Will your ad spending be up or down in 2001, compared with 2000? By what percentage?
We're expecting at least a 30 percent increase over 2000.
What media mix do you expect for 2001? How does that compare with 2000?
In 2000 we focused primarily on the Grand Vitara launch, and we had more of a consumer print focus. In 2001 it will be our X-L7 launch. The main ad campaign revs up this month. As the year develops, we'll mix it up with the Grand Vitara. The teaser TV ads began in December as X-L7s hit dealer showrooms. The 30-second commercials will run most heavily for the first three months of 2001, as will the print ads. The mix will be primarily TV - national, cable and spot TV - some print, and we will have an enthusiast's print schedule.
Is the Internet still a good marketing tool for you? How will you use it in 2001?
The Internet is an expanding tool for us. We have 400 dealers nationwide now, and we've been working to increase that level. We're looking to expand our company-to-consumer and business-to-business function for our dealers. We're directing visitors to good product information, and to our dealers. We're definitely watching what consumers say they need and want. We know they use the Internet as a research tool, but we're not going to be selling them on the Net. Of course, when you've got Amazon.com saying you can buy a car on Amazon, the whole industry is holding its breath.
How do you expect rebates and incentives to affect your marketing budget in 2001?
We're not anticipating any rebates and incentives at launch. You certainly want to be competitive, but you don't want to set the pace for that. On the marketing and sales side, Suzuki has never had to do that or chosen to offer rebates. Consumers know they already have great value with our products. The X-L7, for example, is priced under $20,000; when you go to the top level it's under $25,000, so people know they're getting a good deal. We'll obviously watch the market. Things change every day. That's why we love the auto industry.
What is the biggest launch you have coming up in 2001? When is it?
The X-L7 is our biggest launch throughout the year. The launch started in early November with a press intro, then a dealer intro in mid-November. We have the reputation of being a small maker/marketer. This launch pushes us more mainstream. We look for our new product intro to speed us up a great deal. The X-L7 went on sale in mid-December. For now, we're putting our money on the X-L7. That's our flagship, and it shows you can offer a vehicle that looks stylish, has safety benefits, but without 'mom' persona - and it's maneuverable, not a behemoth. The whole thing creates a package that we say fit both budget and lifestyle.
What is your major marketing challenge for 2001?
The biggest challenge is that the SUV category is very crowded. Smaller players like Suzuki have to reach through the clutter and get people into dealerships to see our products. I think our new 'It Fits' ad campaign (for the X-L7) is going to help jog memories and cut through the clutter. It's humorous and leaves you clearly understanding that what you saw was a new Suzuki.
We find that when people put Suzuki on their shopping list and do a test drive, the vehicle is more than halfway sold. We pride ourselves on attracting a consumer who is value-savvy, understands reliability and doesn't want to make a huge investment of $40,000. These are people who are trying to be smart in how they invest their time and money.