CarMD revs up role as industry expert

Thatcher+Co. helped devise a launch campaign for the first CarMD Vehicle Health Index, with the objectives of positioning CarMD as an expert and helping drive sales of its other services.

Client: CarMD.com (Fountain Valley, CA)
Agency: Thatcher+Co. (New York)
Campaign: CarMD Vehicle Health Index
Duration: February 2011 – November 2011
Budget: about $50,000

For the last 14 years CarMD.com has been developing a vast database of car repair information compiled by thousands of Automotive Service Excellence-certified technicians. Derived from the database, the CarMD Vehicle Health Index provides fact-based data about repairs, causes, and associated costs.

AOR Thatcher+Co. helped devise a launch campaign to reveal findings of the first annual index in April. Objectives included positioning CarMD as an expert and helping drive sales of its other products and services.

“We needed to position the company as an automotive information expert so we could be seen as a resource,” says corporate communications director Kristin Brocoff. “We'd been referred to as a ‘gadget company,' and we're so much more.”

Strategy
Brocoff analyzed the data to draw useful conclusions for business partners, media, retail buyers, and consumers.

The April release of the index coincided with Car Care Awareness Month and the New York Auto Show. An April 27 media embargo was set.

“To catapult CarMD forward as an expert, leveraging data that speaks beyond just the company was the overarching strategy and key to success,” says agency founder and CEO Brad Thatcher.

Tactics
Media outreach, including several New York briefings, began several months ahead of the embargo. Journalists gave feedback on data they considered the most exciting and relevant. Targets included general consumer, auto, business, and finance media outlets and bloggers.

Microsite www.corp.carmd.com launched April 26 with information for media and other stakeholders.

The first phase of outreach focused on the most common problems and repairs. The second phase included state rankings of repair costs and regional data.

The team worked with CNN and Popular Mechanics to allow their audiences to generate online reports from index data of the most common problems for individual cars.

Data was also shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Results
Brocoff reports Q2 2011 product and service sales that can be directly attributed to PR efforts increased 180% over Q2 2010.

Impressions topped 300 million in outlets including CNN American Morning, NY1, The New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Time.com. Reporters continue to regularly request data, including localized findings.

A number of organizations, including the EPA and US News & World Report, are interested in partnerships and licensing deals. CarMD also landed meetings with potential retail buyers.

Future
Index data will be updated biannually. The team is preparing to release an index update (focused on manufacturer-specific information) in November prior to the LA Auto Show.

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