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International association for the measurement and evaluation of communication
Category: The Platinum Grand Prix for the most effective media intelligence, research & insights company campaign
Client/Entering Company: PRIME Research
Campaign title: ŠKODA goes off-road for success
Company Name: ŠKODA UK
At the 2017 AMEC Awards, PRIME Research and ŠKODA UK stole the show, receiving three awards for outstanding use of PR measurement and evaluation for the innovative KODIAQ SUV launch:
This success demonstrates how a brand once considered as an“underdog” used media research and evaluation, market research and sales data to shine a spotlight on the effectiveness and value derived from ŠKODA’s world class communications work.
ŠKODA is on a journey to evolve the brand’s image. Its cars have long been seen as underdogs, but as the brand now wins awards and is experiencing increased sales, it is ŠKODA drivers who are having the last laugh.
The SUV segment is the fastest growing in Europe. It accounts for 13 percent of the total UK car market. Since 2010, it has grown 20 percent year on year. ŠKODA, until recently, was not in this segment.
KODIAQ is the brand’s first major inroad into this booming category. “We are conquering a new segment for the brand – and new customer groups,” says ŠKODA CEO, Bernhard Maier. The target demographic is different, the message is different and the strategy must be different, too, if ŠKODA is to stand a chance of success.
The goal of the communications programme was to generate a wave of enthusiasm and engagement, but there were more tangible and measurable business objectives to achieve. The target for KODIAQ registrations of interest was set at 125 percent of ŠKODA’s previous most successful car launch. Qualitative media analysis would play an integral part in developing, fine-tuning and assessing the communications programme, particularly since PR activity took place in near isolation. Little other marketing activity was live during the core analysis period, so PR alone was to drive appetite for the model.
PRIME’s media analysis supported ŠKODA by providing:
Ultimately, the PR team-led campaign had supported the business objectives of generating registrations of interest, website traffic and, ultimately, sales
Previously, ŠKODA relied heavily on AVE to prove success. But since KODIAQ was ŠKODA’s most important model launch to date, PRIME advised that now discredited AVEs would not be sufficient. The programme’s success would be driven by media performance, but the ultimate measure would be linking strategic coverage to the core business objectives of awareness, registrations of interest and, ultimately, sales.
Advance planning was designed to give ŠKODA as much of an advantage as possible. Analysis was scheduled against each of the key phases with additional monthly strategy workshops.
Planning for success
PRIME’s first role was to assist the product launch PR plan. This included recommending the most effective timing and phasing for coverage, as well as identifying topics and issues, media and key influencers on which to focus – as well as those to avoid. PRIME used its global automotive sector media data-set, which goes back more than 10 years, to analyse and draw insights from historic competitor SUV launches.
PRIME identified which prominent topics, issues and features were the subject of media focus when journalists reported on competitor launches. Which ones could be used to KODIAQ’s strengths and which should be avoided?
PRIME also looked to analyse the approaches of key journalists and influencers, as well as identify winning strategies to stand out when launching models at congested motor shows. Armed with deep historical analysis and competitor benchmark data, ŠKODA was able to plan its media relations strategy to maximum effect.
Using research to inform strategy
To understand better what factors drive key journalists’ and consumers’ attitudes to cars, PRIME and ŠKODA’s PR agency Kindred collaborated on providing primary research covering both journalists and consumers. As far as journalists were concerned, this would contribute to leveraging strong relationships as well as help to understand which were the most effective communications tools to use.
Parent consumer focus groups determined what ‘ordinary’ motoring meant to them. The research revealed that the school run was the most challenging trip that families undertake every day. This led to the ‘Extreme School Run’ lifestyle campaign led by Kindred PR.
Earned Media Metrics – choosing the right indicators to ensure success
Earned media analysis would enable PRIME to demonstrate message penetration during each phase of the programme and allow for adjustments throughout. To support ŠKODA in bettering the competition, PRIME recommended setting KPIs based on its historical analysis.
Volume-based metrics alone would not provide sufficient insights to facilitate an informed campaign, so the focus of the analysis strategy shifted to direct qualitative comparison. The programme of analysis included monthly group consultancy to share findings, interrogate learnings and discuss strategy. PRIME was a crucial part of the programme – not simply a data provider post event.
Shared and owned data – proving PR makes real business impact
To prove success and demonstrate value the metrics could not be only media oriented.
Analysis of the volume and quality of engagements on owned channels, such as Facebook and the ŠKODA website; registrations of interest (Facebook inquiry forms, website forms and telephone calls); Google search trends; and deposits paid by customers would be harnessed as the ultimate measures of success.
“The importance of the KODIAQ launch for ŠKODA cannot be underestimated. Simply put it is the most important product launch in our 126 year history. PR played a critical role in giving the car the platform it needed to shine and deliver credibility.”
– Pietro Panarisi, Head of PR, ŠKODA UK
To ensure ŠKODA had the best chance of driving awareness, delivering registrations of interest and ultimately sales, the historic media insights contributed to a four-stage launch plan which included continuous analysis throughout.
The primary research among automotive journalists provided insights into their views on methods of engagement and the factors that were likely to influence their experience of a car. Traditional PR tools, such as press packs and motor shows, were found to be less relevant than personal contact. Closer internal liaison with the press and events team was initiated to ensure the research findings were addressed. Restricted access to management, experts and designers was seen as an automotive sector weakness, so this was addressed to provide further competitive advantage.
Engaging the public
A strong rapport with journalists was important, but it was crucial that the target consumer also felt engaged. A call for families with the UK’s toughest school run was put out on ŠKODA’s social channels, and through regional newspapers and blogs in the more remote areas of the country. Pick up and engagement of this was tracked and analysed.
Data informs a successful strategy
PRIME’s analysis of previous motor show data was fed into ŠKODA’s launch timing and informed their strategy. It found that motor shows are becoming less appropriate for car launches due to the amount of competing noise. In a typical show, pre-show coverage accounts for 40 percent of total visibility.
Our insights showed that feeding coverage before a show ensures that journalists are familiar with the product and gives manufacturers a distinct advantage.
Following a “tease” event in Geneva (March 2016) the KODIAQ was officially revealed at a standalone event in Berlin in September 2016.
With the Paris Motor Show scheduled for the following month, journalists had plenty of time to familiarise themselves with the car and were primed to write about it in Paris.
When measured, this strategy bore fruit – the KODIAQ came in as the number one ranked volume vehicle (based on reach of articles) at the Paris show. This was a fantastic achievement given the show’s highly competitive nature.
Having achieved mass appeal at Paris, the campaign then progressed to a lifestyle campaign aimed at their target audiences. Moving away from ŠKODA’s traditional 55+ audience, the campaign was more visually striking with an “Extreme School Run” campaign aimed at families.
Kindred PR conducted consumer research to ascertain how much of their lives families spend on the school run, and the counties where families are most frequently delayed by flooding and livestock. These statistics were used as the basis of the narrative.
Using research to reach the right audience at the right time
PRIME’s research ensured successful targeting. The planning and on-going reporting included undertaking gap analysis on journalists and exploring their associated tone and preferred subject matter. Our insights provided intelligence on opportunities to engage with influential journalists who the team knew had not yet told the ŠKODA story.
ŠKODA’s media strategy was informed and well executed. The campaign continues but ŠKODA’s communications team are so pleased with the strategy and execution that they will be presenting their insights to the management team and marketing colleagues to share learnings that will help accurately target media for future SUV launches.
The campaign followed best practice defined in AMEC’s Integrated Evaluation Framework.
Strong emphasis on communications objectives supporting organisational goals, meaningful planning, SMART KPIs and measuring earned and owned media across outputs, out-takes and outcomes contributed to ŠKODA outperforming advance sales expectations before KODIAQ even reached dealerships.
INPUT | Planning and research informs launch strategy
Well-scoped research offered competitive insight, audience understanding and an appreciation of what would resonate with journalists. ŠKODA targeted the most influential channels in the right way, and at the right time, to achieve its goals.
PRIME highlighted the importance of the timing of auto show communications, leading ŠKODA to execute the launch of the KODIAQ a month in advance of the Paris Auto Show. As a consequence, the KODIAQ ranked as the most visible car at the show, meeting the objective of taking market share from competitors.
OUTPUT | Driving awareness among a new target audience
In line with other objectives, PRIME’s research showed that KODIAQ outperformed the SUV segment in both share of coverage and sentiment in the most critical areas for SUV buyers: space and versatility, price and running costs, and safety and handling. The KODIAQ dominates its competitors in all qualitative measures.
OUT-TAKE | The audience reacts
The ‘Extreme School Run’ film was ŠKODA’s best performing video of 2016, with more than 100,000 Facebook views than the nearest contender.
Crucially, the full video view completion rate for Extreme School Run was up 95 percent on ŠKODA’s usual ratios. Audience awareness was high, resulting in a 41 percent hike in traffic to the ŠKODA website during the fortnight after the Extreme School run element of the campaign and Google search rankings increasing.
OUTCOME | The audience engages
ŠKODA had hoped for an uplift on registrations of interest from the campaign with a target of converting 2.5 percent of those to sales.
Analysis showed that ŠKODA has seen interest registered from more than 33 percent of the total 2017 sale volume target before the car had even hit the showroom – an unprecedented achievement.
Organisational Impact | The audience buys
Of the parties that have registered interest to date, some 9 percent have left deposits (and are therefore committed purchases). This has driven revenues already in excess of £50 million. The close partnership between ŠKODA and PRIME ensured the client planned effectively and measured credibly, using data to form strategy, adjust tactics and successfully link PR efforts to business outcomes.
This was a first for ŠKODA, demonstrating PR’s crucial role internally, leading to an increase in budget for future launches; an excellent outcome for the team; and an endorsement for the effective use of measurement and analysis.
This success demonstrates how research, objective setting, planning, evaluation and insights can power communications to achieve extraordinary results. It demonstrates the importance of pre-campaign formative research and benchmarking and the need to make it part of a credible planning process.
Journalist audits, coupled with content analysis of previous launches, highlighted strategic opportunities on which ŠKODA capitalised. Measuring success across earned and owned media and linking this to market research and sales data allowed ŠKODA, for the first time, conclusively to prove the value of PR.
ŠKODA’s PR work drove more registrations of interest than any of its previous launches, and with more than 9 percent of those committed to spending over £50 million on a new car in a new market – without even driving it.
As PR looks for better methods of proving value than AVEs, what could be better than a campaign that can prove its value in such a structured and credible manner?
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