DaimlerChrylser Ride-and-Drive Features Barcode Tech
Advertising can only get you so far, and DaimlerChrysler has learned that to make a sale, it needs to put tushes in car seats.
To make that happen, the auto maker created a free consumer test drive experience unlike any other in the industry. The Route 2002 tour, which Chrysler senior manager of brand events Lou Bitonti says “combined elements of an auto show with on-road driving courses,” rolled out last year with tri-branded weekend events in 15 markets. Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep each invited owners and prospects with separate targeted direct mail campaigns (with e-direct invitation follow-ups). Upon receiving their invites, consumers called a toll-free number or headed online to register. After registering, they received a direct mail confirmation packet with directions, a drive pass and other information. The four-day events (Thursday to Sunday) were open to the public as well as the invitees in the markets Route 2002 drove into last summer.
On-site, a corporate-themed Welcome Center greeted consumers as they entered the 30-acre site, which featured three separate and distinct “brand villages”—Chrysler Proving Grounds, Jeep 101, and Dodge City—with separate themes, messages, activities and sound/music systems. “When we came to town, people knew it,” says BBDO account director Leigh Brust. “There were no dealers there, so there wasn’t any pressure on the consumers.”
The event included 17 inflatables, 230 vehicles, more than 120 field staffers (in uniforms tying them to one of the villages), a licensed store, beverage stations and six specially designed test-drive courses (two off-road, four on-road). There were also children’s activities and lifestyle-oriented games. Local p.r. initiatives staged at each event got local media on board.
The events employed barcode technology through which attendees zipped through on-site registration and could be tracked at key areas. The system helped monitor the success/failure of certain on-site components and allowed DaimlerChrysler to make adjustments in mid-execution.
“Free works if you can give the consumer a value and an experience,” says Bitonti. “But everyone has a different definition of free.”
This definition was a winner. Consumers received a $500 purchase incentive in a personalized thank you letter, referencing the dealer closest to their home. Attendees must have liked what they saw, because Route 2002 generated 113,615 test drives from the 98,197 consumers who attended, $11 million in unpaid media hits and 109 million impressions. Nine out of 10 attendees were “very” or “extremely satisfied” with the experience, and 75 percent of guests increased their opinion or consideration.
Oh yeah, and 19,598 cars were sold as a direct result of the program. No surprise a Route 2003 sequel launched in April.