Jaguar executives don't have a sense of humor about the pronunciation of the company name. I learned this while interviewing a marketing higher-up a few years back, when the guy went out of his way to draw out the middle third syllable (JAG-oooo-er). Annoyed for no good reason, I retaliated by double-exaggerating the pronunciation myself (ZHAAAAG-eeeee-WAHHRRR)
and throwing in creative takes on Target (tahr-ZHAAAY) and Facebook (fa-CHÉ-boog) for good measure. I didn't get too many usable quotes for my story.
Given how many different ways I've heard my own surname mangled over the years ("doo-BRO," "door-BELL," etc.), I should've shut up and let the exec revel in his faux-Brit conceits. But the strained elitism of Jaguar's marketing has always struck me the wrong way. While that elitism has traditionally sat at the core of the brand -- it's been as crucial to Jaguar's appeal as the
leather driving gloves that are grafted onto the hands of prospective buyers before they leave the showroom -- the company's marketers haven't figured out how to tone down the ruling-class smarm.
That's why I dig just about everything on Jaguar's newly updated YouTube channel, which was flagged to me in a cliché-ridden pitch that actually spoke righteous words of half-syntactical truth ("the new Jaguar ad speaks to the consumer in ways it has never spoken to before"). Indeed, the clips on the channel, and the way they subtly reposition the brand, seem to signify a new
willingness on Jaguar's part to abandon its studied retro-snootiness in favor of an appeal with, well, appeal.
Out are the monotone voiceovers and stubborn imposition of the company's supreme, resplendent Britishness. In are a bunch of cool-looking cars doing stuff that cool-looking cars are supposed to do: whip around mist-enshrouded roads at unhealthy speeds, violate local noise ordinances with the 7,000-decibel majesty of their engine bluster, etc. In one clip, the
camera pans over the new Jaguar C-X75 as if it's an alien craft; in another, the 2012 Jaguar XF is simultaneously presented as a rocket and an object of luxury fetishism. In both cases, the YouTube fine print advises that drivers should "always follow local speed limits." One can almost hear the copywriter giggling to himself.
The Jaguar channel also suggests a newfound willingness to think a little differently -- a little more Internet-y, basically -- about approaching the consumer. "Watching People Watch the Jaguar C-X75" sticks a camera in a showroom window and documents the reactions of passersby, to surprisingly artful effect. The "Hot Lap in Portugal" clip straps viewers in alongside Jaguar's chief engineer of vehicle integrity -- Pontiac used to have one of those on staff, too, and he was in charge of counting the number of tires -- for a jargon-filled loop around "Portugal's challenging Autodromo Internacional do Algarve." Okay, so maybe the snobbery hasn't entirely been filtered out from Jaguar's marketing DNA.
There's little here that doesn't work. Sure, the like-us-on-Facebook bonus footage of red-carpet fabulousness from the auto-show debut of the X-KRS convertible ("I have learned who the celebrity is who is coming on the stage to announce this!") lands just south of inane, and yes, Jaguar should go out of its way to avoid association with Jay Leno, as should every major
consumer brand and most other non-sentient objects. But with its new-for-2012 slate of clips, Jaguar self-identifies for the first time as lean and contemporary. In their wake, I'll pronounce the company name any damn way Jaguar wants me to.