Velux: how custom mailers won over a 'very cynical audience'
Back in 2001, The Velux company faced a major challenge. Following an extensive product development programme at its Danish HQ and at centres throughout the world, it decided to make a change to its product range.
Typically for Velux (who, after all, invented the roof window) the proposed change was on a grand scale. From the beginning of April 2001, the entire range would be radically upgraded. Everything would change. New design, new installation principles, new packaging, new everything. Not that there had been anything particularly wrong with the old product - Velux was, and still is, the market leader by a long way - but this dramatically improved product range was designed to take the company to another level.
For Marc Haseler, marketing manager at Velux in Glenrothes, 'Project V21' was both exciting and terrifying at the same time. "We knew from the start that we were facing a major challenge. We were about to introduce completely new, improved products overnight. We were replacing well established products and, while that offered us a great opportunity, there was also huge potential for problems in our complex distribution chain."
For Haseler and his colleagues in Glenrothes the pressure was on. The launch had to go well. On one level, Velux wanted to create a real stir in the market. Yet at the same time it was essential to concentrate on the practicalities. After all, when you're making fundamental changes to installation principles, there's always the potential for problems.
"We had a huge job to do in terms of communication with a very mixed and notoriously cynical audience," says Haseler. At this point, Haseler made two key decisions. First he moved the launch date to 2 April (because 1 April had an ominous ring to it) and second he appointed DraftWorldwide, following a competitive pitch to create the launch campaign.
"We were delighted to be asked to work on the V21 launch," says DraftWorldwide managing director, Gary Smith. "Not just because it was a major campaign for a great client but because it presented such a complex logistical challenge."
A quick look at the Velux buying chain confirms Smith's assessment. The product is stocked by merchants who sell to installers and house builders. They, in turn, buy the product on behalf of their customers, who purchase the product because it has been specified by an architect.
Having secured the business, the DraftWorldwide team set to work producing a campaign that tackled each of the markets individually and in a very precise time sequence. A teaser Christmas card was first to go, creating a star out of four of the new installation brackets, warming up the target audiences and promising big things to come. Next was to tackle each of the markets in turn.
"We hit the merchants first," Smith recalls. "They needed the longest lead times because they had to run down existing stock levels while maintaining a steady supply to the market."
So merchants were welcomed back from their Christmas and New Year holidays with an unusual mailing, known as 'the Fun Tub.' The tub arrived with an intriguing line: 'Just when you thought it was time to stop celebrating'. Inside there was a bottle of Champagne, some party poppers and paper hats and some very positive marketing materials promoting the opportunity ahead.
"We tackled the gritty realism of the building trade head on when we mailed that Fun Tub," says Haseler. "And it was received with enthusiasm."
The Fun Tub was followed by a series of countdown postcards designed to keep launch day front of mind. Merchants also played a vital role in distributing information to their customers, the installers who fit the windows every day.
In the meantime, installers received a very highly focused mailing which picked up on the key design change that would appeal to them. This fold-out self-mailer also cleverly contained the key information that installers would need to fit the new window while offering them the opportunity to request a free information video. Crucially, the mailing emphasised the most important new development that would appeal to installers - that the windows were now easier to fit.
"In many ways what was required was a classic direct marketing campaign," says Smith. "Our challenge was to segment the overall market then hit each group with a clear proposition that was relevant to them. And that's exactly what we did."
Turning to architects, DraftWorldwide's creative team again came up with a solution that couldn't be ignored. Re-creating a smaller version of the Velux packaging, the creative homed in on the technical details that architects would find interesting.
"When we're talking to architects, we always remember that they're creative people in a very creative profession," says DraftWorldwide creative director, Alan Munro. "From the label on the outer box, the mailing focuses on the technical improvements. We've made some big changes, it promises. Inside there's a branded tape measure locked at 27mm - a reference to the fact that the new window is placed 27mm deeper into the roof. It isn't 27mm, it's a world of a difference, says the headline inside - a reference to the fact that this small change makes a fundamental difference to the performance of the product. A booklet and a CD ROM complete the mailing, giving the architect all they need to understand and specify the new products.
The final market tackled was housebuilders. Again the creative team opted to use the brown card box replica of the Velux packaging but gave the message a different spin. "For housebuilders we emphasised that we were giving them more: more window for their money, more service and support, more house to sell," says Smith.
Throughout all of the work the DraftWorldwide team made sure that the work also supported the Velux brand. "We had a practical message with this campaign, but we were also aware that with Velux we're always striving to show customers that Velux is the leading brand in its market by a very long way," adds Munro. "That's good for us because it allows us to be creative. We know that the company understands that it's worth investing in high-quality marketing that really makes an impact."
Haseler echoes this view. "The campaign wasn't just about ensuring a problem-free launch, it was about making a huge impact in our market and that's exactly what it has done.
"As soon as we saw the creative work produced by DraftWorldwide we knew it would work for us. It managed to cut through the complexity of the project and turned each message into something which was easy for the audience to understand. If you can do that and create work with a strong visual impact then the campaign is bound to be a success."
And a success it was. The new V21 product range was welcomed by merchants, architects, installers and housebuilders with huge enthusiasm. Crucially, each segment of the market knew exactly what to expect from the day of the launch.
"We got the problem-free launch we wanted," says Haseler. "But most importantly, the launch campaign really boosted sales. You can't ask for more than that."
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