The Mazda case outlines the different stages through which the company has gone through in its North American operations, changing its brand image, marketing strategies, and advertising themes. Mazda performed exceptionally in the 1980s and early 1990s. Its performance declined when it started introducing numerous products in the market. The introduction of the new offers deprived the corporation of the focus and market position. The newly hired president for the North American division developed a plan to change both the advertisement philosophy and marketing strategy.
The recovery marked a shift in focus, where the marketing strategy targeted the young generation that adored sporty cars. The firm started the recovery campaign by changing its long time marketing agency and employing W.B. Doner & Co. Doner who took the responsibility of changing the brand image of Mazda by creating an advertisement theme and image that reflected the holistic personality of the automaker. The first step was to create the slogan, ”Get In. Be Moved,” which reflected a promise and motivation of customers to buy Mazda products.
The second step that the company undertook was repositioning the 1999 Protégé model. The target markets for the Protégé were buyers at the entry level and mature customers who needed an additional car. It was positioned as an improvement from the compact sedan characterized by attractive price and fuel efficiency. The new strategy for the Protégé was to position the model as a fun and cool car to drive. It targeted young females with individualistic characteristics. Doner launched the new strategy through TV commercials, dealer showrooms and the internet. The plan was successful and increased the Protégé’s sales by 33% in 1998 and about 12% in 1999. A critical achievement of the strategy was that it created a new image for the Protégé. As a result of the “Get In. Be Moved” slogan’s success, the company used it for the marketing of other models to duplicate the excellent performance. Despite its success, a new brand strategy and communications manager of the company thought that it was not fit for the company because it was vague and passive. She suggested creating an appealing theme to please driving enthusiasts.
The corporation created the slogan “Zoom-Zoom” that later replaced the “Get In. Get Moved” phrase. The “Zoom-Zoom” slogan aimed to elicit childhood dreams in adults who loved fun-to-drive cars. It was integrated in all Mazda adverts by 2001 and had a sporty look. The integrated marketing communications reflected the company’s sporty nature.
Another change that Mazda initiated was corporate strategy. The new corporate strategy aimed at introducing new products, some of which included the Protégé 5 and the MAZDASPEED Protégé. The target market for the Protégé 5 was the 60% of male population under 34 years. The MAZDASPEED Protégé was made for 20 year old males and had all customizations that could appeal to this group while prices were friendly.
The MAZDA6 was the most successful product because it had large sales volumes and replaced the 626 family sedan models. The product targeted enthusiasts in their mid-30s who were mature but still loved fun cars. The advert for MAZDA6 departed from that of the Protégé to reflect the mature nature of the target customers. Performance and style were some of the aspects that the marketing approach highlighted. Its promotional strategy used integrated communications programs to reach the largest number of customers and offer a unified image. The company had gained its foothold on the sporty cars market segment by 2003 and launched strong products such as the RX-8 that were featured in movies and TV commercials.
Integrated marketing communications is an approach to marketing that ensures that the product messages delivered to the customers are consistent, regardless of the communication channel used. It creates a unified image that helps customers in their decision-making process. The integrated marketing communications played a crucial role in the management of both Mazda Protégé and MAZDA6.
Mazda Protégé marketing utilized advertisements in the form of TV commercials, direct marketing through its website, mailing and sales promotion through sweepstakes. The advertisements created the awareness among the potential customers about the availability and innovative features of the Protégé vehicle. Since the adverts used young people carpooling in the Protégé, it persuaded the potential young customers to purchase the car by highlighting the pleasure of driving it. The direct marketing through the company’s website reinforced the advertisements’ message by engaging the visitors to participate in fun-filled activities such as virtual tours and playing games. The sales promotions through the sweepstakes purported to increase the interaction of the customers as they tried out their luck to win the Protégé. Such interactions increased the customers’ knowledge of the product, which assisted in the purchase decision-making. Furthermore, if the customers were not satisfied with the information on the website, the company mailed CD-ROMs that contained the requested information and additional music and movie reviews. Every element of the integrated marketing communication highlighted pleasure associated with the car provided to the young people who bought it. The unified image provided customers with confidence and reduced the anxiety accompanying purchase decisions.
The MAZDA6 also used an integrated marketing communications approach. Its advertisements appeared on TV and print media. The huge budgetary allocation to the print media (12%) indicated that the characteristics of the target market were different from those of the Protégé. The target customers were mature people who were likely to read the print media often. The TV, radio and print media such as the newspapers provided a wide coverage at minimal cost per exposure, which informed the customers of the availability of MAZDA6. Other communication channels such as enthusiasts’ magazines and the internet directly marketed the car to those who were fond of sporty cars since they were the ones who read the magazines. As such, the magazine served to market directly to an identified potential customer base. The public relations helped to reach those customers that other marketing channels could not reach in the form of news. Other exposures through ESPN restaurants and trucks increased the publicity of the MAZDA6. All the elements of the integrated marketing communications had one theme, which created a strong brand image.
The change of the slogan from “Get In. Be Moved” to “Zoom-Zoom” was effective for a number of reasons. Firstly, Mazda’s aim was to reposition itself as a creator of sporty cars that were associated with fun and outgoing personalities. The ‘‘Get In. Be Moved’’ slogan did not reflect the sporty image. As the new brand and communications manager asserted, it was passive and vague. Secondly, there was a disconnection between the slogan and the specific advertisements such as the one created for the Protégé. The Protégé advert was about the pleasure of driving the car and sharing the joy with friends. On the other hand, the “Get In. Be Moved” slogan was not specific as for what it actually promised. The customer could literally interpret the slogan to mean that the sole purpose of the car was to move customers from one destination to another. Such confusion could render the integrated marketing communications ineffective because it did not deliver a unified message that would help the customer to understand the essence of the advertisement. The increase in the sales volume of the Protégé in 1998 and 1999 was probably a result of the advertisement with young people having fun and not the “Get In. Be Moved” slogan. As such, analyzing the effectiveness of the slogan separately from the adverts is challenging. When customers are deciding on which product to buy, they seek information and compare the information provided by various sellers. The easier the access to information, the faster the customer can make a decision. The “Zoom-Zoom” slogan augured well with the sporty image that the company aimed to portray. All the adverts that carried the “Zoom-Zoom” slogan complemented it by projecting the fun and sporty theme that it possessed. Consequently, customers could connect the message easily. The increased competition in the automotive industry required excellence in every aspect. Effective marketing plans could create a competitive advantage for a corporation like Mazda. Even if the “Get In. Be Moved” was effective in the short run, it had to be changed because it was not appealing to the young customers that Mazda aimed to serve. At the end of the case, the company was not sure whether the “Zoom-Zoom” brand could serve its goals in the long-term. Such uncertainty is a clear indication that change is inevitable as competitors evolve and become more aggressive. Consequently, changing to “Zoom-Zoom” was essential as it was more effective than the first slogan.
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The first recommendation relates to its current corporate strategy that focuses on rolling out new products. Although adding new products to its product mix is critical, the number of offers being rolled out should be kept at a manageable level. Introducing many products at a go may lead the company back to where it had been before its strategic change. When products flood the market, the company loses sight of its brand image. Differentiation is paramount in a market with many players. The differentiation that Mazda should focus on is technological improvement to enhance performance and features that resonate with the target customers. When the company has many products in the market at the same time, it may be strenuous to differentiate it from competitors. Additionally, the quality of the products is likely to worsen because the organization is not concentrated on certain products to develop competencies. Consequently, its integrated marketing campaign may be fragmented to cater for the different distinct products. As a result, the message reaching the customers may not conform to the theme and may confuse them.
The second recommendation is that the managers should ensure consistency of products and the brand image. The company enjoys a large customer base because the customers identify with its “Zoom-Zoom” brand image. The image has been developed over time through each element of the integrated marketing communications that delivers similar messages. When a customer needs a sporty car, Mazda is a priority because the automaker is a market leader in the sports cars segment. Any changes in marketing should only focus on reinforcing the brand name and not introducing products that alienate the brand image. The “Zoom-Zoom” slogan may require change in the future in case the company feels that it does not strongly communicate the intended message. The new slogan should reflect the current brand image and what it stands for, unless the function of the organization has changed. Changes in consumer characteristics may prompt the need for such a change, which occurs over time. Once the change has occurred, every element of the integrated marketing communication should focus on the change and consider it when developing messages for the clients. The consistency is essential in building customer loyalty. A company with loyal customers exhibits excellent performance even in a competitive market. When customers are loyal, it is almost impossible for competitors to snatch them away, unless the company has failed to meet the customers’ expectations.