Any day now, Vauxhall will be announcing a major branding
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
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
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
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
He enthuses about the 'Holy Grail' of measurability that is now in
'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
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
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
As a client, Jones is widely rated for being committed and involved with
projects, but backing off enough to let agencies think
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
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.