THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
SALES, GOODWILL BUILT ON THE ROAD
"Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener. That is what I'd truly love to be." Most of us can recite the remaining words to this longtime jingle and instantly recognize its accompaniment, the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. Created in 1936, today's Weinermobile travels 500-plus miles a week, carries 11,000 Wiener whistle toys and personally engages countless connoisseurs of Oscar Mayer products.
The Weinermobile has survived 70-plus years because it's been a key element of a marketing communications arsenal that builds relationships, demonstrates goodwill and generates sales.
"These three components make this vehicular promotion virtually untouchable, "says Craig Bilderback, CEO of INMOTION, LLC, Alpharetta, GA. "Oscar Mayer grasps and executes the most important detail of this kind of promotion: creating a vehicle, or campaign, that talks directly to core customers."
Bilderback is adamant in this philosophy. As one who has built a company and career designing and developing vehicular campaigns for brands such as Wilson Sporting Goods, Adidas and Nike, he understands how to dive into the customer psyche. More importantly, he knows how to create experiental promotions that gain and grow their "share of heart," where final buying decisions are made, reaffirmed and expanded.
"Vehicular promotions meet customers and prospects on their turf, on their terms and in their comfort zones," Bilderback said. "It's an atmosphere where your sales, branding or educational message resonates and creates a desirable response."
The Indianapolis Colts used vehicular promotion to grow from less-than-satisfactory attendance to a season ticket waiting list well into five figures.
Matt Gonso, Colts Promotions Mgr, is now deploying his second vehicle with a 42 ft trailer that is the centerpiece of Colts Motion, a comprehensive traveling event.
"Our original vehicle was for regional marketing and building up our fan base," Gonso said. "Five years ago, games didn't sell out. Now, thanks to this ongoing vehicular campaign and the team's Make it Personal Program, we have an extensive waiting list for season tickets. That's verifiable ROI. In fact, we've moved away from TV and newspaper ads because our vehicular efforts, combined with Make it Personal have proven much more effective.
The Colts often partner with Meijer Retail and Grocery Supercenters to host locations for its road show, Colts Motion. The traveling museum features four TVs, several interactive areas, a countdown clock for the new stadium and a "Make It Personal" section that gives fans a chance to learn more about their favorite players. Peyton Manning's locker is also replicated. Pre-event publicity and each store's own outside display drive customer traffic to each location.
TRUE GRASS ROOTS
Colts Motion also rolls into community festivals and even fish fries with astonishing results.
"People's first reaction is that they're astounded we take the team to their backyards," Gonso said. "Whether it's a strawberry festival or Oktoberfest, fans truly appreciate it. And, it creates a strong sense of ownership among them. Town officials, often including mayors, participate in the events. It's grass roots support at its finest, or as we call it, touch-point marketing."
A Friday Night Football Tour woos high school football fans and Blue Fridays (named because Colt fans don blue apparel) finds the vehicle at the center of pep rallies throughout Indianapolis. Game attendees can then tour the vehicle during game day.
Just like the season ticket waiting list, the waiting list for Colts Motion appearances is ever-lengthy.
WILSON HITS A HOME RUN
Wilson Sporting Goods personnel can relate to the Colts' success. A revamped vehicular campaign called The Wilson Experience Tour boosted 2006 sales of products sold from mobile set-ups 192% in the eastern U.S. and 157% in the western U.S.
Mike Joseph, Chicago-based Tour Dir, said Wilson's vehicular marketing endeavor has netted enviable sales dividends and ROI, as well. Sales paid for one new vehicle in its first six months on the road, plus netted thousands of personal interactions with prospects and customers.
Bilderback said success mirroring that of the Colts and others is best achieved when his team collaborates with clients to actively plan marketing communications and sales goals.
"Vehicular promotions can be highly effective components within integrated communications programs and profitably support existing efforts," he said. "The key to their success is communicating with everyone involved in the four stages of vehicular campaign development."
• Planning: Setting budgets, objectives, demographics and messages.
• Development: Building vehicles, training staff, getting road-ready.
• Execution: Securing insurance, developing schedules, final prep.
• Fourth: Evaluating success and ROI.
A FIT FOR AGRI-MARKETERS
Scott Downey, Assoc Dir for the Center for Food and Agricultural Business at Purdue University, says that done right, vehicular marketing is a powerful means to communicate the persona of a company or brand, whether in a business-to-business or business-to-consumer environment.
"Farmers are unique in how they make decisions," he said. "They make a lot of business decisions as individuals, much like consumers do. Agricultural customers are an effective target for vehicular campaigns because a company can take its message directly to them in an active way that passive direct mail, billboards and ads simply can't. By using a vehicular approach, companies can reach their audiences with a three-dimensional experience that encourages the full spectrum of interaction.
"This can be done with sales personnel, but there is much more variability in interactions with sales forces and customers," Downey added. "Sales people are very proficient in one-on-one interactions. A vehicular campaign presents a dynamic of 'one-on-many,' much different from day-to-day selling."
"To be most effective, vehicle promotions should be managed much like trade show events. 'One-on-many' requires a different skill set than traditional selling. It's best to staff them with professionals who are proficient at the former approach.
"The campaign needs to be relevant to what the company wants to say about its brand," Downey says. "If you're focusing on a cutting edge image, you show that innovation in the vehicle design. If your brand is playful, you might shape the vehicle as a wiener."
That advice mirrors what INMOTION provides its clients.
"Some clients dedicate staff or create a mobile group that deals only with elements related to vehicular promotions, much like the Colts do," Bilderback said. "This is especially effective if a campaign runs year-round. For other situations, we recruit personnel and train them for individual client needs, messages and appearance schedules. Either approach is effective as long as those directing the campaigns are fully tuned to company and brand messages.
Vehicular promotions can be used to educate, promote, inform and sell. No matter the reason, Downey said the basics of marketing and promotional development apply: create awareness, inform, create attention and remind.
"Like any communications tool, vehicular campaigns must be well-managed," Downey said. "The whole idea is to communicate a favorable message about your company or your brand. Just buying a vehicle won't cut it. You've got to manage every detail because you'll be sending a message, no matter what. It is much easier to deliver the right message first."
He added this applies whether you're selling products from the vehicle, delivering an educational message or demonstrating new product technology.
For more information on INMOTION's marketing capabilities, go to: www.inmotionllc.com; Phone: