Infiniti To Boost Spending 20%, Focus On Women

Infiniti, the luxury division of Japanese automaker Nissan, plans to increase its marketing budget by 20% this year and focus on women consumers for its new small crossover vehicle and G coupe, says Vice President of Marketing Jan Thompson.

Thompson says that Infiniti has an opportunity with women consumers in part because so few women put the brand on their shopping list. She says while some luxury brands are evenly split between male and female buyers, Infiniti still skews male at around 64% for the overall brand.

"We are really a young company in that we focused a lot on our performance--which attracted more males than females to the brand," Thompson said in an interview this week. "But now I think that younger women are more accepting of performance. They think of themselves as performing at a high level personally, and they expect that kind of performance in the products they use. They also see sexiness in performance."

Infiniti will introduce its new small crossover at the New York auto show in April. It hasn't released the name of the vehicle yet. It also will roll out the second generation of the G Coupe. Thompson expects both vehicles to attract women buyers, but she says the brand will need to find ways to be "contextually relevant to women, which is different than the way we speak to male consumers."

Thompson declined to put specific numbers to the budget or define the split between print, cable television and media such as the Internet. (According to LNA, Infiniti spent $209 million on all advertising in 2005.)

Thompson said the brand recently finished an ethnographic study of women. "We found that women really want to understand the brand. They want to know what it will do for them and what to expect from the brand. If they don't know that, they may not be willing to take the time to search a brand out."

To reach women, Thompson plans to focus on the Internet and women's magazines. She says women often turn to the Internet for information about cars because they don't get the kind of information they need elsewhere. "Men can turn to the buff books and car reviews in men's magazines, but women don't get that information," she said.

Thompson also plans to use events to reach women, but wants to make certain that the events are reaching women in the right way. "A couple of years ago, everyone was doing the ride-and-drive events, and I think consumers got to the point where they would say, 'not another one of those.'"

When she does invest in events, Thompson will likely replicate the kind of event Infiniti held in New York late last year in conjunction with Wired magazine and American Express. Wired set up a pop-up store in Soho where visitors could preview new technology and gadgets. It featured a display of the new G sedan.

"We had 40% of people there who had never touched an Infiniti," she says.