Mazda is starting to see notable success nine months into its “Feel Alive” campaign.
CMO Dino Bernacchi is excited about the gains the brand has made. When he sat down with me at the Chicago Auto Show to bring me up to date, he had a boatload of metrics to support the notion that the brand is gaining traction.
“If you move things like brand opinion two to three percentage points in a given year, that's beyond statistically significant," Bernacchi says. “And usually to move it beyond that takes time. For brand relevancy, which we really want, I want to become the most relevant, trusted and beloved brand to our fans -- not to everybody, but to our fans.”
Brand relevancy has moved 12 percentage points in the course of nine months for the brand’s target audience, according to Kantar, WPP’s data investment management division. Brand opinion has moved almost 10 percentage points, while brand consideration has moved 11 percentage points.
"We really committed ourselves to who this target audience is -- really understanding who they are, and reaching out, talking and connecting with them,” Bernacchi says.
Next up is what Bernacchi calls an “elevation” of the “Feel Alive” campaign: a campaign from The Garage, Team Mazda, for the new Mazda 3 which will break during the NCAA Basketball Tournament’s Championship game. The vehicle was revealed in November at the Los Angeles auto show.
Mazda looks at its customer base using psychographics rather than demographics.
“We call them independent achievers,” Bernacchi says. “They are individuals who are discoverers and wanderlusters; they really appreciate experiences. They want an experiential brand. They really want to buy into a brand, not buy a brand. So a brand and what it stands for really matters.”
The automaker surveyed upwards of 10,000 customers to find out what their passion points and interests are and “really just flip the script,” he says.
"We had to create a message,” he says, but first, “you have to clarify the fans, and then you have to fortify the brand. Fortifying the brand was the whole 'Feel Alive' campaign, which wasn't just an ad. It really has to be about a belief that we can share with the world, who we are.”
Introduced at the New York Auto Show in late March last year, the "Feel Alive" campaign aims to be a celebration of human challenge, inspiration, exhilaration and potential.
The brand has also altered its media plan from mostly traditional to much more digital now, he says. Instead of being on 40 networks, which it was previously, Mazda is now on 12-14 networks.
“We dramatically decided to take the daring shift and really turn over the apple cart with our media plan,” Bernacchi says. “We need to connect with fans of the brand. … We need to be where they are. We are far more digitally savvy in the execution, whether it's rich media or it's video-based creative. We're really heightening the storytelling of the brand, and getting people to understand who we are as a brand.”
Google searches for Mazda have increased 4% in the last nine months, he says. For November and December alone, Google searches increased 14% year over year.
One-third of the visitors to the automaker’s website are the “independent achievers” the brand hopes to lure and 41% are cross-shopping a premium or luxury brand, mostly BMW and Audi, he says.
So how does this translate at the dealership? Sales for 2018 totaled 300,325 vehicles, an increase of 3.7% compared to 2017. As the saying goes, money talks.
The brand has big marketing plans coming up to celebrate the Mazda MX-5 Miata.
“If we're truly human-centric and about the passion of the fan, and the brand, we've got to bring those two together,” he says. “Our independent achievers and our enthusiasts, they want to experience the brand. So we are planning what will be, we believe, the largest MX-5 gathering ever.”
Mazda turns 100 years old in 2020, so it’s a “very special year,” he adds. And if the consideration and sales needle-moving continues, the automaker will have plenty to celebrate.