CAMPAIGN DIRECT: PROFILE - ANDY JONES. Vauxhall man witnesses conversion. Direct marketing has come a long way since Andy Jones started at Vauxhall in 1984. By Robert Dwek

Any day now, Vauxhall will be announcing a major branding initiative.

Any day now, Vauxhall will be announcing a major branding

initiative.



At the time of writing, Vauxhall's marketing operations director, Andy

Jones, felt the embargoed info was too hot to discuss. But he did reveal

that the announcement would conclude a year-long project that has taken

'a long, hard look at what we want Vauxhall to be and where we want to

go as a marque'.



The fruits of all this navel gazing should appear over the coming

months, perhaps most noticeably in the form of a corporate TV campaign.

But talking to Jones, you get the feeling that the real Vauxhall story

in recent years and in the immediate future is below the line. He

reveals that the UK's second-biggest car maker has 'been gradually

increasing' its direct marketing spend over the past three years and is

now pulling out all the stops in a bid to create a stronger relationship

with its customers.



Much of the credit for this new strategy should go to GGT Direct. Its

managing director, Mike Cornwell, says: 'The establishment of a new

direct marketing strategy began in earnest in 1996.' Through copious

amounts of trialling and testing, the project has evolved into a

fully-fledged customer management programme. The significance of this

achievement becomes clear when Cornwell points out that 'before we

started, there was no direct marketing strategy to speak of, nothing

that was measurable strategically, just a whole series of tactical

initiatives'.



The full glory of this below-the-line strategy was witnessed in last

year's relaunch of the Astra, a car sent into battle against Ford's new

Focus, the replacement for the legendary Escort. GGT Direct sent out a

massive pre-launch teaser mailer to 400,000 existing and prospective

Astra owners.



Besides a free CD and prize draw, the mailings were supported by a

direct response campaign in the national press, created by Rainey Kelly

Campbell Roalfe. It was the first time Vauxhall had run a direct

marketing campaign from its own central customer database - this kind of

thing had previously been left up to individual dealers.



Talking to Jones, you realise how much his embrace of direct marketing

has been a personal learning curve as well as a corporate one. Although

relatively young at 37, he has spent his whole career at Vauxhall and

began in an era when things were very, very different. As a graduate

trainee in 1984, he would have soaked up all the 'rules' of an industry

that seemed light years away from the concept of relationship

marketing.



Subsequent jobs in various sales departments and divisions, followed by

a few years in key European posts - as marketing line manager for Omega

in Germany and marketing services manager for Opel in Spain - would have

done little to transform Jones into a direct marketing evangelist.



He now reflects: 'I'm old enough to have begun in this business before

direct marketing had anything like the recognition it has today. But

once the concept of relationship marketing became widely accepted, it

was obvious to me that it could be used in a new way and transformed out

of all recognition.'



With its new branding strategy on the starting grid, Vauxhall is set to

bring direct marketing centre stage. 'We think we're standing on the

threshold of an opportunity to turn our new customer database programme

into an industry-leading proposition,' Jones declares. 'We've spent

millions of pounds on this and it's been a major step forward for

us.'



He enthuses about the 'Holy Grail' of measurability that is now in

sight.



'We've built a reasonably robust model that shows what kind of return

you can expect over two or three years with direct marketing.'



Despite Vauxhall's size, Jones is convinced that the giant will have to

be a lot more nimble on its feet in the future. 'Good direct marketing

is distinguished from run-of-the-mill direct marketing by its ability to

discriminate between different types of customers, to segment the

audience.



We can already do this to a reasonable degree but we have a lot further

to go. You'll see us pulling away from the kind of mass-market approach

of the past and developing as a much more efficient marketing

organisation.'



While he won't reveal the size of the database - known as GM Custom -

Jones will say that he is working on a sister database designed to track

the ownership of second-hand Vauxhalls. Again, such an idea would have

been laughed at by the car industry a few years ago, but it has now

woken up to the value of after-sales and used car sales.



Vauxhall's own Network Q and Masterfit have proved extremely valuable

revenue generators, as well as being handy for yet more customer data

capture.



As a client, Jones is widely rated for being committed and involved with

projects, but backing off enough to let agencies think

independently.



He places great emphasis on agencies working closely with each other as

well as with the client, and says the whole relationship boils down to

trust.



Cornwell says he is 'highly inclusive of everyone. He treats us as

valued partners rather than as suppliers and gets us up the corporate

ladder so that our ideas get a hearing from the highest levels.'



As a battle royal with Ford commences, Jones will be hoping to get the

same kind of hearing from the great British public - albeit a public

segmented like never before.





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