CAMPAIGNS: AMEC Awards Platinum Winner - Evaluation is key to launch of Volvo XC90

Client: Volvo PR Team: In-house/Hill & Knowlton. Media evaluation by Millward Brown Precis Campaign: Launch of the XC90 Timescale: January 2002 - summer 2003 Budget: Between £250,000 and £500,000 (£50,000 for media evaluation)

When Ford bought Volvo's car division in 1999, the aim was to develop the Swedish brand as a staple part of the firm's luxury car range.

In the UK market, the car manufacturer is known for producing large estate cars, and with this image in mind Volvo moved into the sports utility vehicle market for the first time with the launch of the XC90. This was expected to be particularly successful in the UK, where this sector has quadrupled in the last decade.

Objectives

To sell all 3,500 models of the Volvo XC90 that were made for the UK market in 2003. To promote the image of Volvo as a safe but adventurous brand and build future sales of sports utility vehicles. To constantly track the effectiveness of the campaign through evaluation within the media and among its key target audience.

Strategy and Plan

Although not launched in the UK until January 2003, the media and the public were targeted as early as January 2002, when the first version of the XC90 sports utility vehicle was paraded at the Detroit Motor Show.

The aim during 2002 was to generate gradual interest among motoring journalists and the lifestyle media, as well as the target audience of 25-to 44-year-olds with a household income of more than £50,000, educated to degree level and who would consider themselves adventurous.

An international press event was held in Vevey, Switzerland in August 2002. This was followed by a separate launch for the lifestyle press that took place in Monaco in September, and a UK press event at the Birmingham motor show in October.

From late 2002 to summer 2003, the targeting of the lifestyle and motoring media was stepped up. Hill & Knowlton was hired in March 2003 to assist with the lifestyle media.

Senior motoring and travel journalists were offered the car on loan, and around 50, mainly UK regional, journalists were invited to the Arctic to test-drive the car as part of the launch in January 2003.

Measurement and Evaluation

Millward Brown Precis was brought on board early in the campaign to monitor media coverage and analyse attitudes to the car among the target audience.

MBP account manager Martin Walker says the firm used its own brand ATP consumer tracking method, which includes face-to-face interviews and print media evaluation.

Individual journalists were also tracked to see if they were covering the product. MBP found the most influential motoring journalist, Jeremy Clarkson, was ignoring the product in early 2002. This information was passed to the Volvo in-house team, which then concentrated efforts on Clarkson and loaned him a car. By December 2002, the Top Gear presenter had written in The Sun that the car was 'the best family car money can buy'. He even bought one of the cars when they were released.

Clarkson's article, along with other coverage, proved influential, with MBP tracking a 69.8 per cent increase in web and personal enquiries about the model in December 2002 compared with the previous January. It found that Volvo was also achieving its goal of gaining coverage in the national media, rather than just in the automotive specialist magazines. Print coverage was broken down into 42.6 per cent national media, 29.1 per cent regional media, 24.9 per cent automotive and two per cent trade press.

Less than two per cent of coverage was in lifestyle magazines such as Elle, but although MBP offers additional lifestyle tracking services, Volvo had decided it would not be cost-effective for this particular campaign.

MBP research showed that the campaign had succeeded in targeting its potential buyers, with 96.7 per cent of its core affluent and adventurous audience having an opportunity to see at least one article on the XC90.

When analysing consumer opinion, it was found that twice as many people claimed to be very familiar with the XC90 than its two key rival products, the Mercedes ML and the BMW X5.

Coverage included the car being used in a Daily Telegraph fashion shoot on 29 August 2003. The XC90 was loaned to the Mail on Sunday for a travel article on the Isle of Skye, published on 4 May 2003. It was also loaned to the band Westlife, whose use of the car was featured nationally in Metro, and Elle magazine featured the car in the autumn after it was loaned to the magazine for its 18th birthday party.

While broadcast mentions were not tracked by MBP, features did appear on the BBC's Top Gear and the car was used in Channel 4's Location, Location, Location.

Results

Almost all the available units for this year have been sold, with Volvo estimating sales at between 3,000 and 3,500. Next year, the number produced will be increased to 5,000. Volvo UK director of PR and events John Lefley said: 'The evaluation was vital to see not just how it was being covered in the media, and whether we needed to change our messages, but how it was fairing against our competitors.'

Volvo also wanted to see if media interest was converted into orders.

'The research showed that link was very strong,' added Lefley.

Mail on Sunday travel editor Frank Barrett, who drove the car on Skye, said: 'In travel writing, we are always trying to come up with fresh ideas and if we can cross over with something like motoring then all the better.'

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