DHL Express USA

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Last year, global shipping company DHL took on rivals United Parcel Service of America and FedEx Corp. with a $150 million integrated campaign to position the company as a force to be reckoned with in North America.

Prior to the campaign launch, DHL was recognized as a global leader in shipping but had not done any advertising in the U.S. for more than 20 years, said Karen Jones, VP-advertising, brand and promotions at DHL Express USA.

To establish a stronger network in North America, DHL acquired Airborne Express in 2003. It then started working with its agency-Ogilvy & Mather, New York-on an integrated marketing campaign to announce DHL's new brand positioning.

"The first phase was really about generating awareness that we existed," Jones said. "Before you get into consideration and purchase, you have to let people know you're out there."

Alongside Ogilvy, DHL conducted thorough research among its target audience of shipping managers and C-level executives at small, midsize and large businesses to find out if the U.S. was ready for another shipping company.

"We found out that people absolutely felt there was a duopoly and they had only two choices in shipping," Jones said. "People love choice, and that was a hot button for our messaging going in."

Pitting DHL directly against its top two competitors, Ogilvy created the tagline, "Competition. Bad for them. Great for you."

The first phase of the campaign, which broke in June 2004, included TV, print, online, outdoor and direct.

"The creative strategy was `Let's get them noticed quickly and in a very strong way,' " said David Apicella, co-creative director at Ogilvy.

The agency did this with a series of humorous TV spots showing how DHL's presence was pervasive.

In one spot, UPS and FedEx trucks are stopped at a railroad crossing. When a train carrying DHL trucks rumbles past, one of the drivers says, "I didn't see that coming."

Another spot shows a FedEx employee on vacation, where he encounters DHL trucks, planes and employees everywhere he goes, even while parasailing.

"TV was the key piece in the pure awareness message," Apicella said. "We wanted to let the world know DHL is here."

Print ads also carried the "Competition" theme, running in general business publications as well as lifestyle magazines such as People and Southern Living.

"The ads were very targeted to a new choice in domestic shipping," Jones said. "We tried to appeal to multiple targets, from shipping managers to administrative assistants."

One print ad showed a fleet of DHL trucks, with their bold yellow and red colors, lined up on a wide tarmac in a V-formation. Copy read, "The Roman Empire. The British Empire. The FedEx Empire. Nothing lasts forever."

DHL also used direct mail to target shipping managers and other purchasers and influencers, and an online campaign to drive people to the DHL Web site.

"We used the 360-degree approach to show that DHL is everywhere," Apicella said.

In August 2004, DHL did a sponsorship with the Summer Olympics, as the official express delivery and logistics provider for the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic team. The sponsorship was supported by TV and print.

In March, DHL crafted a sponsorship with Major League Baseball, becoming the official delivery provider for MLB, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and individual teams. The MLB sponsorship was also supported by TV and print.

In June, DHL rolled out a more product-focused campaign for Import Express, a new shipping service aimed at importers. The print campaign targeted vertical industry segments, including automotive, aviation, financial services, medical industries and retail. It showed how DHL takes complete responsibility for shipping, including providing one consolidated invoice and currency translation.

The ads used unique media placement and execution, such as one for the retail industry that was printed on cloth and inserted into retail publications.

DHL is now developing the second phase of the campaign, which is focused on customer service. The integrated campaign, including TV, print, online and other components, will be launched in the fall.

So far, the awareness campaign is proving successful, Jones said. Unaided awareness of the DHL brand increased by 12% by the end of 2004 . Jones said the integrated campaign has helped DHL communicate several important messages.

"First we told people there is a new choice, then we showed them new products, and showed how we ship for major players like the Olympics and Major League Baseball," she said.

"Now we will start to paint the image we want the company to have going forward, which is that we are a much more human, flexible and responsive company when it comes to shipping."

Along those lines, DHL will move away from its "competition" theme and roll out new messaging, although she declined to say what the new theme would be.

—K. M.

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