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GMC used an eight-part direct mail program, spinning a tale of two brothers, to build awareness and drive traffic to showrooms for Envoy, a sport-utility vehicle that debuted this spring.

By weaving a story about two fictional siblings -- Steven Bank, director of GMC Envoy development, and his brother, Andrew M. Bank, a U.S. envoy who was chosen, because of his familial connections (and his job title), to test-drive the new vehicle around Europe -- the company was able to introduce Envoy in a way that engaged prospective buyers in an adventurous tale unfolding with each subsequent mailing. The series tracks Andrew's travels and exploits, including letters mailed from Greece and the Netherlands.


The mailings, via McCann Relationship Marketing, New York, began last November and stretched over seven months, to the launch.

"It was a conscious decision to . . . create an emotional link to the product rather than feature the product itself," said Gary Forrer, relationship marketing manager at General Motors Corp.'s Pontiac-GMC. "That's the first time we ever did something like that. It's treating customers one at a time rather than treating consumers as mass media."


The strategic services people at McCann came up with a list of 190,000 potential customers, consisting of current GMC Jimmy owners, other current GMC owners, current luxury car owners and current sport-utility competitive model owners. The first mailing generated a 12% response rate.

The mailings appear to have done the job of getting people to come in and take a look at the new vehicle.

"There's a whole ownership experience that goes along with purchasing a Pontiac or a GMC, and any Envoy purchaser would participate in that," Mr. Forrer said. "The mailing began the link to those customers. It boosted showroom traffic and got the vehicle off to a good start."

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