Michael Bartsch, executive VP and COO of Porsche Cars North America, has good reason to feel sanguine about the brand: despite the recession, the company invested in its product plan and has seen a big payoff in market share and sales growth. Porsche sold 2,588 vehicles in the U.S. in March, a 36% increase over March last year, and the best March since 2007. The automaker's sold 7,007 vehicles in the first quarter sales, up 34% over the same period a year ago.
Bartsch tells Marketing Daily that the company has come out the other side -- or the beginning of the other side -- of the recession because it didn't take its foot off the gas pedal while rolling through the 2009, 2009, and 2010 muck. "The winners are those who held nerve through the recession and remained innovative and creative, particularly in terms of investment in innovations: driver assist, navigation, passive and dynamic safety. The second point is that anyone who didn't retreat from the market in terms of communications wins. That's what Porsche has done well during the last three years."
He says Porsche kept a very aggressive product program going, launching the Panamera sedan with a new hybrid technology during the midst of the recession, "and on top of that we remained very aggressive with the cars that are our principal carrier of the DNA, the 911: We launched aggressively the 911 GT3, GT3 RS, and the Boxster Spyder. And right in the midst of it we launched the 918 [plug-in hybrid super car]."
Bartsch says that as on September 11, no portion of the market has been insulated from the recession. "The segment in which 911 competes ended the year 15% down and is only now recovering. The thing you have to remember is that the people who buy our cars are still extremely sensitive to a situation where you are laying off people and then turn up with a discretionary purchase. That doesn't go, and this time around it really was particularly true."
Porsche's new "Everyday Magic" campaign, which takes the hitherto unexplored tactic of talking about Porsche 911 as a car that one can use for practical purposes, is consequent to the automaker's having taken a good look at its online. "We have 1.1 million Facebook fans. And we learned that to a certain degree the notion that 'I only use the car on Sunday is a myth. They are enjoying the sports car drive as part of their normal lifestyle mix. It's not like a Ferrari," says Bartsch.
Scott Baker, manager of marketing communications, says the effort, which carries an "Engineered for Magic. Every Day" theme, has to be a 'swarming' type media effort to overcome misperceptions of non-owners that Porsche cars are garage trophies. "This campaign is still speaking to something true very true about Porsche but also overcoming something people don't believe about us. We have to reach them from a number of angles, with a lot of different pieces of evidence."
The company is doing that partly with viral elements using real owners of Porsche 911 cars; a big online media weight uses owners to advocate for the car's practical sides. "Enthusiasts are amazing advocates," says Bartsch. "You get really good advocates when you have a very clear, true brand and don't dilute it."
While the TV buy is almost exclusively cable, per Baker, the company also has several 15-second and 30-second vignettes featuring real owners that are running online.
Baker says Porsche will do integration with the Speed and History channels featuring content around the 911. On Speed, the program might include historical footage of Porsche racing heritage paired with content on everyday drivability of Porsche sports cars. He says History will have custom content in everyday technology people take for granted. "They will be doing things with us that help people understand that Porsche provides this everyday experience...connected to a piece on everyday technology.
The automaker also is running a dealer component, according to Bartsch. The component, besides print, direct outreach and point of sale material, includes a community concept called "cars and coffee" in which dealers sponsor casual weekend drives with their customers and customers' friends. "Porsche owners are very happy to tell someone why they have a Porsche and how they are using it as part of their life," says Bartsch. "And they are very evangelical about it. But we have to be careful; we can't take that for granted. We have to protect it."