You wouldn’t typically expect to see “origami” and “tractor” in the same sentence, but that unusual combination sums up the thinking behind a dimensional mailer John Deere used to distribute a comprehensive collection of digital images last year.
The Moline, Ill.–based maker of farm equipment wanted a fresh approach for delivering the stock photo library it periodically sends to media, marketers and advertising agencies in the agriculture industry.
“Our video manager had a mock-up of a folding paper automobile that he’d picked up from one of our suppliers,” recalls Barry Nelson, media relations manager for John Deere’s Agricultural and Turf Division. “You could open it up and look inside. He said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to take a John Deere tractor and do the same thing with it?’ We loved the idea.”
Working from photos and illustrations, an in-house team created an elaborate design for a scaled-down replica of a recent addition to Deere’s 8030 line of high-power tractors.
“We wanted it to be as accurate as possible because our target audience knows our tractors very well,” Nelson says. “They can look under the hood and know every nut and bolt and every part of the engine and transmission.”
The team sent its design to Structural Graphics LLC, an Essex, Conn., agency that specializes in creating dimensional marketing pieces and displays. The project presented some “paper engineering” challenges, recalls Structural Graphics president Ethan Goller.
“Among other things, we had to consider the grain of the paper so that it worked with the design rather than against it,” he says.
Then there was the question of making four round 3-D wheels from a flat printed sheet. “That involved lots of bends and curves and making paper do all kinds of things it isn’t designed to do,” Goller says.
Ultimately, Structural Graphics produced a pint-sized tractor that not only rolled on those 3-D paper tires, but also unfolded to let recipients peek at its highly detailed interior. “You open the roof of the cab, and you see the seat,” says Deere’s Nelson. “You open the hood and you see the engine. If you keep opening it up, you’ll see a flash drive.”
Deere packaged each fully assembled tractor with an eight-page directory of images in the flash drive’s photo library. Then the company sent the boxes to its key media contacts.
While the company didn’t formally track results, requests for information were higher than normal after the mailing, Nelson says. But, he adds, the real win came in terms of buzz — especially on farm-related blogs and websites — and awards.
But for the John Deere marketing team, the reward was seeing its project go viral. Says Nelson, “We’re experimenting with social media here, and this one really took off.”B-to-B Marketing, Case Studies, Creativity, Dimensional Mail, Large Business