this case, Wunderman Irvine and Global Beach developed a strategy that dictated a pre-launch tease from January through May, a launch period starting June 2 and the sustainment phase.
Pre-launch marketing, in particular, stressed the XJ's aluminum body. The positioning — “Stronger. Faster. Safer. Smarter.” — was layered with the equally new “Born to Perform” tagline.
Even at this tease stage, when prospects' appetites were whetted with installments of XJ news, the intent was to drum up enough interest to drive dealership visits and preorders.
Using owner segmentation, Jaguar developed three mail pieces that were mirrored online in greater depth.
The first piece focused on the new model's innovative features. The second, with the Jaguar hood ornament embedded in the booklet cover, delved into details. And the third discussed performance.
“I think when you're selling a $60,000 car, you can't beat the impact that a direct mail piece can deliver,” said C. Daniel Olson, senior vice president and managing director of Wunderman Irvine. “Doesn't mean we don't use e-mail when it's necessary, but we'd like to make sure we have an integrated mix.”
Of those hand-raisers who sought more information, mail edged e-mail. Fifty percent requested information by mail, less than 1 percent wanted telephone contact and the rest e-mail.
“People whom we get online want to stay with online communications,” Grady said. “They've said, 'I'm an online person, communicate with me this way.'”
Online has its advantages. It is cheaper than print, more interactive, lacks space issues and offers a quicker turnaround time in terms of e-mail marketing.
Consider Jaguar's sponsorship of an upcoming PBS program special on its namesake animal called “In Search of the Jaguar.” The automaker used e-mail addresses from its overall hand-raisers' database to choose local candidates to attend a preview of the special this week in Washington.
“Using the online medium to tell the true story behind this car demonstrates how the XJ stacks up to the competition and alleviates purchase barriers,” said Matt Passey, director of client services at Global Beach, Irvine. “The Internet combines the ability to tell the story in video, audio and animation and engage the consumer in a call to action with immediate benefit.”
Still, it is clear through the Jaguar lead-generation process that the one cannot do without the other, the mail cannot do without e-mail and the Web or direct response print.
“We use our communications to tell our story and overcome purchase barriers that consumers may have with Jaguar,” Browe said.