Porsche Cars North America Inc. plans to alter its media strategy while still appealing to its loyal customers.
'We're going to concentrate on increasing our outer circle of potential customers,' said COO Richard Ford, who oversees international marketing strategies plus operations, sales and marketing in the United States and Canada.
Porsche won't change its ads radically in the 2000 model year, Ford said, but the company will expand advertising in lifestyle magazines and boost its direct mail and relationship marketing.
The brand currently puts most of its print ad dollars in car buff magazines. Porsche buys only regional TV in its top eight markets.
Porsche spent $9.4 million in measured media last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Ford said the brand's marketing budget, which includes public relations and dealer development, is three or four times higher than its annual media spending.
PORSCHE REACHES OUT
Porsche started to expand its 'outer circle' of prospects in 1997 when it launched the Boxster roadster, its first new model in 19 years. The sports car was then priced at just under $40,000. It has attracted younger buyers who are in their mid-30s, said Ford.
Porsche hopes to lure more newcomers when it launches its all-wheel-drive sport wagon in 2002. 'The key is maintaining our core business and expand without disrupting our core buyers and without losing our brand image,' said Ford.
That was the challenge Porsche issued when it went shopping for a new ad agency. Carmichael Lynch in Minneapolis won the account early this year and is preparing a strategy to launch the sport wagon. The agency's first work for the brand, for the 2000 model year, will break in a few weeks.
SHIFTING MEDIA GEARS
Porsche has changed media strategies several times in the past decade or so.
The brand did virtually no direct mail until 1988. In 1989, Porsche spent its entire fourth-quarter ad budget of $5 million on a two-minute TV commercial that aired less than 50 times and a 20-page magazine insert. In 1992, Porsche's entire ad budget went to print.
The carmaker focused on TV in 1997 for the Boxster's splashy debut with national TV commercials during the Super Bowl. That year, Porsche spent $17.2 million in measured media, said Competitive Media Reporting.
Niche brands with small ad budgets like Porsche have a tough time getting noticed in the marketplace, said auto marketing consultant John Bulcroft, who headed advertising at Porsche in the 1970s. 'It was the same when I was there. There were never enough advertising dollars,' said Bulcroft, president of the Advisory Group in Cresskill, N.J.
Buying ad space in lifestyle magazines may be a better way than TV to reach younger pros-pects. Still, buying spot TV makes sense for Porsche, since buying national TV would be 'wildly inefficient' for the company, he added.
Porsche sold 13,092 cars in the United States through July vs. 11,244 a year ago. Ford expects the brand to sell 'just over 20,000' units in the United States this year.
'A lot of our buyers dreamed of owning a Porsche,' he said. 'We have to find a way of igniting that spirit in younger people.'