Audi CMO's Aim: Put Some 'Soul' Into Brand

After several years of building its brand as the logical luxury choice in the U.S., Audi's chief marketing officer says it's time for the brand to play up the "soul quotient" in marketing.

"We need to enjoy ourselves now," said Scott Keogh, during press previews at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. "I use the analogy that we have been like the well-behaved intelligent person you have a quiet conversation with in the corner at a party. Now it's time for us to walk around the party."

Keogh joined Audi of America, a unit of Volkswagen AG, in May 2006 after spending 10 years at Mercedes-Benz. In December, he oversaw an advertising agency review, replacing Audi's longtime agency McKinney of Durham, N.C. with Venables Bell and Partners of San Francisco.

While Keogh declined to give a timeline for when new creative from Venables will appear, he is setting a high bar for the agency to jump over in creating stand-out advertising. "I know it's a mythical example, but Apple's 1984 spot was fantastic creative, and we want great work like that which celebrates the Audi brand."



Keogh said that instead of using a scattershot approach to media, Audi's focus will be on public relations, event marketing and the Internet.

Keogh said a primary focus of marketing will be to get people into Audis for test drives. With just a 0.5% share of the U.S. car market, according to Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, N.J., "there are an awful lot of people who have never been inside of an Audi," he says. He plans to announce marketing programs that will help put people in the vehicles in the near future, saying that "these don't need to be world-changing events, we simply need to get people into the cars in a straightforward fashion."

The brand is likely to be helped in that regard with a number of accolades that often help put car brands on consumers' shopping lists. Consumer Reports recently named four Audi vehicles as recommended picks. The A6 is considered the safest vehicle in its segment following new safety crash data from National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

With those kudos and a new focus on marketing, Keogh is hoping the Audi brand will become a far more popular brand than it is today in the U.S. -- akin to the place Audi holds in Europe.

"In Europe, we are there with BMW and Mercedes," he says. In the U.S., Audi's market share falls below those two brands, as well as Cadillac, Lexus, Acura, Volvo and Infiniti.

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