Don’t Forget That Customer Experience Includes Hopes and Dreams


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Buying a car is one of the last bastions of making a purchase where one can forget for a moment one is over 50. If you …

  • Buy a chair, can you get out of it?
  • Buy a house, how many steps are there up to it?
  • Buy a vacation, will there be lots of noise in the hotel?

This was never more demonstrated than in a campaign I ran for a U.K. motor manufacturer at the start of the 1990s (when I was a mere slip of a lad).

By analyzing the demographics and lifestyle profiles at each variant level of the model to be promoted, we had a very clear picture of who was buying which version of the car. The twin-cam, lowered suspension, six-speed on-the-floor gearbox with extra shiny black paint job version went to the “yuppie” market (


something we don’t say, anymore), while the sedate, leather-upholstered version with automatic transmission went to the older profile. We referred irreverently to this latter profile as the “55s to dead” market. Most of these people were retiring from good jobs that had provided company cars and, we thought, probably buying the last car they would ever own.

Throughout the marketing of the cars—whether on TV, in 48-sheet street posters or in magazine ads—we had two creative treatments. One was the yuppie version, with the car parked outside a swish London nightspot, full of neon reflections in the paintwork. The old feller’s version was a gold car in the carriage drive of a typical English stately home complete with golden Labrador, all bathed in a golden glow. The Golden Years!

When it came time to create the direct mail, we used the same creative, but we tested 10 percent of each mailing file with the treatment for the other segment. In other words, 10 percent of the younger profile got the “golden days” car, and 10 percent of the older profile received the nightspot version.


Guess what happened? Virtually, no one among the younger profile who got the “golden days” ad responded. But we had a phenomenal response among the older profile who got the nightspot car. More than 15 percent of them actually went out and purchased a car—not the nightspot car but the old man’s version—having been motivated with the aspirations of “days gone by” and vestiges of lost youth.

Automotive manufacturers need to understand the purchase considerations of their customers, to gain insight into the experience the customers have, from the moment they encounter the brand to the point when they make the decision to buy or not to buy. Many automotive manufacturers regard all leads as residing within their “prospect pool” from the moment they make a contact and envisage each prospect being moved through a staged process often referred to as “the funnel.”

If, indeed, prospects are not going through the funnel sequentially, then there is likely to be a relationship between the profile of the prospect and his or her key purchase considerations, with the route each will take and the points in the process that may lead to the prospect leaving the process. All too often, these funnels hemorrhage prospects before they have completed their path through the complete process.

By matching the company’s prospect files with the purchaser files and the external data, you can establish discrete segments to “feed” the analysis. By merging a number of analytical processes with data fusion and market research, you can model the pathway that different types of prospects follow through the funnel. And so, automotive manufacturers can become “cuter” in the way they then lead their prospects through the process. You can even gain insight into where the competitors are losing prospects in their own “funnel”—and into predictive behavior with a view of probable future activity.

In this way, manufacturers may in the future avoid the problem of treating an over-50 prospect as an over-50 consumer!

Michael Collins
Database Marketing Counsel
Michael Collins runs Database Marketing Counsel, a data strategy and CRM consultancy in London. An acknowledged consultant, trainer and author with 2+ years experience in CRM, he contributes articles regularly to web sites and journals and has delivered his lectures and workshops in Europe, North America and Asia.


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