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Land Rover brews up tea party ads

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When Land Rover U.S. wanted to communicate to small businesses the tax benefits of buying a new Land Rover, it used a 234-year-old event that sparked the American Revolution and led to the U.S.' independence to illustrate the story in an award-winning b-to-b direct marketing campaign.

The campaign nabbed a Silver International Echo Award in October from the Direct Marketing Association, based on both creativity and results. It delivered an ROI of 54% to Land Rover, generating $1.54 for every dollar invested by the automaker.

The company compared the tax benefits of purchasing the vehicle to the Boston Tea Party to communicate a complex message quickly and bring wit and humor to a normally dry subject.

Small companies that purchase the vehicle are entitled to a little-known tax break over a four-year period known as an accelerating depreciation benefit. The tax benefit is based on the vehicle's gross weight.

"Awareness of the benefit is not that high," said Courtney Dirksen, account supervisor at Young & Rubicam Brands, Irvine, Calif., the agency that created the campaign. "[We] came up with a way to get that idea across immediately. We wanted to convey it in a compelling way, and we wanted the recipient to `get it' right away."

Two direct mail pieces were sent in the fourth quarter of 2006 to 300,000 small-business recipients: a first touch and then a reminder direct mail piece six weeks after that.

Currier and Ives litho

The primary direct mail piece, printed on high-quality paper stock with crisp photos of three different Land Rover models, featured a Currier and Ives color lithograph—"The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor"—on its cover. Alongside the lithograph was the copy: "For more than two centuries, Americans have been looking for ways to lower their taxes." Inside was an eight-page bound insert that comprehensively describes the tax benefits of ownership. It also compares the tax depreciation of each of the three Land Rover models to competitive luxury cars.

The mail piece also included a registration form and an offer of savings on the purchase of one of the three vehicles included in the promotion, as well as a URL to give prospects more information.

The reminder mail piece also used the Currier and Ives litho with the headline, "It's time to salute America's skill at creative tax planning." Inside the trifold mailer was a single Boston Harbour Tea-branded tea bag with copy that read, "Ask the taxman if he wants one lump or two." The reminder mailer repeated the savings promotion for the recipient and included a URL for a landing page containing chart comparisons for depreciation levels on each of the models versus competitive vehicles.

Online, newspaper and event elements were integrated into the campaign. The online portion included banner ads, paid search advertising, e-mail marketing through its quarterly newsletters and Web content developed specifically for the tax-break campaign. Banners and search directed people to content on Land Rover's site with additional information about the promotion and the tax breaks.

In addition, Land Rover ran a freestanding insert in Investor's Business Daily and promoted the tax break deal at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

While the other media channels boosted the campaign, Land Rover said that direct mail was the heart of it.

"The core of the communications for this program is the direct mail, because it works well for us," said Jonathan Renker, CRM digital marketing manager at Land Rover. One major benefit of the direct mail is the ability to tell a longer story.

"The direct mail piece was the first thing that went out to communicate the message. And then the Web site went up. And then the online media kicked in," he said.

Dirksen agreed direct mail was at the center of the campaign, explaining that the medium lends itself well to targeting.

Direct gets specific

"I think direct mail is a great way of getting very specific with our targeting efforts," she said. "[The tax break incentive] only makes sense for small-business owners in particular, and with direct mail you can find targeted lists. Direct mail allows you to target a very specific audience."

Land Rover refined its target audience working with its list vendors, including Experian.

The company has created campaigns for this particular promotion in previous years, which Renker said have had successful results, but none that tops the tea party idea.

The company was so pleased with both the creative and ROI of the original campaign that its fourth-quarter 2007 direct mail campaign on tax breaks also uses on the tea party theme.

Called "Great Moments in Tax History," the 2007 campaign built on the tea party message with the same imagery, but different copy and a different color scheme for the artwork.

"There has been a litany of approaches that we've done [year after year]," Dirksen said, but this is "the most effective campaign we've developed so far against this message."

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