Delivering on International's Brand Promise
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Holmes Report
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Delivering on International's Brand Promise

International’s new brand promise--International listens, understands, and delivers the best ways to move our customers ahead--served as the compass to guide the company as to what needed to be delivered to customers.

Paul Holmes

 

After many troubled years of performance, International Truck and Engine Corporation (formerly Navistar) was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of 1996’s “Worst 10 Companies.” International realized that in order to turn the company around they needed to establish a strong brand focused on delivering value to their customers. In 1997, International embarked on a journey to redefine the brand and drive customers’ purchasing decisions. The journey culminated in February 2001, as International launched their first new line of trucks in more than 25 years. Throughout the three-year journey, International used strategic, integrated marketing communications to clearly define what the company would deliver to customers. The key was in making the brand actionable to every International employee. International’s new brand promise - International listens, understands, and delivers the best ways to move our customers ahead. On the road and in their business. – served as the compass to guide the company as to what needed to be delivered to customers. The brand promise guided every aspect of decision making, the design process, and manufacturing. The new product launch delivered on the International brand promise – International listened to customers, understood what they were asking, and delivered the Industry’s First High Performance TrucksÔ that will move them ahead on the road and in their business.           

CHALLENGE

  • Research indicated a lack of brand differentiation within the truck industry
  • Consumer perception put International’s trucks at parity with competitive trucks 
  • Fragmented and inconsistent communications from the company’s business units
  • No clear focus on what International needed to deliver to customers
  • Lack of operational alignment among internal organizations resulted in the company’s inability to deliver a consistent experience at every point of contact
  • Condensed timeframe

OPPORTUNITY

Consumers perceived International as a common sense company with dependable, hard working and reliable products 

Research revealed that International and its customers shared many of the same values – i.e. dependability, hard work, reliability, pride in a job well done, ingenuity 

International employees had tremendous pride in International and believed in doing what was best for the customer

International needed to differentiate from competitors by embracing these shared values, driving employee pride and establishing a strong brand identity centered on delivering value and profitability to customers.

PLANNING PROCESS AND OBJECTIVES

Objectives: 

  • Operationally align internal organizations to deliver a consistent message to the market – one brand, one voice
  • Deliver on the International brand promise by defining the total brand experience internally and delivering it to customers consistently
  • Drive new truck sales with key customers through a launch event that demonstrates the exceptional value that International delivers with the new Internationalâ 4000, 7000 and 8000 Series Trucks: Goal it to sell 3000 new trucks

In 1998, International began a three-phase initiative to reawaken the brand, integrate the company, and deliver on the brand promise. In phase one, International’s executive management began driving employee pride, belief in the values they shared and in their vision for the future. Phase two involved aligning internal constituencies (leadership, employees, dealers) around the brand promise, introducing the new logo as a symbol of the company’s pride and rich heritage and establishing the brand strategy as the business strategy. In phase three, International delivered on the brand promise by introducing a new line of trucks that would provide customers exceptional value and the best ownership experience.    

STRATEGIC APPROACH

Simply put: Brand Strategy=Business Strategy. The new brand strategy was driven by the same strategies that drive the International business: providing the customer with the precise package of products, services and support that improves their profitability better than any competitive offering. International, like its competitors, historically treated products as commodities competing primarily on price rather than on value. The new International product line was engineered and built to deliver on the company’s brand promise. International listened to their customers, understood what they were asking for and delivered trucks that are high-value business solutions that give customers a competitive edge: the highest uptime, lowest operating and maintenance costs and the highest resale value. Empowering leadership, involving employees in brand development and giving them the tools and support they needed to be successful created a personal connection and motivated the organization to actively support the brand.

EXECUTION:

In March of 2000, International began the rollout of the new brand to customers. The company’s new ad campaign focused on the brand promise. “The Brilliance of Common SenseÔ ” campaign communicated the company’s common sense approach to deliver what is important to the International customer. Next, customers came face-to-face with the new International brand at the Mid America Truck Show, the industry’s largest truck show attended by over 50,000 truck buyers, dealers, and media.  This show established the framework for delivering the International brand promise to customers. The company’s internal organizations came together to demonstrate that International would listen, understand and deliver business solutions that move customers ahead on the road and in their business.  

April through September 2000, International focused on the final phase of delivering the International brand promise: the new truck. Because 80% of the brand experience takes place at the dealership, the company launched “Delivering Our Promise,” an intensive dealer and sales training initiative. This effort concentrated on operationalizing the brand and communicating the value of a new product whose development was driven by the customer. 

In January 2001, the company used integrated communications to create anticipation for the launch with teasers on the internet (customers) and intranet (employees and dealers), through the trade press, and national advertising.

Finally, in February 2001 the launch event was designed to deliver on the company’s brand promise by showcasing the company’s ability to deliver the best ownership experience, product experience and exceptional value to 2,500 targeted customers and dealers. Four key elements comprised the launch: a dramatic reveal, a competitive test drive, an exhibit experience, and classroom seminars.    

Cross-functional experts from across the company were on hand at every point of contact during the three-day event to listen to customers, better understand their businesses and talk about the exceptional ownership value these trucks deliver. Eleven test tracks gave customers the opportunity to drive the new International trucks and compare them against all competitive model trucks. The High Performance Center exhibit, built like an International dealership, provided a discovery room atmosphere designed to give customers an experience that demonstrated the company’s ability and commitment to providing integrated business solutions. More than 150 trained cross-functional experts from engineering, manufacturing, marketing and the business units of parts, finance and customer service teamed up with the sales organization to provide the best business solution for each customer’s vocation. Classroom seminars highlighted the benefits that these trucks deliver to customers in terms of Financial Performance, Vehicle Performance, and Employee Performance. Ultimately, the launch delivered the brand promise to customers in a tangible form. 

RESULTS:
Customer response was overwhelmingly positive. In two days, International sold an unprecedented 4800 trucks (vs. 3000 goal). The company sold $30,000 worth of branded merchandise surpassing their goal by 75 percent. Response from the press was equally impressive. Recently, FORTUNE magazine named International as America’s 4th most admired company in the Motor Vehicle industry. Immediately following the launch, in a section dedicated to industrial management and technology, FORTUNE magazine praised International for its recent accomplishments and future plans. In a story entitled “International’s Better Way to Build Trucks,” FORTUNE believes the company has paved the path to success. The Chicago Tribune thinks International’s got a good thing, too. In a Feb. 18 Business Section article, Tribune reporter James Miller sang the praises of International’s new trucks. 

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