The Royal Automobile Association of SA (RAA) has been the premier motoring body for South Australians since 1903. In its 100+ year history, the RAA has been the ally and advocate for the South Australian motorist and while it has grown significantly, introducing new products and services, its roadside assistance membership program remains the cornerstone of its business.
In late 2005, RAA prepared to launch RAA Premium; a new, top level of membership.
Premium would be introduced against a backdrop of 73% market penetration; the two existing levels of membership (Standard and Plus) were mature products that had delivered as much membership growth as their design would allow. Premium was therefore designed with the primary objective of up-selling existing RAA members to the higher level of membership, thus increasing revenues.
RAA determined that a ‘push’ strategy would deliver the best results. The buy-in of phone sales and customer service office staff would be crucial to the success of RAA Premium.
Eschewing traditional PR communications methods, Michels Warren delivered an innovative internal motivation campaign incorporating the creation of a comic, video, merchandise and even playing cards to help deliver a sales result 424% above target.
For more than 15 years, RAA Plus membership had been positioned as the highest and most beneficial level of roadside assistance membership. Together with the base level of membership (RAA Standard), it had become a familiar friend to motorists with 73% of all registered drivers in SA members of the RAA.
By 2005, it was determined that both Standard and Plus had delivered as much new member growth as possible.
Therefore, the RAA devised a new top level of membership, augmenting the existing levels – RAA Premium. With new member growth static at 0.3% per annum, the primary objective of RAA Premium was to ‘up-sell’ renewing members to the higher level of membership.
RAA Premium would offer significant benefits to members such as emergency accommodation and car rental, heavy vehicle towing, pet transport and up to $550 worth of air travel if stranded.
However, it would come at a higher cost - $145 p.a. compared with $103.50 for Plus and $95 for Standard – and would, therefore, be more challenging to sell for RAA’s 40 phone sales staff (located at RAA’s head office in Adelaide) and 70 retail staff at suburban and regional offices throughout SA.
Although funds would be directed to a direct mail consumer campaign, the RAA determined that a ‘push’ strategy based on an internal communications campaign – with the RAA sales staff ‘pushing’ the product into the marketplace as opposed to the product being ‘pulled’ via consumer demand - would be critical to the success of Premium.
Michels Warren would be integral in delivering the product message and sales tools to staff, ensuring they would enthusiastically embrace the new product and would want to introduce it to members rather than feeling compelled to do so.
The strong internal culture of the RAA would be a determining factor in the tone and manner of the communications campaign.
Working closely with the client, Michels Warren identified humour as an important ingredient. However, it would have to be balanced with strong messages regarding the benefits of the cover and incentives to “up-sell” the product.
Because the features of Premium are similar (but superior) to Standard and Plus, it was identified that creative scenarios would be more successful in reinforcing the product benefits versus other levels of cover as they would arm sales staff with ‘real world’ examples with which to convert members.
Finally, client briefings confirmed that RAA sales staff did not like ‘surprises’; any internal communications campaign would need to be launched with plenty of warning to prepare staff for the onset of the new product.
As indicated, although consumers would be communicated with via a direct mail advertising campaign, it was deemed that RAA staff would be the crucial conduit for information and, ultimately, increased sales.
It was solely those staff directly or indirectly involved in selling membership who would be the targets of the campaign.
Working with the client, Michels Warren developed a communications strategy based on a three-stage process of Alert, Inform and Reinforce:
1. Alert staff to the imminent arrival of a new product and outline its features and benefits with:
i. Productionof a humorous/informative video to announce Premium to staff and relevant stakeholders at a launch cocktail function at RAA in late 2005.
This would serve to give staff a friendly ‘heads up’ that the new product was on its way, thus eliminating any element of surprise and preparing them for the tone of subsequent communication.
2. Inform staff of the full features and benefits of Premium in a training roll-out with materials including:
- i. 4-page RAAZLE comic book (a play on the RAA name) featuring characters and scenarios to promote features and benefits of RAA Premium
- ii. Character t-shirts to be used as staff rewards
- iii. Posters and life-size character cut-outs to further reinforce the personality of the product
The second stage would be the critical delivery of the product information with a strong focus on the benefits of RAA Premium, rather than just its features. It would also rely on humour to engage and enthuse staff, making them receptive to being advocates of the new cover.
This stage would be rolled-out to staff at various training functions and would be totally themed with RAAZLE characters. This, in itself, would be a significant departure from traditional internal product launch and training programs, a fact that would further reinforce the special nature of this product.
3. Reinforcement: Preparation of materials to reinforce the features, benefits and personality of the product following the launch of Premium including:
- i. ‘Playing cards’ for phone sales staff incorporating messages on different selling objectives and ‘reward’ cards; these playing cards (featuring characters) would be offered to staff on a daily ‘choose one card’ basis offering them either a challenge or a reward
- ii. Fold-out ‘pocket seller’ for retail staff with full product features and five-step sales technique
- iii. Staff incentive program including prizes and giveaways of goods/vouchers
Given that a key objective was to grow a ‘Premium culture’ with the communications, this phase would be important in not only reinforcing the benefits of RAA Premium but in making it fun to sell.
All assets required for the campaign would be developed entirely by Michels Warren, utilising the agency’s creative design team, copywriting and video production expertise. This approach would ensure the campaign would remain tightly on brief without dilution. The Michels Warren campaign team would be led by Philip Martin (strategy/copywriting/video production) and would include Cameron Pearce (illustrations/design/production supervision) and Carolyn Rosser (design/production).
Alert: Michels Warren conceived, scripted, directed and produced “RAA Premium – The Movie”; a 5-minute frolic that introduced the key benefits of the cover such as heavy vehicle towing, rent-a-car options, accommodation. The video featured an eccentric pair of motorists (who would reprise their role in the RAAZLE magazine of Stage Two), RAA staff as ‘talent’ and utilised RAA offices, facilities and props.
The video was the centrepiece of the campaign’s introduction to staff and stakeholders at a cocktail reception held at RAA’s Adelaide headquarters in October 2005. Staff reaction was overwhelmingly positive with demands for a repeat viewing.
Inform: Michels Warren’s creative design team created and illustrated the inaugural issue of RAAZLE magazine (see Appendix A) featuring the exploits of:
- ‘Super Doofus & Work Experience Boy’, a pair of bumbling superheroes whose efforts to save the world are thwarted because Super Doofus forgot to upgrade to Premium!
- ‘Fluff & Gruffnuts’, the story of a dog determined to utilise Premium’s free pet transportation as a means to get into outer space
- and ‘The Nimrods’, our video couple as dithering travellers saved by the RAA.
The comic was the focus of the major staff product information launches and was supported by collateral including t-shirts, posters and life-size character cut-outs (see Appendix A).
The events, which were hosted by RAA marketing and training management, were completely themed in the style of RAAZLE, creating a ‘wow’ factor unseen at any previous internal communication sessions. The travelling Premium launch road show visited all major sales sites around SA in February/March 2006.
Reinforce: Michels Warren created the ‘Perfect Paw’ playing cards featuring Fluff & Gruffnuts; the cards feature unique character-cards such as the Illegitimate Half-Prince, Princess and Queen Mother, all featuring sales challenges or rewards such as:
- (Three of Dogs card) Try three different ways to sell an upgrade today and tell the team what worked best!
- (Joker card) Get your targets today and go home half an hour early – and we’re not joking!
- (Five of Dogs card) Yippee! You’ve won a $5 scratchy ticket!
- (Ace of Dogs card) Today you’re going to be ACE at upselling to Premium. And if they don’t want Premium, you’re going to be ACE at upselling to Plus!
These cards were introduced on a daily ‘pick one’ basis to the sales teams as a fun way of starting the day.
Michels Warren also produced the “Top 5 Selling Tips” pocket seller. Featuring Super Doofus and Work Experience Boy, the seller was launched as a fun way of reminding staff of key Premium benefits and sales techniques.
As at the end of June 2006, new RAA Premium membership sat at 22,038 - 424% above target.
Combined Plus/Premium membership intake for the same period sat at 52,405 – 34.5% above target.
With new business sales for RAA Premium at 424% above target and combined Plus/Premium RAA membership intake 34.5% over target the communications campaign – in concert with the consumer DM campaign – can be said to have been completely successful in achieving the stated goals.
With regard to the underlying objectives:
Engage RAA sales staff:
Staff reaction to all aspects of the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive with the T-shirts and comic books proving to be highly valued commodities. Use of the humorous scenario communication has reinforced key benefits of Premium with staff with the ‘pocket seller’ regarded the most useful of all the sales tools. Uptake in the internal incentive programs has also been extremely high when compared with previous campaigns. Outcome – 100% successful.
Although there was the potential for staff to be cynical about the product given its higher cost and similarity to existing products, the result of 424% over sales target indicates staff are familiar with and enthusiastic about selling Premium. Outcome – 100% successful.
Create a Premium ‘culture’:
The RAAZLE concept and all the characters have been extremely well accepted with many staff having their own personal favourites. Almost all of the campaign assets are in constant use and there has been considerable demand for additional items.
At the time of writing, Michels Warren has been briefed to create a 12-month calendar of Premium internal communications, entirely based around the RAAZLE characters including new ideas such as The Super Doofus Staff Award, mobiles, desk calendar, mugs, mouse mats and puzzles. Some refinements will also be made to existing assets in response to staff feedback. This campaign will be timed to coincide with the key periods such as Easter, Christmas, school holidays.
The fact that the campaign has been embraced and is continuing suggests a complete success in achieving our objective.
Overall, we are intensely proud of this campaign and rate it as completely successful – but with yet more to come.