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Paint It Yellow

DHL, a unit of German company Deutsche Post World Net, partnered with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide to develop and implement an aggressive communications program to highlight the company’s push to expand its network and increase market share in the U.S.

Paul Holmes

DHL, a unit of German company Deutsche Post World Net, partnered with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide to develop and implement an aggressive communications program to highlight the company’s push to expand its network and increase market share in the U.S. A company known predominantly for its express delivery and logistics expertise outside the U.S., DHL looked to Ogilvy PR to help quickly raise the company’s profile and position itself as a strong, rapidly-growing alternative to the “duopoly” of FedEx and UPS.

Despite its position as global market leader of the international express and logistics industry, DHL was still relatively unknown to U.S. audiences when the company launched its new integrated marketing campaign in June 2004. A key challenge was to continue to demonstrate that DHL was delivering on its promise to bring new competition and choice to consumers and businesses across the U.S. Facing skepticism from competitors, industry pundits, among others, Ogilvy PR was faced with the challenge to introduce, boost awareness and educate national and regional audiences including businesses, media and consumers about DHL, its expanding network, business strategy, and products and services.

Ogilvy PR conducted a comprehensive media analysis of how DHL measured up to its competitors with regards to its network operations, product and service offerings, and competitive edge in the industry. In addition, Ogilvy PR analyzed branding and focus group research including current and potential customers using DHL and competitor services, DHL drivers, small business owners, mail room managers, among others, which offered insight into the needs of their target audiences. In addition, a brand awareness study conducted revealed that only 19 percent of the American public recognized the DHL brand.

The research found that: while the acquisition of Airborne Express improved DHL’s footprint in the U.S. and enhanced the company’s offering of products and services, DHL was still faced with the negative perception of Airborne in the industry and by customers, industry experts viewed the full integration of Airborne into the DHL network as a massive undertaking and it would likely be years before the “new” DHL would be in a position to compete with the FedEx’s and UPS’ current foothold in the U.S., DHL had minimal visibility in regional areas, even in areas where the company had existing facilities and businesses and consumers, alike, felt they had little or no choice in their express delivery services, and welcomed the opportunity to try a new service.

Ogilvy PR worked closely with DHL to design an aggressive media relations campaign, commencing in June 2004 until year-end, to communicate DHL’s growing network operations in the U.S., to propagate the perception of DHL as a new challenger brand, and to communicate messages on new competition and choice into the express delivery market. Specific strategies included: leveraging momentum created by the announcement of DHL’s $150 million advertising and marketing campaign.

To communicate DHL’s emerging presence in the U.S., offering a third quality express delivery choice to a U.S. customer base that had no choice. Ogilvy PR deployed numerous assertive tactics: announced the company’s $1.2 billion investment in its U.S. operations to expand its infrastructure and strengthen its network in the United States. To provide shippers with the flexibility, full portfolio of services and global reach to better-manage all of its shipping and logistics needs in preparation for the announcement, Ogilvy PR with DHL developed an aggressive media relations program including the development of key messages focused on the $1.2 billion expansion and the consolidation of the company’s Cincinnati air and ground hub, media alerts, press releases, Q percentAs, among others.

To ensure DHL’s messages reached their primary audience, Ogilvy PR negotiated an exclusive interview for DHL’s CEO, John Fellows with The Wall Street Journal to expand on the company’s North American expansion plans, additionally, Ogilvy PR conducted media outreach and set up a full day of interviews with national daily newspapers, wires, and shipping and logistics trade publications.

To increase interest and allow reporters access to DHL executives, Ogilvy PR organized a conference call with leading business publications, and shipping and logistics trade publications for DHL executives to further elaborate on the details of the $1.2 billion expansion project, as part of its $1.2 billion investment program, DHL planned to add seven new Regional Sort Centers around the United States, improving its ground network capacity by 70 percent and providing greater connectivity between pickup and delivery for air and ground services, fully synchronizing with operations in Canada and Mexico to enhance the North American network.

To maximize media coverage on these announcements, Ogilvy PR worked with the company to execute a series of staggered media activities around the seven regional sort center openings (Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Erie, Pennsylvania; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Phoenix, Arizona; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Memphis, Tennessee), as well a groundbreaking event at its Wilmington Air and Ground Hub.

To increase awareness of the DHL brand and its expansion in the U.S. and Ogilvy PR worked to secure, when possible, the participation of federal, state and local officials; coordinated the announcement and/or event; generated message points and conference call scripts for DHL executives; developed and distributed media alerts and press releases, and conducted aggressive outreach to national and regional outlets, and shipping and logistics trade publications; and organized media conference calls for media with DHL executives discussing the regional sort center benefits, e.g. employment opportunities, economic and regional benefits to the community.

Concrete results to date include: to date, the company has seen an increase in share of voice in media. DHL is continually being mentioned in the same breadth as its competitors, FedEx and UPS. The company had not experienced this until it made the $1.2 billion announcement, DHL’s emergence continues to be cited as one of the effects on UPS’ recent announcement in January 2005 of dismal earnings. Forbes reported, “Upstart DHL, which acquired Airborne Express in 2003, has launched an all-out attack on the U.S. market in the last year, with cheeky TV ads that feature its bright yellow vans and target FedEx. But UPS, the largest U.S. carrier, has the most to lose in terms of market share,”

DHL is positioned a strong third alternative in the express delivery market, the program has boosted unaided awareness of the DHL brand by 12 percent since its emergence into the U.S. market, The Wall Street Journal reported, “The investment is the most dramatic sign yet that the German postal and logistics giant is willing to sink large sums into creating a package operation that is extensive and efficient enough to challenge United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. in their own backyard.” Says Mark Davis, senior analyst of Cleveland-based FTN Midwest Research: “[DHL] made the commitment to be in this market and to be a major player in this market.”

To date, the overall program has generated approximately 80.3 million media impressions.

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