DHL, the world's leader in international door-to-door express delivery operating in 220 countries, commands a global market share of approximately 38%. Although the company leads in the timely delivery of documents in virtually every market it competes in, it lagged behind in the market for heavy goods delivery, especially in Europe.
The company concluded the solution lay with a major pan-European campaign, reinforced by local advertising, touting that DHL can deliver the goods-as well as the documents.
Since the market for timely delivery of goods is some six times the revenue, DHL's strategic goal was clear: exploit this global revenue opportunity while maintaining its established superiority in the documents arena. DHL wanted its brand image to advance from "courier" to "courier and carrier." The marketer aimed to underscore the "Worldwide Express" dimension of its business and convey the consistency and reliability of all aspects of its service performance. Also, it wanted to distinguish itself from the competition.
TURNING TO TESTIMONIALS
Together with its creative agency, Scholz & Friends, Hamburg, DHL decided the campaign should be built upon a central, unifying idea. Since DHL is the world's No. 1 in delivery, more people in more companies choose DHL than any other carrier. What better way to prove this point than with customers themselves? And so with DHL, Scholz came up with the campaign theme: "People like us . . . like us."
Testimonial advertising is certainly not a new concept and some testimonial campaigns have failed due to lack of credibility. For this reason, DHL was careful to select longtime customers from around the world who use DHL to send both goods and documents.
Three "acid test" questions helped in the selection of testimonial subjects, said Christopher King, DHL's regional brand marketing manager for Europe and Africa. "We had to see drama, 150% authenticity and a clear role for DHL in the films [commericals]," Mr. King said.
A South African wine producer, for instance, testified to DHL's reliability for shipping fragile goods and an English horse auctioneer praised DHL's work for his time-sensitive catalog mailing.
To emphasize these points, Scholz shot the TV spots in documentary style. "There was no script. We just let the people freely tell their stories," said Andreas Gruhl, the agency's director of marketing.
Added Mr. King: "We shot with two cameramen, because we needed to be sure that when the perfect line was uttered, we had it on film, since no one was going to say the same thing twice."
An average of two to three days of filming was required for each spot. The information was easily adapted for radio, print ads and outdoor boards, and the campaign was launched in May 1995.
The importance of a healthy partnership, a theme stressed in the ads, was also important in creating them. "We had to trust Scholz, that they had all the images in their heads and they had to be very collaborative working with us and the media planner we brought along," DHL's Mr. King said.
The creative/strategic planner was Brian Haworth of CIA Medianetwork, London, with whom Mr. King has worked on DHL campaigns over the last eight years.
The main task for CIA Medianetwork was to launch the campaign in every country using local and pan-European media, while bearing in mind that DHL's ad budgets-and the competitive environment-varied significantly from country to country.
Pan-European media was crucial because it guaranteed a wide and consistent coverage throughout Europe. And with heavy use of print, radio and TV, the agency hoped to create customer feedback to DHL offices.
Initially, consecutive insertions (ads on consecutive pages within the same issue) of color testimonials were used. Copy-only ads followed earlier this year, particularly in business magazines. To emphasize the launch of the local campaign, which began in March, Scholz mailed issues of Time and Newsweek carrying the ads to 3,000 top DHL customers. A wrap-around with a specific message for each title was created. Inflight magazines were selected for countries such as Spain, Italy and Portugal where the penetration of pan-European media is weak.
ADAPTABILITY THE KEY
Key in producing the campaign was adaptability: The basic idea of "People Like Us" had to come across in any form and language. Photography was shot high and wide, so that it could be cropped to any size; all components-from the testimonial to the music track-could be broken down.
"We wanted to be able to use the campaign in any country and be able to do a cut-and-paste job to make it work," Mr. King said. "So DHL Bulgaria can literally say they want a certain testimonial with a Bulgarian voice-over. Or, as DHL U.K. did earlier this year for a poster campaign, we can drop out headline statements from the testimonial transcripts."
The campaign, running in Europe and Africa, is working according to DHL surveys. Brand awareness in France jumped to 90% in 1995 compared with 70% for leading rival, EMS; 83% in Germany compared with 71% for main competition, TNT; 85% in Spain compared with United Parcel Service's 20%; and 84% in the U.K. while rival TNT records 57%.
"The concept will run for three to four years, although I don't see any reason for it not to run even longer; we're already re-editing to allow for local needs," Mr. King said.
For the first time in DHL's communication history, every country is running the campaign.
DHL plans to extend its "People Like Us . . . Like Us" campaign to other parts of the world.