Objective

When TrueVan first approached us, they were in a position where they needed to establish their own brand equity online. Since the start of their company about 2 years prior, they have been riding the coattails of a single sponsored YouTube video and a few hundred dollars per month in Facebook ad spend. They knew that it was time to build a name for themselves in the crowded marketplace that was west coast conversion vans. 

The success of this one sponsored Youtube video moved the company out of the founder’s driveway and into a several thousand square foot warehouse space in Montclair, California. A completely astounding achievement off of one internet video. The issue was… they didn’t own that success, they rented the use of an influencer for a fee and even though they built the roots of a business, they didn’t establish any equity for themselves. 

There was nowhere to point the 1 million eyeballs they received, and after the initial “surge” over the summer of 2022, there was no opportunity to nurture the wave that continued moving beyond them. 

There was that single YouTube video, and then a product page on the website selling a $200,000 recreational vehicle. While it absorbed enough interest to float the company for a while, there were potentially millions of dollars left on the table from people who could have been nurtured over the course of the next several months and years, but had nothing else to sink their teeth into. 

We knew going in that simply having a video archive of general information regarding their vans would go a long way at bringing legitimacy to their company. But we also had to take it a step farther. 

Phase 1: Strategy

The first phase of our project with Truevan was to create a blueprint for what the brand’s public image was going to be when we began publishing the content. 

The Blueprint is our proprietary methodology used to design a custom strategy that drives the direction we would take with content going forward. This involved workshopping with the executive team and independent research into industry trends, competitors’ actions, and finding the right product-market fit as to what made their $200,000 recreational vehicle different from competitors magnitudes larger than they are. 

In the early stages we defined three main differentiators. 

7 day off-grid capabilities - Most Camper van companies boast about being off-grid capable, but Truevan leads the charge literally. Their battery power at 1700 amp hours is more than double the next closest competitor, while their water capacity was the same size as the only other leader in water tank capacity. 

Division of space - They are the only campervan company to have a room divider to divide the front and back half of their vans. The layout they were able to design is only found in larger, extended models of vans. No other company can compete on this layout

Fully custom van built from scratch in 4-6 weeks - The industry average has a 6 month lead time to complete a van. Their flagship custom design model can be in their client’s hands in as fast as a month. Their base model van could be upfitted in 7 days or less. Their production efficiency is unmatched in the industry

Truevan has a truly remarkable product. However, their biggest objection is that many people glance at it and bawk at the price tag. They don’t see beautiful wood trim worthy of a social media post, and their gray-scale color scheme, while chosen because of the most functional material, isn’t the most visibly aesthetic van on the market. 

So our next challenge to tackle was who would buy this van? 

We created 3 distinct customer avatars. We gave them names, occupation, talked about their relationships and home lives, as well as hobbies, vacation experiences. We created 3 distinct, identifiable human-like figures that would buy a van from Truevan. While fictional, these characters resembled the 3 types of customers Truevan is accustomed to having as leads. 

This allowed us to tailor our messaging so that we can connect with these individuals. Because the tone Truevan had to give off was entirely different for this customer base, than what they were giving. 

When we began this project, Truevan had the assumption that a budget friendly entry point was a great way to get people through the door. What we found however, was that the lower entry point was off-putting to their ideal customer. These customers were mavens of “van life content” and technically savvy, or have had extensive camping experience in the past and this would not be the first van they ever owned. The comforts of their product that new van lifers wouldn’t notice, these people would.  

Seeing “Starting at $35,000” made them click away because these individuals knew that their budget would need to be a lot higher to fit their needs. We saw this issue across the board from various competitors. 

The other restriction we recommended Truevan to own was the Mercedes Benz model van. Their custom components and aptitudes for going to the extreme with their builds fit the Mercedes vans better than other brands. They juggled the idea of beginning to implement Dodge & Ford model vans to be “affordable” entries, but we recommended against it. In doing so, it would dilute their brand, and make the three things that made them stand out and differentiated, no longer applicable. They would be seen as any other van company, and this was clearly observed in the competitor analysis we did.

Phase 2: Content Creation

We produced over 25 long-form videos to be embedded on their website and Youtube channel, as well as over 60 pieces of short form content. 

In our upfront strategy work, we determined that making short form videos would be relatively useless for Truevan. Realistically, NONE of the three customer avatars were shown to make the discovery of Truevan via short form media content, or even partake on platforms where vertical video was prominent. 

The reason we decided to produce these short form videos was to populate these pages solely for appearances. When someone makes a $200,000 purchase decision, they’ll dive into every crevice on the internet. It’s not that they’ll watch these short form pieces of content, but showing a type of consistency on their social media breathes confidence that this is a legitimate company, and that they are trustworthy stewards of one’s $200,000 investment. 

The real impact was made with our long-form video content. We created specific video topics that would be hyper-relevant to the three customer avatars we designed for Truevan. These videos weren’t intended to have viral potential, but would speak to the needs, objections, and intrigues to the individuals that we wanted to attract. 

Almost all of the videos we produced were not-flashy. Some were intentionally rough around the edges to give a “home movies” feel, while others were polished because of where in the buyer’s process we believed the video would be engaged with. 

For example, the video business card we made for them - would in all likelihood be the first video that new prospects would see when engaging with the website. This video should be higher-polish, so we made it as such because of the emotional state that the buyer would be in when landing on the home page, and a certain level of professionalism they expect from a reputable company.

But oftentimes higher production values have an inverse correlation to trust, so we intentionally made some videos in the style of “home movies” to make it seem more like a friend is video chatting with a friend. 

While Truevan’s operation runs like an efficient production line, it’s really a father & son owned business. Introducing their quirky characteristics is part of the charm in why people feel comfortable in buying their product over another. We just needed to thread the needle between “we can pull this off” and “we’re your friend.” 

Outcomes

Truevan never replicated the viral push that the first Influencer video gave in the summer of 2022 in terms of inbound traffic to their website. However, between our first upload in March 2023 and our last upload in July of 2023, they saw some interesting growth in the company. 

It’s important to note that the hot season is the hot season. People tend to buy campervans over the summer. So their sales increase from February 2023 looked a lot different than June 2023 for this reason, uninfluenced by our efforts. This is important to take into consideration for we do not want to take credit for such short-sighted increases in sales.

However, despite a 70-90% dip in web traffic between the influencer summer of 2022 to the summer of 2023, their sales continued to increase.
 
Their facebook ads that they began running prior to our engagement, with no improvement in click through rate or traffic, began converting more sales.

With less customers visiting, but more customers calling, who seemingly fit their ideal customer profile, there is evidence to suggest an impact. That creating an environment where aficionados could sink their teeth into the brand and really do their own research on Truevan prior to picking up the phone, contributed to this increase. 

But how much impact? 

The historical monthly trends in this time of year painted a picture that they doubled their output of custom vans. They were able to pre-sell a longer duration out than they historically were able to, and they sold out of their van inventory, which consisted of over 5 vans on the lot to sell as is. 

With their assembly line model, they had a certain amount of vans they were able to build at one time. Historically, they tended to fill 30% of that capacity with custom vans that had deposits. Within the span of 4 months, they completely maxed out that batch of vans, and pre-sold 50% of their next batch’s capacity.

By 2024, Truevan shifted from building custom vans, to turning their innovative components into its own company called Rhino van, where they primarily operate under that name now. Instead of continuing to grow their own camper van business with risky investment in capital, they’ve begun taking their custom-invented components and sell them to other camper van companies to impact a far wider reach of van-lifers. 

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