INTERVIEW: Mazda Europe seeks brand image renewal

By Hugh Hunston | 21 April 2010

Mazda Europe COO Phil Waring is wary of resurgent Korean brands

Mazda Europe COO Phil Waring is wary of resurgent Korean brands

Senior European Mazda management are involved in brainstorming sessions with the aim of transforming public perception of the brand from 'anonymous' despite the success of its zoom-zoom advertising strategy.

Leading the move to "capture Mazda’s essence and create brand consistency" is the company European chief operating officer Phil Waring, who warned that Korean rivals had “upped their all-round game including their image among consumers.”

Waring said: “Despite a fantastic heritage our brand continues to be anonymous to a lot of people across Europe. There remains a lack of understanding about what we stand for. We need to tell more people about who and what Mazda is by redefining our brand image.”

That initiative is underway in the build up to the launch of Mazda’s new 5 compact MPV and, according to Waring, involves: “making the marketing spend work harder to create heightened familiarity and recognition while provoking responses.”

He revealed that the game plan could involve highlighting the company’s Hiroshima roots as part of: “creating a texture of awareness for Mazda including how it has been part of a city, which after one of the greatest man made disasters, rebuilt itself. That says a lot about the enduring culture and personality of our people.”

Mazda executives are considering getting away from communicating along product lines with separate advertisements creating images for particular cars.

Waring revealed that, in European TV exposure terms, Mazda represents one advertisement in 700 and: “fragmented emphasis” on individual models diluted that further.

He pointed to: “Mazda’s enduring legacy; valuable assets and facets like the rotary engine; the MX-5; being the only Japanese firm to win Le Mans and our consciously Japanese design culture. It is about bottling or distilling that essence for public consumption.”

The zoom-zoom approach, he said, had performed a positive, if inconsistent, role since 2001 but: “it gets confused and for linguistic reasons it ended up as 'vroom-vroom' in Germany. That is frustrating because it ranks second to Audi’s 'Vorsprung durch Technik' in terms of automotive slogan awareness.”

Waring added: “Extracting and channelling these elements effectively is vital when competing with the Koreans. They no longer lack style and quality.”

Hyundai recently recruited Honda’s former European head of marketing, Chris Brown, to transform its former value brand image.