Craik Jones' output for Land Rover is, without doubt, the most awarded and consistently creative direct marketing work of the last decade. Land Rover was Craik Jones' first major client and is still working with the agency ten years on.
Here, we chart how the account has moved from a one-off project to sell 300 Range Rovers to an international direct marketing programme covering the entire Land Rover range. Many of the original principles remain the same today.
The agency was briefed in the summer of 1991 to develop a direct marketing programme that would encourage luxury car owners to test-drive and purchase a Range Rover. The brief was simply to sell 300 Range Rovers.
The challenge facing Craik Jones ten years ago was complicated by a deep recession that was hitting the automotive market hard. While most car manufacturers were desperately running major price-led campaigns, Land Rover wanted to achieve sales without resorting to price discounts.
Craik Jones' starting point was to visit BSB Dorland (Land Rover's ad agency) to understand the Land Rover brand and how Range Rover was positioned within it. The agency also interviewed Land Rover dealers to understand the sales process, their role in it and how they used test-drives to convert prospects to customers.
The real breakthrough, however, came through qualitative research with owners and prospects. It was discovered that although there is very high awareness of the Range Rover, many potential prospects reject the brand due to misconceptions about the car. They often perceive it to drive more like a truck than a 'luxury car' and to be for people who live in the country.
The agency realised that to succeed it had to challenge these consumer misconceptions of the Range Rover. While first-hand experience often shatters such misconceptions, test-drives normally take place too late in the buying process. In essence, you have to consider purchasing a car before you're interested in putting it through its paces. Craik Jones realised it needed to create a mailing that would transform prospects' attitudes and consideration of the Range Rover.
The resulting 'Private View' programme went on to win Best of Show at the 1991 DMA/Royal Mail awards, succeeding in transforming prospect attitudes towards Range Rover and encouraging them to experience the vehicle in record numbers.
The story began on a heavyweight dark green envelope with the words 'Not so much a test-drive as a private view'.
Inside the package was a three-page letter which brought to life how it felt to own and drive a Range Rover, as well as a folder containing four evocative photographs which showed the unique view from a Range Rover.
Prospects were encouraged to call the central number, where operators took their details and were able to book them in for a half-day test-drive (unaccompanied by the dealer) in the specific vehicle they were interested in. A week after the drive another mailing was sent to the prospects to thank them and to gauge their views.
The programme's great strength was its combination of superb creative with in-depth planning that resulted in a level of customer insight leading to targeting exactly the right people, at the right times, and with the right message.
Perfect targeting led to excellent results
The results were phenomenal. More than six per cent of the 50,000 mailed booked a test-drive. Orders were placed on more than 700 new Range Rovers. Sceptical dealers expressed their delight with the programme. Craik Jones went further.
It conducted research on how the campaign changed people's outlook, and found that it had a huge impact on perceptions of the brand and consideration of Range Rover.
The programme created a fundamental shift in Land Rover's approach to marketing. This change led to a gradual extension of Craik Jones' role, and today the agency handles a complete customer management programme for Land Rover.
As Jon Voelkel, Craik Jones' planning director, says: 'At the beginning, Land Rover viewed direct marketing as a distress purchase - a means of shifting product that wasn't selling. We were able to prove that direct marketing could not only sell, but was also a powerful means to build the brand among Land Rover's most important audiences. Our work went from a tactical sales campaign to an ongoing strategic programme of turning prospects into customers and customers into passionate advocates of the brand.'
Over the years, Land Rover has seen more than its fair share of changes.
Its ownership has changed three times during the past ten years but Craik Jones still has a strong relationship with the company, now owned by Ford.
Craik Jones' Land Rover acquisition programme has been ongoing for nine years. It now runs separate test-drive programmes for four vehicles: Range Rover, Discovery, Defender and Freelander. Where once activity was just a series of tactical promotions, it now comprises a continuous strategic programme. Inserts, direct mail and the internet entice those who crave a little adventure to respond with their details. Prospects are ranked by value and how close they are to a purchase. This determines what kind of test-drive they're offered - with high-quality leads receiving half-day or 24-hour test-drives.
Follow-up communications are then matched to the various different stages in the buying process, through to a cost-effective sale.
Last year a spend of pounds 1.6 million delivered pounds 115 million in sales. Land Rover's marketing communications manager, Julian Whitehead, says: 'Craik Jones are probably the agency that we've had the longest association with. They have become a valued member of our wider marketing team because they have a good understanding of the Land Rover brand and a good way of developing a strategy. This shows in the way our relationship marketing goes beyond them as an agency to embrace fulfilment and the internet. And, of course, we've always valued their creative imagination.'
Customer loyalty programme
Craik Jones also runs a comprehensive customer loyalty programme for Land Rover. This runs in two strands - a sequence of dealer communications, as well as major brand experience programmes.
To help Land Rover dealers build relationships with their customers, Craik Jones has developed a programme of communications which customers receive at key points of vehicle ownership. The programme includes customer satisfaction surveys, merchandise offers and information on new model launches.
But the Land Rover brand is about adventure and, to bring that brand alive, it goes further than day-to-day courtesies. Craik Jones has set out to encourage customers to immerse themselves in communications that live and breathe the great outdoors. For example, owners receive OneLife, an evocative journal of Land Rover's world that demonstrates the vehicles in action around the world and encourages participation.
The most powerful means of building loyalty is to involve customers directly in brand building off-road experiences. While many owners do not normally drive off-road, the sheer fact that they are driving the most capable off-road vehicle in the world creates an ever-growing desire to use it. When they do experience first hand the extraordinary capability of the vehicles, they become enthusiastic and committed advocates.
The flagship of the programme is Adventures, a series of off-road experiences which customers pay for. These range from pounds 85 for a day's off-roading in the UK, to pounds 3,895 for a week's trek across the Atlas Mountains. The Adventures brochure is translated into five languages for owners in 44 countries. A Country Affair is a series of one-day events, where Land Rover's most valuable customers are invited to participate in a variety of country pursuits, including a challenging off-road course.
The Land Rover success story continues. The agency's work won yet more awards in the past six months, including another gold at the DMA/Royal Mail awards. But Voelkel insists the agency takes nothing for granted: 'It is a sheer will of effort that keeps it both fresh and consistent year after year. Getting it right is difficult and takes a lot of sweat.'
Craik Jones is currently working hard on the next series of communications and it says that the relationship with Land Rover is instrumental to good work. Voelkel sums it up: 'Land Rover have been an extraordinary client. They passionately believe in their brand, their products and their customers. And they just love great work.'
May the good work continue.