March 11, 2011

How a new luxury automotive brand manages its image

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In a previous post, I described the huge financial impact of corporate reputation management on two major car manufacturers and their stock value.

In the third installment of our TV channel “Reputation Management Decision Makers”, Augure CEO Michael Jaïs interviews Claude Hugot, Chief Communications Officer at Infiniti, Nissan Group’s luxury brand. The brand has been present on the US market since 1989 and officially launched in Europe at the end of 2008, in a tough market. This program discusses how Claude Hugot and Infiniti approach online stakeholder engagement to create a brand perception that sets them apart from the competition, particularly from Germany.

The first topic discussed is the scrapping premium and its impact on automotive brand image. While you may think luxury brands would not care much about this, it is important because past market analysis from Moody’s has shown the negative impact the european scrapping scheme has had on Nissan and german car makers, particularly in the luxury segment.

The next two topics highlight Mr Hugot’s firm belief on stakeholder engagement to achieve the brand image company head Carlos Ghosn seeks for Infiniti:

First up is “A day in the life” of this particular CCO. As you will see in the video, Journalists are very much at the center of the day’s activities. While conference calls and strategic meetings with other European subsidiaries occupy a portion of the day, the focus on meeting journalists, on debriefing, human to human, after test drives and on providing these very time starved easy access to all the information required for their articles is very interesting. Particularly so because main rival Lexus has relied heavily on advertising to compete with German brands such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes, whereas Infiniti has taken a very modern, largely advertising free approach to their brand building!

Showrooms, business partners and customers are three other types of stakeholders mentioned in the interview. The latter three in the context of events, which are at the heart of Infiniti’s communications and brand crafting. Indeed, instead of focusing on traditional one-size-fits-all advertising, a series of targeted private events are organised in partnership with other brands. For instance, 4×4 drive tests in the Alps, in partnership with a high-end ski manufacturer. Customers and prospects, called “Quiet Rebels” by the brand, are invited to these tailor-made events in order to create a tightly wound community around the company’s “Graceful Strength” image.

A final topic of interest to communicators and marketing pros is the use of an iPhone application. While Infiniti are not the first to use this form of outreach, the reasoning behind their own venture is far from purely trendy. The app allows its users to request information and test drives, locate dealer showrooms … and was designed to serve a population that is always on the go, as typical customers are. It also makes sense given that 90% of customers come to the brand via the Internet !

So, behind a mix of very traditional and mobile engagement lies a very interesting and modern communication strategy.

4 Comments

  • I love that so many auto makers are creating iphone apps. Such a great idea!

    Steve (my auto repair advice) - September 1, 2011 at 20:33

    • Hi Steve, yes indeed. We are currently conducting an analysis of social media practices in large industries and the automotive sector certainly seems to be the most dynamic and creative ! Cheers.

      pascaljappy - September 2, 2011 at 10:45

    • I am also agree your comment..

      Cycle saddle - November 21, 2011 at 07:49

  • In my opinion it’s the exclusivity factor that makes a brand luxury. That and legacy; Mercedes wins in that respect because it has the oldest history and legacy among all luxury makers. It’s theperceived public image that brings prestige. All the luxury makers have different angles; Benz has longevity and brand cache, BMW is all about performance and Infiniti is newer, unique in design and has cool tech features. They are all luxury oriented but still very individual brands.

    Car Dealers Minneapolis - November 21, 2011 at 06:59

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