Product Launch: Truck firm grows brand awareness through CXT push

International Truck & Engine has been known by many names over the years.

International Truck & Engine has been known by many names over the years.

Once called International Harvester, the company had been a power in farm equipment.

After it exited that business as a result of the farm recession of the 1980s, it became Navistar. Now it's International Truck to convey its new mission of concentrating on trucks and truck-engine markets.

"International in general has a pretty strong heritage, but there's still a lot of people who only know International as International Harvester or Navistar," says Linda McGovern, director of marketing communications and brand strategy.

Its new CXT, a giant, industrial-strength pickup truck, presented International with the opportunity to make a bold statement about its brand.

Ketchum suggested using the CXT to extend awareness of the brand beyond the truck industry and traditional industry trade publications in order to attract buyers who hadn't considered International products in the past.

"We haven't challenged ourselves to go outside the box," notes McGovern. "This product really gave us the opportunity to challenge ourselves."

Strategy

"We saw CXT as a product that could build a more premium image," says Andrea Lewis, a Ketchum VP who worked on the campaign.

Ketchum sought to build anticipation for the new CXT in the media and reach nontraditional venues, such as the entertainment press. International also wanted to use the truck's unveiling to buoy employee morale. A goal was set for the campaign, as well - to sell 50 CXTs from its September launch until the end of the company's fiscal year, October 31.

Tactics

The PR team reached out to USA Today, offering it a pre-launch exclusive. The story appeared September 13, three days before the official unveiling. USA Today put the story on the front of its Money section and had a photo and brief on its front page, as well. That started a flurry of coverage.

The official unveiling was held at the company's Garland, TX, plant. Local government officials and media attended the event. Holding the unveiling at the plant was seen as a way to boost employee morale and point to the new product's made-in-the-USA heritage. "It was a true celebration for them," McGovern says of International's Garland employees.

Ketchum also secured sponsorship of a pre-Emmy Awards party in LA for International. The CXT became the official vehicle of the party, getting the attention of the entertainment press in the process.

Results

The day the USA Today story ran, traffic to International's website climbed from its average 6,000 hits a day to 185,000. The CXT story became the most e-mailed item on Yahoo! on September 13 and 14.

The overall campaign garnered more than 216 million media impressions. Coverage included Entertainment Tonight and other entertainment outlets.

"People are sitting up and noticing International," says McGovern.

The sales goal of 50 trucks was easily surpassed, with 120 CXT's sold by October 31 and commitments made to sell an additional 100 of the trucks, which retail for between $90,000 and $160,000, depending on options.

"Not only are we selling more product, it's helping us sell other products in our lineup, as well," says McGovern.

Future

Ketchum will continue promoting the truck, looking to more traditional venues like industry trade shows. For example, the CXT was on display at the SEMA automotive specialty products show in Las Vegas from November 2 to 5.

PR team: Ketchum (Chicago) and International Truck & Engine (Warrenville, IL)

Campaign: Launch of International's new CXT truck

Time frame: August to September 2004

Budget: $80,000

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