Born Ready: 5 Questions With Mack Trucks Marketing VP John Walsh


Mack Trucks - Anthem

Mack Trucks are iconic in the transport space and country music lore. But the 117-year-old truck manufacturer hadn’t introduced a significant new semi-truck product in 15 years, nor overhauled its marketing in just about that long.

How radically things have changed with Mack’s launch of its new, $100,000 Anthem semi-truck. The brand has gone from mainly print marketing campaigns to using VR headsets that enable potential customers to take a virtual tour of the trucks.

Mack last year dipped its toe into branded entertainment and social and influencer marketing by sponsoring actor Channing Tatum’s Jimmy Logan’s Run web series for the release of his movie, Logan Lucky.

And appropriately, Mack came up with a new country song—”Born Ready”—to celebrate the Anthem’s introduction.

“Now we’ve bolted on a very robust digital marketing ecosystem at the heart of which is some tools provided by Oracle,” VP of marketing John Walsh told brandchannel.

LEGO Mack Trucks AnthemAnother brand helping launch Anthem: LEGO, which has produced a 2,595-piece LEGO Technic Mack Anthem building set. With exceptional attention to detail, the LEGO Technic Mack Anthem accurately recreates the new highway hero’s bold yet aerodynamic design. In addition to the Mack Anthem, the set can also be used to create a fully functional Mack LR front loader refuse model.

“This is the first time the launch of a LEGO Technic set has coincided with the launch of the actual product to market,” said Walsh. “We worked extremely hard with the LEGO team to deliver a true-to-life representation of the Mack Anthem that folks everywhere will enjoy, whether they’re associated with trucking or not.”

“We are particularly thrilled that LEGO designers ensured the ultimate finishing detail by immortalizing our Bulldog hood ornament in LEGO form, which speaks volumes to the value they saw in partnering with the Mack brand,” he added.

John Walsh - VP of Marketing - Mack Trucks

Mack’s new truck and marketing approach are timely given the U.S. demand for trucking these days, given the rise in home delivery of all kinds of consumer goods. Walsh told us more about marketing Mack trucks in a conversation at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

John, what’s the biggest growth opportunity for Mack? 

We play in the Class 8 truck market and don’t make anything below it [in size]. We have a presence in every segment of that market, breaking it into long haul and regional haul, delivery, and construction and refuse.

We have a strong and leadership position in refuse and construction, where we’ve faced the biggest challenge in the last several years, particularly in the long haul part of the market. We’re still very strong in regional marketing but we haven’t had the kind of presence in long haul that we need.

Why not? 

Because of an aging product. The sleeper [truck] we had has been out there for more than 20 years. We needed to refresh the product. That’s what we’ve done with the Mack Anthem.

What’s your approach to marketing?

When I came into this job six years ago I’d describe our approach to marketing as analog: printing brochures, running ads in trade journals, doing trade shows. We’ve systematically transformed that to an analog-digital hybrid.

Can you elaborate on how you’re modernizing things?

I recognized that was the way the world is going. It’s the way everything is going. Even if we weren’t doing what we’re doing on the lead-generation side of digital marketing, you have to have a very robust presence in digital today. Customers are using the web to self-educate now. None of us makes a major purchase without researching it on the web.

At the minimum, we had to give customers a good way to do that through our website. Now customers are entering the sales funnel much further down it than they used to. By the time you’ve called that dealer, you’ve been on the web and researched the heck out of what every company is offering. We have to make sure we’re giving people a way to self-educate or they’ll go somewhere else.

The other is the opportunity to do lead generation through digital. We’ve set up a database that has thousands of industry prospects. We can engage with various campaigns, such as email, right out of the [Oracle] Eloqua tool and send them more and more personalized content, so that as they move down the funnel they raise their hand and say they want to talk to a Mack dealer. We score all of that until we reach the point that we consider you a qualified lead that we’re comfortable to turn over to a dealer to pursue. We have to provide very personalized content.

We’ve been doing this for four years now with these Oracle platforms. We’ve learned a lot along the way. We sent some dealers leads in the beginning that weren’t really qualified. But I feel very good about where we are and using the system.

The Anthem launch bears that out. We had it down by then. We’ve been able to generate a lot of buzz around the Anthem on the web and also use this ecosystem to identify and pass on qualified leads to dealers. We launched in September in Allentown, Pa., the home of the Mack brand. Our headquarters is now in Greensboro but Allentown is where we bring customers for the Mack brand experience.

What difference has all this made?

These tools being part of the whole digital ecosystem—our own website, which is home; feeding them compelling personalized content so they increasingly self-identify; and then ultimately raise their hand to talk to a Mack dealer—have been a great boost to us in launching Anthem, to get the word out and start generating real qualified leads.

Get more insights in our Q&A series.

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