Land Rover New Zealand had a few challenges to overcome around Valentine’s Day this year. One was that 2015 marked the final year of production for the iconic Land Rover Defender, the last descendant of its Series One, which ceased after 68 years due to stringent new European safety and emission regulations. The company needed to make Kiwis aware of this fact and hit a sales target for the Defender that was up from last year.
Land Rover, while a premium brand, also wanted to remain grounded and relevant to a broad New Zealand audience, and, as it hadn’t truly run any activations since its sponsorship of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, it felt it was time to bring itself back into the hearts and minds of New Zealanders.
Lastly, Land Rover realised that women mainly seemed to reap the benefits on Valentine’s day, and that men typically weren’t excited to see the pink decorations donning shop windows. So when a unique opportunity presented itself, it combined traditional and online media in order to increase brand love, drive sales and give millions of men a reason to care about Valentine’s Day.
Land Rover’s brief was simple: celebrate this iconic vehicle and the many stories it had helped to create around New Zealand. Fortuitously, it stumbled across a Trade Me listing from four old mates who were reluctantly getting rid of their old love, a disassembled, deregistered 1957 Land Rover Series One. In August last year Land Rover covertly picked up the ‘Landy’ for $1,300 and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red (as the Trade Me listing insisted), and made plans to restore it, but as restoration projects are hardly new for automotive brands, it needed to create a few hooks for both consumers and the media to talk about.
Land Rover took an approach designed to hit people right in the feels by creating a personalised content campaign for the four blokes that would then hopefully resonate with millions. And it tied their lost mechanical love and Valentine’s Day together beautifully, with Land Rover globally also getting behind the idea.
On pick up, three of the four original owners were there to say goodbye, and the whole exchange was filmed with hidden mounted cameras. As the wife of one of the owners, Claire Radford, would later discuss in a Seven Sharp interview, the four friends returned inside pretty downhearted to sit quietly on the couch. A big piece of their youth had just gone up the driveway on the back of a flat bed truck.
Turned out the Landy needed a bit more than just a lick of paint, however. After a failed restoration attempt by the lads it was little more than a chassis and several boxes of parts. Working with one of New Zealand’s leading vehicle restorers, the Land Rover team got to work, going to great lengths to ensure the bumps, dents and badges of honour from trips the lads had been on that were unique to this particular Land Rover were retained. The personalisation of the restoration went across every aspect of the vehicle: the agency design team even went as far as recreating the old stickers on the back of the truck.
In December, after restoring the vehicle, Land Rover returned it to its spiritual home, the South Island, to recreate a few old memories. From the Trade Me auction and plenty of research/social media stalking the team knew where the Landy had been and this trip served as a road test of sorts.
In January, working along its PR agency, Seven Sharp was approached to ensure the story would be seen by the masses. Equally important was how the Landy would be returned. So it created a one-off 45 second TVC with a target audience of four and then planned to twist tradition by presenting the greatest Valentine’s Day gift ever.
For the reveal, Claire was brought on to bring all four of the past owners together and place some hidden cameras around her home. As the lads sat on the couch catching up over a few beers, the TV ad made just for them came on. The newly restored Landy driving through the iconic South Island landscape recreating shots from their Trade Me auction post. The ad finished with “Happy Valentine’s Day lads, Claire has the keys”. Pandemonium broke out as everyone raced to the garage where an emotional reunion took place. There was laughter, and even a few tears. Complementing its hidden cameras, Seven Sharp was there to capture the moment and interview the “new” owners of the mostly-new 1957 Series One.
To ensure the heartfelt content would spread, Land Rover ran a full-page ad in the New Zealand Herald reading “Happy Valentine’s Day lads”, pointing the rest of New Zealand to the Land Rover New Zealand Facebook page. The page was to act as the hub for the local New Zealand campaign, housing a three minute video entitled ‘Love from Land Rover’, which documented the whole story from clandestine pick up to triumphant return. The online content was also launched on the Land Rover Facebook pages of 15 other countries and translated into four different languages.
Alongside the Facebook activity the video was seeded with key influencers such as Dan Carter and across various video networks. The content also played in cinemas nationwide on and around Valentine’s Day. On the Monday after the big day, Seven Sharp ran a full eight minute feature on the campaign, showing the return of the Landy and interviewing the owners and their families.
The story ended up being the most-viewed piece of online content Land Rover had ever made. As Land Rover had hoped, the theme of the greatest Valentine’s Day gift ever for blokes was picked up by both local and international media, from the New Zealand Herald to the Daily Mail in the UK, and Classic Car Magazine to Richard Hammond and Top Gear.
Coinciding with the socially-led, relatively small budget campaign, Defender sales jumped significantly in February, March and April, without any pricing or other above the line activity. It also met and exceeded its New Zealand content objectives, managing to reach well over 1,000,000 New Zealanders, at much less than its estimated cost per view of $0.40, and it increased Land Rover NZ’s Facebook likes considerably. From a PR perspective, linking its activity to a cultural moment in time proved hugely beneficial, with the content getting a 30 percent share rate on Valentine’s Day and, based on the success of this content-led approach, it’s a strategy that Jaguar/Land Rover is looking to use again in different markets.
So effective was the campaign that, according to the four lucky owners, the Landy has even become something of a celebrity in its own right and regularly gets toots on the motorway.
“Innovation can be an idea or invention that delivers value to the brand. Coming up with innovative and original ideas to sell cars can be incredibly difficult. Land Rover seized an opportunity to invest in a small idea and demonstrated agility and courage in their decision making processes to pour more oil on the fire to drive a global impact for their brand. As well as solving their original business problem far in excess of their marketing investment.”
Campbell + Co, TVNZ, Y&R
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