DETROIT - Database marketing was in the cards for General Motors.
The automaker has begun marketing new vehicles more aggressively to its database of credit card customers.
In February, GM sent out direct-mail pieces based on survey information provided by the more than 1 million cardholders who registered at gmcard.com.
In the surveys, cardholders had revealed the types of vehicles they own, what they plan to buy next and when.
The marketing piece went to cardholders who had indicated they may be shopping for a new vehicle.
The automaker began to market new vehicles more aggressively to its database of credit card customers when Jack Bowen, general director of GM Card, assumed the post in December.
The mailing, which came from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen in Wenham, Mass., used GM's "Overdrive" corporate umbrella theme.
Within two weeks of the mailing, GM recorded four of its top 10 new-vehicle sales days in the history of the credit card, which was introduced in 1992.
Cardholders could tack their savings earned by using the card onto GM's $2,002 "Overdrive" incentive deal. Cardholders accrue savings on new-vehicle purchases at a rate of $500 annually for seven years, or a total of $3,500.
Bowen declined to reveal both the number of mail pieces sent in the February effort and the number of new-vehicle sales resulting from it.
He did say that GM has maintained a steady base of 3.8 million to 4 million cardholders for each of the past four years.
In the late 1990s, the automaker had about 8 million holders and offered bigger rewards - as much as $7,000 per vehicle for the Gold GM Card.
Today, the average savings per cardholder ranges from $1,400 to $2,200, said Todd Turner, president of consultant CarConcepts. He added that GM sometimes offers special deals on specific models to its cardholders.
The GM Card will send more than 50 million direct-mail pieces this year just to attract new credit-card customers. That number, about the same as GM's 2001 mailing, is consistent with other credit-card marketers.
"We're always in acquisition mode" for cardholders, said Bowen, who had been brand manager of the Buick Rendezvous.
His team works with Household International to seek creditworthy prospects for their co-branded card.
Country music tie-in
GM also is attracting cardholders through its sponsorship of country singer Kenny Chesney's 50-stop concert tour this year.
Consumers who complete a card application at concerts get a free CD of Chesney and four other artists.
The GM Card Web site, also handled by Mullen, offers cardholders a chance to meet Chesney at one of his tour stops.
But the automaker does not have a mass-media ad campaign for the GM Card scheduled.
"We're a quiet advertiser," Bowen said.
The last traditional ad campaign for the GM Card broke in fall 2000 from Mullen, with sporadic efforts in 2001 and a national TV spot airing early this year.