Driving Traffic (Literally) to Brazilian Petrol Stations

Here in the U.S. we often believe good things come in threes. So today the third and, for now, final in a series of international email marketing case studies. To date, we’ve looked at how email marketers extracted large results from a small list in Australia and how they’ve built a community in Southern Asia. Now, we’ll see how a large company drove traffic to its sales outlets in South America.

Ipiranga is a petrol producer and owner of a network of gas stations throughout Brazil. Two years ago, Ipiranga’s goal was to increase the amount of oil sold in its gas stations. The company decided to focus efforts in two cities: Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In Rio de Janeiro, Ipiranga used its traditional direct marketing approach to cover areas near the gas stations, located throughout the city. But in Sao Paulo, Ipiranga tried a new approach.

WebMotors is a large automotive Web site that supplies a number of services, including a search, for previously owned vehicles. It also features a database of car values and “Car Schedule.” Car Schedule is an automatic system based on the features of an individual user’s vehicle. The user fills in a form, noting items such as brand, model, year, and mileage. Car Schedule sends email notifications alerting the user when it’s time to change the oil, check the electrical system, and perform other maintenance checks.

WebMotors implemented the service in 2000. In July 2002, WebMotors and Ipiranga teamed up to advertise Ipiranga’s products to WebMotors’ audience of 600,000 subscribers.

The companies filtered the Car Schedule database by location to select 162,452 subscribers who needed oil changes around the time of the campaign. They created an email marketing piece that read in part (roughly translated): “Change oil and filter at Ipiranga gas station, and if you spend more than R$2,00, win a beautiful knapsack.” Below the ad was more copy: “You can find an Ipiranga gas station near your home at [address”.” The nearest address was provided as a result crossing-checking postal codes of Ipiranga stations and WebMotors subscribers.

The mailing was a colorful, highly branded piece. It included the WebMotors and Car Schedule logos at the top, the offer in colored print on the left, and personalized communication and maintenance recommendations on the right. Auto manufacturers provide the recommendations. Personalization is based on information Car Schedule subscribers supplied when signing up for the service. Below this was other graphical information from a few other advertisers, including a logo for an auto battery manufacturer. The short email was sent in two batches, one each on June 25 and July 25, 2002.

Results were significant. Not only did the email marketing in the Sao Paulo area cost 80 percent less than direct marketing in Rio de Janeiro, the mailing was 50 percent more effective in terms of driving traffic (forgive the pun!) to the gas stations. I don’t have the raw numbers that would allow me to do the math, but clearly the cost per action (amount spent to persuade a customer to visit the gas station) was notably lower in the email marketing case.

Final note: Daniel Cardoso is a digital marketing professor at a Sao Paulo University and is with MKTEAM, a local marketing agency. He provided much of the material for this case study. I asked him if he had any observations on how email marketing differs in Brazil compared to the U.S. “I couldn’t say if there is any significant difference with the email marketing of both countries,” he replied. “Brazilians are considered very creative, and you frequently see great campaigns. I remembered this one because it matches your request to compare email campaigns with direct marketing results.”

Many thanks to Mr. Cardoso for the information. Feel free to keep those case study recommendations coming!

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