Marketing Automobiles

Marketing Automobiles
Let's take a look at the way that certain automobiles are presented to the public.
Published by: All Car Central Publishing
Date published: 09/30/2014

Marketing Automobiles

We all know that food and other manufacturers market their products to select groups of customer, I.e. Young Family Households, Middle aged customers and of course Senior Citizens. Vacation Cruise ships follow much the same pattern, example: Carnival Cruises for the family, promoted as the fun ship vacation. I could go on with fashion magazines, catalogs, hunting equipment etc.. However, do we ever associate such marketing techniques to the choice and purchase of an automobile? I certainly don't and I am sure neither do you. We buy what attracts us be it fuel economy, looks or price etc. That's certainly what I think or rather what I used to think until I started to research the subject.


Let's take a look at the way that certain automobiles are presented to the public. We all agree that Safety...both for the driver and his/her family is a strong incentive yet...until a short time ago this was the domain of only one or two manufacturer's. Example: VOLVO who sold and promoted their vehicles as the safest car on the road, anywhere. While the competition talked about style, comfort, speed and image, Volvo promoted safety for you and your family. At the same time almost by chance any would be purchaser was told that this ultra safe car could also cruise at 80 mph and when required could move into the three figure range. I recall one promotional write-up that said, and I quote: "Each model is designed for safety and tested by being driven into a concrete wall at thirty MPH...The wall came off worse!" Never a cheap means of transport but the price was justified by its safety record.


Moving on, how about the BMW range described by the company as the "Ultimate Driving Experience". Most drivers, no matter what age or sex they may be, like to believe that they are excellent drivers, who are unfortunately surrounded by others who lack their skill and ability. Belonging to this group we are drawn to driving and even owning the Ultimate Driving Machine. None of the BMW promotional material talks about economy, top end performance, interior space etc. There is no need when you are presenting a unique opportunity to drive a car worthy of your skill and ability. What a great way to convince me that my driving experience requires that I should join the happy BMW family.


I am not quite sure how to evaluate the advertising theme for the Mercedes Benz except to say that this car was designed for the "Winners of Society". If you made it, whatever that may mean, you deserve this car, no let's be honest, you must have this symbol of success. Sure a Rolls might be a better choice as far as image is concerned but we all know that owners of Rollers usually have someone to drive them so who wants to be seen as a successful passenger when you can sit behind the wheel of a "Merc" and look like a real successful driver in every sense of the word. However, it is interesting to note that the aspect of "Success", is seldom used in any of Mercedes advertising. Comfort, reliability, built to last etc., is usually the principle theme and it certainly seems to work.


At the other end of the scale the image of the Ford Company has never moved out of the image of being every driver's car. Mass produced, easy to maintain, (not something that needs to be said but is certainly implied,) from the model T through to the Ford Lincoln this image is enhanced , and by the way you seldom hear the term Ford Lincoln, a car seldom seen as a direct Ford product, but an enhanced example of the breed.

Ford has built a very successful business of being a mass market supplier.Even the successful launch of the sporting "Mustang", was and still is promoted as a reliable Ford product. A principle competitor and certainly more expensive "The Corvette" has not achieved the same reliable image or to be more direct, has not been able to createthat assessment. Looking back over the post war years I can only think of one Ford product that was not a success despite the fact that it was designed and developed by Ford Germany...The best forgotten "Ford Capri". To be fair it was a product of its time and the design was by any standards eye catching. Underpowered until Ford fitted a decent size three litre engine it survived from 1969 through to 1987. Not a bad run for a not so wonderful car.

For my sins I actually purchased a Capri in 1970 just a few months after it hit the showrooms. What was the attraction? Well certainly not performance with a one point three c.c.four cylinder engine. It was the European styling.

A few years later I had a Ford Cortina, a totally different story. I am not sure if this car ever reached the USA but if not it certainly should have graced our highways. Top speed in excess of three figures, good fuel economy, 28 or more to the gallon. I owned this in Canada where the winters are somewhat challenging but the car never missed a beat winter or summer. The name came from an Italian town where the 1956 Winter Olympics was held, however what this had to do with a Ford product is anyone's guess!

VW Mini

1960 Austin Mini .............................. 1956 VW

So I have to admit, like it or not, the marketing image can be a prime factor in selling anything including cars. Since 1959 the image of the Mini has sold the car even when BMW turned it into a semi luxury vehicle that is still selling today. The VW Beetle that no one could ever call a performance car or (depending on your taste), visually attractive, has been in the market since 1937 and the only reason why the original ceased production to be replaced by a very modern version was that the tooling to make the original simply wore out after the first million or two! When the Second World War ended no one wanted to rebuild the VW operation. It was offered to the British who turned the offer down on the grounds that there was no future for the car. When production recommenced in 1949 it was difficult to find any Dealer who was interested. However, the selling image of a cheap practical means of transport that could last for many years launched the post war Beetle and the company never looked back. Today VW owns such international marques as: Bugatti, Bentley, and Lamborghini and are still producing the original engine in Brazil which says a lot for the engineering design of Mr. Porsche.


That leads me into the success of his post war products and the image that has been created around the Porsche vehicle. You don't buy a Porsche to impress the neighbors; you own it to belong to a rather exclusive group of drivers most of whom know everything about the company, its history and its future! The product is marketed with this in mind, look at any Porsche advertising and you get that feeling that they are promoting a unique and special product that onlyyou can enjoy by being a dedicated and loyal Porsche owner. I can't think of any other four wheel product that has created and successfully marked this image. It is very much the case of belonging rather than owning!


Finally let's take a look at another semi sports car that has changed ownership several times over the years yet still seems to have survived. The Famous Jaguar of today is not quite the desirable post war sports car that we recall in the 1960's but is still demanding a loyal level of ownership despite being in the hands of a truck manufacturer,(Leyland) the British Ford Company, and now an Indian consortium! The truly interesting statistic about the image of Jaguar is that vehicle ownership is seldom a once only purchase.

Ford undertook a major survey of Jaguar buyers and found that the majority were often three or four time owners. People who purchased one car went on to continue their long term relationship with the breed despite several models that did not come up to the established standard set in the past. In short once a Jaguar owner you tended to be one for many years. What was the attraction? I would suggest the real leather, the wood dash (even when it became plastic), the mascot on the hood, and a feeling of luxury and performance at a reasonable price. These features were always part of the marketing content in everything that was associated with the name and the car.

Like so many other products we are subjected to marketing ploys every day of our life and, like it or not,it seems to work, despite the fact that many of us still don't want to believe it.
Geoff Wheatley

click here