ANALYSIS: Lessons for the front line - General Motors had twin aims at the launch of its latest van - to teach the sales force about the vehicle and motivate them. Philip Chadwick looks at the thinking behind this dual strategy

Car launches usually require a spectacular setting, lights, models

surrounding the vehicle and a big reveal. But when the product is a van

and it's aimed at the Commercial Vehicles (CV) market a different

approach may be needed.



General Motors (GM) and HP:ICM thought so with the launch of the Opel

Vivaro in Duisberg, Germany. Over a two-day event, an audience of sales

consultants had the opportunity to learn about the van and how to sell

it.



Driving the action



'In CV sales, a good experience with the dealer is the primary reason

for purchase,' says HP:ICM chairman and creative director Nigel

Lloyd-Jones. 'The Vivaro will only be a success if the sales consultants

really drive the action. It won't be driven by a PR and advertising

campaign, but by consultants directly contacting potential

customers.'



With this in mind GM wanted an event, designed by HP:ICM, that could

teach the sales consultants about the product and at the same time

motivate the sales force. To do this effectively the balance needed to

be right.



'We had to be very careful with the purely motivational and educational

aspects of this event,' explains Lloyd-Jones. 'We had to get that right

and I think we've struck the right balance.'



Despite this, GM marketing operations launch concepts manager Peter

Schmid feels that combining the two elements will weaken one

slightly.



'Maybe we're losing a bit of the hardcore sales training itself, but

we're picking up a lot on the motivational part,' he says. 'In the past

we have done an excellent job on the technical aspects of selling

vehicles, but we found that the motivational part was missing. If people

are motivated it makes for a better totally trained sales force.'



The first day concentrated on 'hitting the target' and required people

to think about the customers. Delegates were split into groups, each

represented by an icon of the trade or business at which the Vivaro was

aiming. These included florists, carpenters and furniture movers.



On the second day delegates got to drive the van before having to come

up with a sales plan to take back to their dealerships.



'We had to engage our audience with a direct experience of what the

vehicle is like to work with,' says Lloyd-Jones. 'Activities included

loading and unloading and got people physically involved.'



According to Lloyd-Jones, the sales plan was an essential feature

because delegates had to have something tangible to take away from the

event, bearing in mind that they had to make a financial contribution to

attend.



From the top down



'The idea is to spread the information through the whole organisation,'

explains Schmid. 'From the top level down to the receptionist, everyone

hears about the needs of the CV customer.'



The event took place at an old colliery and ironworks called the

Landschaftpark.



The German location was a natural choice as most of the delegates were

from Germany, but both GM and HP:ICM liked the venue.



'The key to the event was the interaction with the vehicle so we needed

a big physical space,' says Lloyd-Jones. 'Through research this

extraordinary location came to us. It combines an amazingly industrial

atmosphere but also has a real magical quality about it.'



With the Vivaro being sold around Europe, the event had to cater for a

variety of languages. This meant each event had to be designed for each

European language. The whole launch lasted three weeks, from late March

to early April. As a London agency HP:ICM had to prove its worth by

pitching against six others.



'Dealing with all the different languages was one of the great

challenges for us,' says Lloyd-Jones.



'But we are a pan-European agency and we're very experienced at these

European events.'



The training side of this launch could have been done in a hotel with a

series of lectures. But combining it with the launch and motivational

activities meant HP:ICM didn't go down a well-trodden path. It became a

live event with the space being creatively used and kept the delegates

involved throughout.



But the real key to this alternative event's success will be if

truck-loads of Vivaros are sold throughout Europe.



That was the key issue - to get the delegates to understand the product

so that they can sell it effectively. Only time will tell how effective

this alternative product launch was.




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