​Holden CMO reveals 5 brand strategies it's using to engage modern consumers

Marketing leader shares why engaging modern Australia means shifting from traditional channels into new and harnessing the power of social media

Holden ambassador model Alex Davis photographed by @OracleFoxBlog for the brand's sponsored Instagram campaign
Holden ambassador model Alex Davis photographed by @OracleFoxBlog for the brand's sponsored Instagram campaign

Like any sector in Australia, the motor industry is seeking to find more innovative and creative ways to engage customers through digital and social channels.

In the past year, GM Holden has used the power of social to launch its new Cascada range to its customers, with growing success.

“Our industry in Australia is actually the most competitive in the world in terms of the amount of models we have per capita,” GM Holden’s director of marketing and customer experience, Geraldin Davys told CMO. “I think there are 64 makers in Australia today. The competition in this industry is intense and consumers have more options than ever before.

“And more than ever, customers choose particular brands to communicate something personal about themselves. As a result, brand DNA has never been more important.”

Here, Davys shares five ways Holden sought to fulfil Australian consumer expectations around the launch of the Cascada, as well as how these will help the brand remain relevant as it grows its portfolio of automobile offerings.

1. Tap into modern Australia

As part of a strategic brand repositioning, Holden is shifting more towards engaging with what Davys called “modern Australia”, a view that includes audiences and segments it hasn’t spoken much to in the past.

“When you look at what’s important to modern Australia, it’s certainly about technology, it’s about travel, it’s about being image conscious, being progressive and having a huge amount of ambition,” she said. “The reality is they’re trying to make the most out of every day and we have to make sure we’re taking them on the right journey with this brand.

“What we’re trying to do is align with that lifestyle and our product is aimed at meeting the needs of this modern Australia.”

Historically, Holden’s focus has been on its mainstay product, the Holden Commodore. While being a very important piece of its iconic brand, Davys noted it has had a different target focus to the Cascada, which is aimed at 25-44 year-old female drivers.

“We are now trying to connect with the new modern Australia, which is more about multiculturalism and more about young people buying Holden – it’s certainly different to what we’ve targeted before,” she said.

2. Pay social influencers to be your ambassadors

One of the key brand awareness initiatives Holden implemented as part of the Cascada launch was paying bloggers and influencer to showcase the car on their Instagram pages, websites and social media channels.

“We aligned ourselves with social influencers who had quite a loyal following and could really tap into our Cascada target market,” Davys said.

Nutritionist, presenter and model, Alex Davis, is Cascada’s brand ambassador, while influencers, See Want Shop, Sarah Ellison and Oracle Fox Blog, were all paid to showcase themselves enjoying the luxury and sophistication the car represented in various visually led campaigns.

On Instagram, Holden also became the first automotive brand to introduce ‘cinemagraphs’ – posts that mix still images with video – to the platform.

While all of these influencers were paid, Davys said Holden encouraged key partners to create organic content that fit naturally within its community.

“But even though the style in which they wrote about the car was very organic within their community, they’re quite upfront about how they have media partnerships with us,” she said. “These influencers already have connections with their customers, they’re very trusted and therefore they have to maintain that trust.”

As a result, Davys claimed Holden’s Cascada had the highest brand awareness results out of any global auto campaign on Instagram to date. This included a 30-point lift in ad recall and a 9-point lift in ad awareness and favorability.

3. Harness your customer’s emotions

Purchasing is very much an emotional experience, Davys said, especially when it comes to cars. So it’s important to understand your customer emotionally and attain a brand look and feel that reflects what your customer wants.

“We wanted to surprise and delight when we launched Cascada,” Davys said. “Cascada is one of our ‘halo’ products, representing what is becoming the future for Holden. They are European cars and positioned around style and luxury.”

To illustrate these traits, Holden adopted the tag line, ‘let life in’.

“For Cascada, it was a real female skew, and that was the challenge for Holden,” Davys added. “It was about convincing our customers Cascada was the car with these European features, and a look and feel that was right for the modern female Australian. We were all about making it sophisticated, stylish and ‘let life in’.”

4. Find the right channel to engage with your customer

According to Davys, any marketer, be it in cars or any other industry, must start with the consumer first and engage with them in a way that makes them feel aligned to your brand.

“In this instance we were talking to 25-44 year old females, and we had to make sure we had the right channels that were going to engage them,” she said. “We also realised we were going to have to communicate in a very different way.

“We wanted to ensure we were driving more women into Holden’s owned channels, including the websites, social channels, CRM and of course, into our Holden dealerships. That meant we had to do a bit of a creative repositioning.”

5. Future proof your brand

With another 24 new cars set for launch over the next five years, Davys said her focus is on future proofing the brand by creatively aligning its marketing strategy to the needs of these wider audience segments.

She noted Holden’s future product portfolio in Australia will be sourced from Europe, Asia and America, making it a truly global vehicle range.

“Customer experience and satisfaction is crucial to our industry’s future success, and we are rejuvenating our network and touchpoints to ensure the customer is at the centre of our business,” she added.

“You need to ensure you are always future proofing your brand and connecting with customers with cars and marketing that feels right for them.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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