Mazda needs to change its approach in order to rise above the 2 percent of the US market at which the brand has been stuck for at least five years. So this weekend, Mazda is launching a new US advertising campaign that not only is meant to break through auto-marketing clutter but also to help stake the brand's attempts to move to a more upscale positioning.
"Game Changers" will feature TV spots that highlight "game-changing" American figures from sports to science. The idea is to communicate to US consumers that Mazda demonstrates some of the same attributes as these heroes, which admittedly may come as a revelation to many Americans.
"We're focusing on courage, creativity and conviction" in the new campaign, Russell Wager, Mazda's US CMO, told brandchannel. "Those three words are basically what consumers told us they thought Mazda was about." He explained: "Versus just being 'any brand,' the idea is to align our products with people who changed the world for good."
One ad features Dick Fosbury, the engineer whose revolutionary way of back-flipping over the high-jump bar won him a gold medal in the 1968 Summer Olympics. Another focuses on Laird Hamilton, the American surfer whose innovation was to use a Jet Ski to tow him out to sea so he could tackle really big waves in spectacular fashion. Thomas Edison will be the focus of a future spot as well, Wager said.
Yet another will tell the story of Louis Reard, inventor of the bikini; that ad will focus on Mazda's SkyActiv sub-brand, a package of technologies including higher-yielding engines and "lightweighting" of materials that adds up to a more fuel-economic vehicle. "Sometimes," Wager explained the bikini reference, "it's more important what you take away than what you add."
The first spots in the campaign, including the Fosbury Flop ad, will feature the new Mazda6 sedan that was launched earlier this year. It has been redesigned, and transaction prices for the car "already are pretty darn close to the highest" in the segment, Wager said. "And we haven't even done our first mass-advertising communications" for the redesigned nameplate yet.
He noted that the car's eye-catching new styling made it a finalist in the World Car Design of the Year Award at the New York International Auto Show that was won by the Jaguar F-Type and also included the Aston Martin Vanquish—impressive company, indeed. "But our prices are starting at just $21,000," Wager noted.
Future aspects of "Game Changers" will focus on Mazda3 and "a slew of new products over the next 24 months that we can't [specify] yet," Wager said. "So the time is now to do this ... This will be the campaign going forward for the next three years, minimum, across all models for the Mazda brand."
What about "Zoom Zoom"? Wager acknowledged that the tag line has been very successfully identified with Mazda over the last several years, and it'll remain a minor presence at the end of the "Game Changers" spots. But he said that the phrase had become indefinite to most consumers.
"Nine out of 10 people in any research will say 'Zoom Zoom' when you ask them about Mazda," he explained. "But when you ask what does 'Zoom Zoom' mean, you'll get nine different answers."
On the other hand, another aspect of Mazda's existing brand, SkyActiv, will rise in the current campaign. Much like Ford has made its EcoBoost fuel-economy brand a centerpiece of its new ad campaign, Mazda plans to emphasize SkyActiv. "It's a result of the Mazda philosophy about being better, stronger, safer and with more fuel efficiency—but more enjoyable to drive," Wager said about SkyActiv.
Overall, Wager said, Mazda's new approach to marketing—which also includes a tie-in for SkyActiv with the new Star Trek movie—is meant to help raise the positioning of the brand to a status as "alternative to premium," in which its vehicles are perceived as providing "a premium experience but not a premium price."
Recent research showed the brand that Mazda owners "are confident, active and seeking to enrich their lives," Wager said. "And they kind of felt that the Mazda brand was siilar to them in that way. Unfortunately, we haven't been communicating in that way."
"Game Changers," he said, will change that.