Seeking to make Acura more of a household name, Acura Division will begin a regional marketing campaign this year that will be orchestrated by national ad agency Suissa Miller.
'Acura's regional marketing presence had been small and had little weight. Awareness levels had been low. If we can get awareness levels up, we can get incentive levels down,' said Dick Colliver, executive vice president of Acura and Honda divisions.
The regional advertising will polish the brand name but with local geographic and demographic spins. It is the first step in Colliver's quest to take Acura beyond its entrenchment as a near-luxury label and put it more firmly among the likes of Lexus and the German luxury marques.
'We took our eye off the product and marketing sides. We were not focused on the product and what the customers were saying,' Colliver said.
He wants to pattern the execution of Acura's regional marketing after a similar plan he implemented for Honda five years ago. Colliver likely will have better luck convincing dealers of the benefits of letting a national agency control the regional message this time.
When he started the Honda plan, he was confronted with lawsuits from dealers peeved over losing local control of the marketing message. But Honda refused to cave in; five years later, sales are up 50 percent and dealer profits are up 100 percent - thanks in no small part to regional marketing, Colliver said.
Also, Acura is working from a nearly blank slate, whereas Honda had an established regional marketing program, with dozens of local agencies and messages that Colliver had to dislodge.
'The dealers are involved, but it is our program. It is designed to respond to local markets, but it will support the brand and drive traffic,' he said.
The first advertisements will be broadcast in the second quarter. Meetings are being held with Suissa Miller to determine whether the agency will do all its work from its Los Angeles headquarters or establish satellite operations.