DETROIT -- American Honda Motor Co. will increase the marketing budget for its Acura division by 50 percent in 2010 vs. year-ago spending, says Steven Center, the company's vice president of advertising and public relations.
Most of Acura's marketing budget will be spent on advertising that emphasizes new products.
"Our messaging for years has been too ill-focused and not about the product," Center said last month at the Detroit auto show. "The ads weren't making the point and the point is: What is it about Acura that makes it better?"
Acura spent $264.1 million on measured media in the first 11 months of 2009, up 16.5 percent from the year-ago period, according to Advertising Age via Kantar Media, formerly TNS Media Intelligence. Advertising Age is a sister publication of Automotive News.
Much of the budget increase will be directed at the ongoing launch of the ZDX five-door hatchback and new, front-wheel-drive versions of the RDX crossover and the TSX wagon. The TSX goes on sale this fall. Center said Acura still will use its "Advance" tag line but put more emphasis on exclusive features, such as the brand's patented body structure system, high residual values and a surround-sound audio system.
Center said Acura's awareness levels have been consistently high, but consumers didn't perceive it being as prestigious as other luxury brands.
Center said the awareness/opinion gap is closing, albeit slowly.
In a study conducted from June to August 2009, GfK Custom Research North America found that 78 percent of respondents were aware of the Acura brand, but only 28 percent rated the brand as "excellent." That was up from six months earlier, when Acura's awareness was 74 percent and 26 percent of respondents rated it excellent.
In comparison, 86 percent of respondents in the same study were aware of BMW, and 54 percent rated the German carmaker excellent. And 80 percent were aware of Lexus, and 48 percent gave it an excellent rating.
"We want to have the emotion of BMW without the hardware," Center said.
Acura sold 105,723 new vehicles in the United States in 2009, down 27 percent from 2008. Last month, the brand sold 7,132 vehicles, down 9 percent from January 2009.