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PR success: Europcar Roadside Gastro Guide is a winner, thanks to 'hidden gems'


By The Drum Team | Editorial

September 6, 2011 | 8 min read

This case study outlines a PR strategy to boost Europcar customer loyalty. The strategy, delivered by Cow PR, saw the production of the branded Europcar Roadside Gastro Guide – showcasing some of Britain’s best-hidden motorway eateries and improving brand differentiation and customer loyalty for Europcar. This case study outlines the key stages of the strategy, explores the highlights of the campaign – including a specially tailored radio broadcast – and presents detailed results of the campaign, which included vast media coverage.

Cow PR had to create brand preference in a market where consumers are led almost exclusively by price. Europcar may be one of the biggest car hire companies both in and outside the UK, but the market remains one where customers, who are making a purely functional purchase, will have little brand loyalty and are driven by price. Alongside offering competitive rates and a wide spread of hire locations, Cow were constantly striving find creative ways to stay front of mind (and top of SEO) and create loyalty – and an emotional motivation for choosing Europcar time and again. To create this loyalty and emotional connection with the target market of young urban professionals, Cow had to move away from the functional aspect of car hire and bring to life its role as an enabler and an authority on UK leisure travel. StrategyWith a budget of £10,000 and no ATL support, Cow developed a tactic that would offer something free, tangible and useful to customers, demonstrating how Europcar goes a step beyond its competitors. Cow used a universal experience (the abysmal quality of motorway station fare) as a starting point, from which it developed a guide to the hidden gems – from idyllic country inns to farm shop cafes and roadside shacks – that offered quality and value meals just a short detour from the UK’s main motorways. They forged a partnership with the Guild of Food Writers, asking their members to submit suggestions for places which offered a respite from the unpopular, overpriced and unappetising fare available at motorway service stations.The content was managed in-house, by Cow, as was the design and branding – down to photography of each venue and hard copy production. It was aimed as a celebration of hidden gems, not big familiar names and none within the M25 so as to avoid it becoming too London-centric. By explicitly requesting that contributors provided quirky and interesting locations (including a roadside shack and a farmyard shop café) they ensured the content was valuable, relevant and newsworthy.Cow also conducted consumer research into Britons’ views of motorway service station food to provide a news hook and an opportunity to offer customers an alternative. The study showed that 95% of motorists believed the choice, price and quality of roadside food is unacceptable – with 80% saying they have previously gone hungry rather than eat from the selection on offer. This gave press a reason to pick the story up and helped circumvent the editorial barriers to coverage which a branded guide such as this would usually face. Cow also offered interviews with the President of the Guild of Food Writers as well as individual contributors, amongst them Valentine Warner and Antony Worrall Thompson. The Guild partnership was maximised as they not only provided content from celebrity chefs, food writers and broadcasters, but also ensured members covered the Guide on their websites, blogs and Twitter feeds. Cow also secured the contributors and the Guild’s President for media interviews – with an independent spokesperson opening doors for broadcast media even further. Every single opportunity for press was covered – this was ensured by launching the Guide with a PR news hook to secure news pages, but also providing avenues into lifestyle, food, travel and family press.Cow liaised with Europcar’s e-commerce regarding the placement of the Guide online with a link from the homepage and inclusion in the monthly e-newsletter to ensure maximum penetration to existing customers. Made available to download for free, downloads outstripped sales of the bestselling hardback of the same week. They also liaised with the social media team to spark debate about the entries and survey and publish excerpts on Europcar’s Twitter feed. Media coverage was secured across national and regional, print, television, radio, magazine and online press across news, food, travel, family and lifestyle pages.Innovative Highlights • This Guide was a complete first - not just for car hire but UK leisure, travel and gastronomy • Inextricable branding: by making the Guide available to download for free we provided a call to action to visit the website, as well as something tangible for customers to use and therefore providing and incentive for press to cover it with full branding• Creating content: the tactic was designed to create content for press across all media – further ensuring quality coverage and branding• Maximising regional coverage: by including a cross-UK spread of eateries, tailoring releases for each region and briefing individual establishment owners for local press interviews• Broadcasting: we hired a radio studio for interviews across the country, and drafted a specially tailored broadcast release which provided conversation topics, filming suggestions and a selection of spokespeople from the Guild The Europcar Roadside Gastro Guide was a tactic which achieved that ultimate goal in PR value – improving brand differentiation and perception driving behavioural change by delivering on the bottom line. It generated reams of coverage including national TV and print. Most importantly, it drove traffic to Europcar’s website, leading to increased bookings while offering something tangible and useful to customers.Results• 55 pieces of quality branded coverage, including a 7-minute piece on BBC Breakfast as well as 20 regional radio interviews, 6 national articles including the Sun, Guardian, Metro and Independent and lifestyle coverage such as Olive magazine• a reach of nearly 204.5million • and an AVE of £432,641• ROI was 1:43, with 20,435 people reached for every £1 spent• 25% increase in Twitter users during campaign• 3,779 downloads in the first week – beating sales of that week’s bestselling hardback• 6,499 visits to the Gastro Guide page on the siteTestimonials “In the summer of 2010, Cow PR approached the Guild of Food Writers to ask for our cooperation in putting together a campaign for one of their clients. Cow handled the whole enterprise professionally and efficiently and did excellent work in the face of tight deadlines. They got a great deal of coverage for us and for their client and they managed our involvement (radio and press interviews) expertly. “We have received enquiries from other companies that we are fairly certain came in response to our collaboration with Cow. Our collaboration with Cow makes us think that they understand the needs of both client and media when it comes to publicising food-related companies. We like them as people, and we like them as a company.”Richard Ehrlich, Secretary, Guild of Food Writers“We needed Cow PR to deliver a campaign that made us stand out from the crowd and prove how Europcar goes the extra mile. And we weren’t disappointed: the execution and results really did put us in a different league, creating a stir not just in the press but within the company as well. “We saw Europcar coverage in completely new media: full branding and calls to action on national television, recommendations and praise in some of the UK’s most read lifestyle publications, regional amplification, debate on our twitter feed, website spikes and absolute value for money. “Securing the Guild of Food Writers partnership was extremely valuable. Not only did we have the highest possible calibre of contributors and independent editorial, we also had the likes of Antony Worrall Thompson and Valentine Warner giving regional radio interviews on our behalf for no extra fee because they believed so strongly in the project.“The campaign was an overwhelming success that went beyond a PR stunt: we offered something of real use and value to our customers. The Europcar Roadside Gastro Guide was the meeting of a clever news idea - which united the spirit of the brand and a universal experience - with a well-thought-out strategy, meticulously exploited in all aspects of its execution.We believe we have created a long term property that will continue to set us apart from our competitors year after year; one that they are all probably wishing they’d come up with themselves.”Catriona Kempston, Marketing Director, Europcar Group UKThis case study was submitted as part of the entry process for The Drum Marketing Awards, and was awarded a Nomination for PR Strategy
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