Jaguar Canada plans a push to a potentially lucrative market: recently immigrated Cantonese.
The small but wealthy ethnic minority from China is growing fast. The challenge is to change their perception of Jaguar, said Russell Reynolds, president of Jaguar Canada in Bramalea, Ontario.
'Among recent (Cantonese) immigrants, we're not perceived as a first choice. Mercedes-Benz is,' Reynolds said. 'This doesn't happen overnight.' The company plans to launch a Cantonese Web site and is staffing a new dealership in Toronto partly with Asians. Jaguar Canada's sole Cantonese dealership owner is opening a second store. Both dealerships are in Vancouver. More advertising also is planned.
On average, 87,000 Cantonese immigrated to Canada each year in the 1990s, mostly to Vancouver and Toronto. Nearly all moved from Hong Kong to escape the uncertainty of China's takeover of the former British colony in 1997. Reynolds would not say how much Jaguar Canada spends on marketing; Jaguar Cars Ltd. spends between $200 million and $300 million on global marketing.
Jaguar Canada's main Cantonese advertising outlet has been print: Sing Tao Daily and Ming Pao Daily News, Cantonese newspapers available in Canada. Jaguar Canada typically follows a cycle of advertising three months and stopping for a month in those publications.
The brand also produces a brochure in Cantonese, available in dealerships and sent through the mail. It now is being used to market to Cantonese in the United States, Reynolds said. Formula One racing, Jaguar's Number One global marketing tool this year, helps, he said.
Justin Poy Media Inc. in Toronto, an associate of Jaguar's general agency of record, Ogilvy & Mather, has handled Jaguar Canada's Cantonese account for five years. 'The idea was that we would just take the mainstream ads and adapt them,' said Justin Poy, president of the agency. But that would not work, he said: 'We have to use features that appeal to the Chinese market.' Those include safety and the prestige associated with driving a luxury car, said Poy, who was born in Canada but raised in Hong Kong.
Most Chinese speak English, he said. 'The point is you're advertising in Chinese because you're showing an effort to market to them. You're showing sensitivity, or people will understand you don't know what you're doing.'
Zak Bespaly, sales manager for Jaguar at Grand Touring Automobiles in Toronto, knows how important it is to speak customers' language. He concentrates so much on on it that he slipped into his native language of Russian when spelling his name for Automotive News International.
'I have an ad in the Russian paper myself and people call me,' Bespaly said. 'They feel more comfortable when they can resort to that language.'
That is true for all ethnic groups, he said. For example, Bespaly has noticed an increase in Asian customers over the past year and a half that he has had a Chinese-speaking salesman.
It is not critical for the Asian sale, he said. 'It's just another aspect of customer service.'
The automotive industry is way behind in marketing to Asians in North America, especially in the United States, said Saul Gitlin, vice president of strategic marketing services for new business at Kang & Lee Advertising in New York. And it is a huge mistake, he said, because there really is no competition.
'It's a question of priorities and focus,' the Asian expert said. 'It requires a lot of up-front knowledge.'
Ford Division started the automotive push to Asians in the United States more than a year ago, advertising in California for the Windstar, Explorer and Expedition models, Gitlin said. Within the past year, General Motors started marketing its Chevrolet Impala car and Cadillac Escalade, a luxury sport-utility, to Asians.
That is where the real marketing opportunity is, Gitlin said, with luxury brands. 'Luxury car manufacturers should be all over this,' he said.
Even Jaguar Canada, which started marketing to the Cantonese there five years ago, was late. Formula One racing, Jaguar's Number One global marketing tool this year, helps, Reynolds said.
PLANNING FOR X400
With a small Jaguar, code-named X400, coming in less than a year, Jaguar Canada is considering using additional media, possibly more radio and even a return to TV. Canada has a cultural cable TV station, CFMT, with Chinese programming, which could work, Reynolds said.
'We want to be culturally acceptable in the way we're marketing to these people,' Reynolds said.
For example, he said: 'We don't usually display a Jaguar in a shopping mall, but the Asians like to look at a car without having to go to a dealership. The wealthy Asians consider it not acceptable to be seen in a dealership. In a mall, they can be anonymous.
'We do that in a couple of the malls, particularly around the Chinese New Year (in February). It's difficult to gauge the results, but it certainly is getting us exposure and generates the sale.'
Jaguar sales in Canada were up 14.6 percent in June, compared with June 1999. To help handle sales to Cantonese, Jaguar Canada has been adding Cantonese-speaking people to its staff and in its dealerships, Reynolds said.
The dealers like it, Reynolds said.
Bespaly of Grand Touring Automobiles said his dealership will sell 350 new Jaguars this year. It also sells Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars. He may even add another Cantonese-speaking salesperson to his staff of six when the X400 arrives.
You can e-mail Automotive News Staff Reporter Julie Cantwell at [email protected]