Lexus is marketing all of its cars on a regular basis this year to give each nameplate some stage time. That, almost by necessity, means a lot of digital and affinity marketing like the program the company has just launched for its CT, a hybrid powertrain car and Lexus' smallest vehicle. Brian Bolain, corporate marketing manager, spoke to Marketing Daily about the campaign and the larger cross-portfolio strategy.
Q: We've spoken about Lexus' "always on" marketing strategy that you've employed as the Lexus vehicle portfolio has grown. Why is this approach necessary?
A: The market is tough, and none of our cars can just survive on their own. We had to do our part, so an always-on approach really helps us to get there. As a strategy of promoting vehicles like ES, GS, IS, CT, and GX, we had to rethink and take a horizontal view and say it's not just what is going to happen this month, but every month for the next 12 or 18 months, for every car in the lineup. We had to do it even for our so-called niche vehicles, which need to have advertising as well.
Q: As the Lexus portfolio expands, and especially with the addition of a performance-oriented entity, F-Sport, have you expanded the Lexus marketing organization as well?
A: It would be nice to be able to make our marketing organization bigger, but luckily, the way we are set up, digital, social media, advertising and strategic digital are all in my organization, so it really feels like all the key cogs on the marketing wheel are well aligned. We are pretty lucky structurally.
Q: You recently launched the latest version of the CT hybrid. How important is that vehicle for getting new people to look at Lexus?
A: About 90% of CT buyers are new to the brand, so it really serves an important role. It has our highest conquest level, followed by IS [Lexus' sport-sedan model]. Both are bringing us newer, younger buyers. The median age for IS has shifted to the low 40s, and we are selling a mix of cars [in that model] that is surprising even to us: the F-Sport version of IS is selling at 45% of the mix around the country so there's definite acceptance of the idea that Lexus can have a performance side.
Q: Where are they coming from?
A: Reports from our third-party data company that tracks inflow and outflow of customers show that inflow is rising slightly from people coming to us from our German competitors.
A: Design Disrupted was one of the most successful programs we have done from a metrics perspective. It's not just what we did there physically, but the earned media we got.
Q: So I assume you'll do it again this year (or something like it)?
A: There are proposals to do more things like that this year, since we are launching the RC Coupe. It's fairly masculine, so there has been some talk of maybe doing something like [Fashion Deconstructed] but maybe with a bit more of a male focus, which hasn't been done before.
Q: The Web site redesign is coming as well? Why does it need a total redo?
A: It's been a while, and with the rest of the brand feeling so modern it just felt like our site, which gets a couple of million new unique visits per month, just needs to be modernized as well. Around the May time period there will be a big change; there will be enhancements this year. What we have done in out-of-home, broadcast, print and in-store, and in cars you will now feel in the digital space. It is also being built to be responsive, so it will recognize whatever device consumers are using — it will function equally well across devices.