BMW Makes Direct Mail Exciting Again With The M Press

BMW Print Ad

When I wrote about the need for better direct mail campaigns, one idea I mentioned was to “create a direct mail ad that’s also a unique piece of art”.

No doubt inspired by that idea (probably not) Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners created a direct mail campaign for BMW that included a series of unique art prints, along with the typical sales material, that was mailed to perspective buyers.

To create the prints, they turned a new BMW M6 Coupe into “The M Press”, with a custom rig that would dispense ink above the M6’s tires.

The plan was simple enough: Matt Mullins, the Chief Driving Instructor of the BMW Performance Driving School, drove the car around Blackhawk Farms Raceway in Illinois, and when he drove over areas of the racetrack where pieces of paper had been taped, he would flip a switch to activate the custom ink sprayer, which inked the rear tires and allowed them to leave their mark on the paper below.

To make sure the printing process would deliver the intended results, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners worked with Classic Color out of Chicago, a digital printing shop that helped mix the inks and create the printing rig that brought the idea to life.

BMW sent the resulting series of “M Prints” to existing M owners and potential owners via a direct mail campaign, and along with the printed ad, recipients could visit a personalized website that would show them the video of how their print was made.

As with most modern campaigns, a crew was also there to create a behind the scenes video, which they then used to tell the story to a wider audience. This helped to not only increase the ROI of the original campaign, but to create a second wave of interest out of a single idea.

By taking a traditional direct mail campaign and finding a fun way to add something special, BMW and Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners were able to create an ad that’s sure to stand out from every other ad that gets delivered by the USPS.

Help Save Direct Mail

Direct mail is only boring if you let it be boring.

Toronto, Ontario based agency Lowe Roche found a way to spice up their direct mail campaign for Pfaff Porsche by taking a Porsche 911 and parking it in front of mansions in the Rosedale, Forest Hill and Bridle Path neighborhoods of Toronto.

Pfaff Porsche Direct Mail Ad

Lowe Roche then took a picture of the car while it was parked in the driveway of each home, and used that picture as the focal point of a custom direct mail piece they created for each home on the fly.

In addition to the car, Lowe Roche also brought along their own photo editor, printer and runner, so they were able to create and print each piece of direct mail right there on the spot, and skip the process of organizing, labeling and mailing each flyer.

The results speak for themselves: Of the homes that received the direct mail ad, 32% booked a test drive online.

What’s surprising is not that this campaign worked. Of course a family that receives a piece of mail with a picture of their own home on the front is going to pay attention to it. And when that picture includes a hot sports car, they’re going to generate some interest.

What’s surprising is how easy the concept was to create. They made a template, they took similar photos of each home, and kept the offer simple. By eliminating as many complications as possible, they were able to create the ads at scale, and give them just enough personalization to be effective.

So considering how easy it was to create, why can’t this same concept scale to something even bigger?

With digital printing, there’s no setup required to create a direct mail piece at scale, so printing costs shouldn’t be a factor. (Sure, each ad is going to cost a little more to print than a typical direct mail ad, but not so much more that it would eliminate the ROI of a reasonably targeted campaign.)

If you wanted to mirror their technique and use an image of each recipient’s house, a technology like Google’s Street View would give you the images you’d need to customize each ad, but why limit the concept to just photos? For example, look at what Absolut was able to do with customizable printing to create a series of nearly four million bottles that were each individual and unique:

So what about using a similar process to create a direct mail ad that’s also a unique piece of art?

This process would be especially effective for companies that have good data about their direct mail recipients, and can customize it beyond just their address.

For example, it’s well known that Target has a huge amount of data on their Target Card holders, and they use that data to customize the types of offers that their customers receive.

So what if, instead of coupons, you sent customers an ad that is customized to the types of things you know they like? Think ad libs for print ads.

The goal here shouldn’t be to create an exact duplicate of the campaign that Lowe Roche created. Instead, the goal should be to get inspired by their creativity, and to think of ways to customize your own advertising to achieve the success that they created.

Just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t mean there isn’t another way that might work even better.