When Porsche introduced the Cayenne SUV in 2003, purists were ready to leap from the nearest bridge. It's a fair guess that far less people will have an issue with Panamera, the latest Porsche vehicle sporting more than two doors and two seats. At least one analyst couldn't say enough about what Porsche describes as its four-seat sports car -- calling it the most astonishing thing on four wheels since the fringed surrey.
Atlanta-based Porsche Cars North America has just launched its biggest campaign this year to convince the public that the Panamera belongs in the family. The company is backing the car with TV, print, Internet, Web, and grassroots elements with a "Welcome it to the family" theme.
Elements of the campaign, via AOR Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago, include an anthem spot showing some 50 historic Porsche collector cars and racer -- including icons like the 917 driven by Steve McQueen in "Le Mans" -- racing over Bonneville-esque sand flats. In the spot, the Panamera appears among them, then rockets forward as the other vehicles do a fleur de lis breakaway that, from a helicopter, does indeed look like a family tree. The ad broke last week during the Major League Baseball playoffs and on lifestyle cable networks such as CNBC and The Discovery Channel, as well as in Europe, Asia and other markets.
The effort also features a video documentary series starring Porsche fan Jerry Seinfeld that will run on IFC and Sundance channels and at PorscheUSA.com/family.
Panamera print ads with the theme "The product of 60 years of unwavering Porsche philosophy" include three-page inserts in October issues of magazines like Wired and Fast Company and sites such as Bloomberg.com, ESPN and Forbes.com.
David Pryor, VP of marketing, Porsche Cars North America, spoke with Marketing Daily about the car and the campaign.
Q: Isn't this about the worst time in recent times to launch a luxury car?
A: It's not the best time, but our September sales showed a month-over-month increase, and year-over-year, we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. And this may be the right time because we and our dealers have something to talk about besides incentives and deals.
Q: Why is Panamera unique for its segment?
A: It's the design, the package and the performance. The cars we see as core competitors are premium luxury sedan segment vehicles like the [Mercedes-Benz] S-Class, [BMW] 7-Series and Audi A8. But we say form follows function, so we started with the idea of a four-place car that is also a true sports car, not a luxury car with a bigger engine and wheels. Panamera is a car for four people engineered as a true sports car.
Q: Does that mean Panamera will turn out to be a conquest vehicle and not merely a Porsche sedan for enthusiasts whose other car is also a Porsche?
A: I think in the first six months we will have loyalists. Longer-term, we see it more like the Cayenne, where 60% to 70% of buyers came from outside the brand. I think Panamera will deliver similarly. A lot of people haven't considered a Porsche simply because we haven't had a car like this.
Q: Why such a big campaign for a car that, by definition, won't see huge volume?
A: It's a very hard-working campaign for us because it does two things: On the one hand, we want to launch Panamera and show that there's something new from Porsche; on the other, all the messaging in the campaign reinforces the Porsche brand. For example, the TV spot showcases the Panamera as well as our heritage. So much now is about deals and incentives, so we think we can cut through by talking about the brand.
Q: What's the duration of the campaign?
A: We started this over a year ago, and you haven't seen much because it was very targeted with direct mail and online work. We know our insiders quite well and can be fairly targeted with lead generation. The TV, and print and online we launched this month will run over the next two months.
Q: How did get Jerry Seinfeld involved with this effort?
A: We are always talking with Jerry, and he is one of our biggest fans. He really just wants to be part of this brand and what we do, so we were talking to him at an event about the commercial and he said he wanted to be part of that. We use Porsches from his collection, and he actually drove one of the Porsches in the spot.