Will your ad spending be up or down in 2001, compared with 2000? By what percentage?
We're not going to see a significant budget change from 2000. We want to challenge ourselves to use our ad dollars smarter. We've seen brands get awareness with a smaller budget where some with huge budgets do not succeed.
What media mix do you expect for 2001? How does that compare with 2000?
We really haven't finalized our plans for 2001. It's difficult to give a breakdown now, but I don't think it will change much for 2001. We did 80 percent of our advertising on network TV and will continue to do that. We were print-heavy for the Tribute launch in 2000, but won't be as heavy for 2001. It was our first foray into the 'Zoom-Zoom' brand campaign.
This year TV will be a more critical component because of the emotional appeal it creates. We've been able to get a strong lineup corner on prime-time programs with high viewership frequency. We call it 'appointment' viewing - all the programs people talk about at the water cooler and make a point to see - like 'Ally McBeal,' 'Millionaire' and 'Dateline.' The second strategy is to implement truly integrated marketing programs like our 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?' joint promotion with the Mazda Tribute Sweepstakes in August that included TV, radio, online and print campaigns. It generated more than 70,000 prospects we shared with our dealers. This is the type of integrated promotion we want to do more of.
Is the Internet still a good marketing tool for you? How will you use it in 2001?
There's no question the Internet is a great marketing tool. For us, it's a customer relations management tool. We're really focusing on getting great content and great functionality. We use it to help consumers get information and support them as they move down the purchase funnel. Consumers can build their own vehicle online through our vehicle configurational program. Once they request a quote online, we have an 80 to 90 percent response rate from our dealers to consumers; this is among the highest in the industry. The finale is to begin a real dialogue with our owners instead of them going to the Edmunds.com or KelleyBlueBook.com links. But we're really babes in the woods in that area.
How do you expect rebates and incentives to affect your marketing budget in 2001?
We don't expect rebates and incentives to have an effect on our overall budget. What we're working to do is to find some clever ways to provide added value to our marketing efforts. We want to reinforce our brand and create a demand. So we want to be smart in the media we pick and smart in the incentives we offer - like giving buyers free equipment rather than cash-back incentives. That strategy will vary based on competition. We'll do what we need to stay in the game.
What is the biggest launch you have coming up in 2001? When will it be?
We'll continue our focus on Tribute for 2001 and include it in the rotation all year. But our biggest launch is a new vehicle you'll see arrive sometime in the second to third quarter of this year. It's under wraps, so I have to keep you in suspense, but it's similar to a car that we already sell in Japan. (Mazda has since announced plans for the Protege 5, a hatchback with wagon-like styling.)
What is your major marketing challenge for 2001?
Our No. 1 one challenge is to get this brand going and to get consumers excited about it. Our biggest challenge is real simple: Break through to consumer consciousness. Mazda is not on people's radar screen - not top of mind. We like to say there's a little Miata in every vehicle we make; every vehicle is a blast to drive. Protege is young, hip and cool. But in the last decade consumers have had a hard time understanding what the Mazda brand stood for. We want to make sure all our vehicles deliver one thing to remember. The Mazda Tribute, for example, is about Zoom Zoom, because Mazda is about Zoom Zoom.