"As customer tastes and expectations change, and Mazda moves itself to a new, more premium position in the industry, it is critical that Mazda be laser-focused in our approach to how we tell our proud brand story at every touch point in the customer's journey with us," said Masahiro Moro, Mazda North American Operations CEO, in a release announcing Bernacchi's appointment.
Mazda's new hire mirrors last week's move by Kia, which hired another Detroit marketing veteran, Saad Chehab, to lead its U.S. marketing. Chehab, the creative mind behind some of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' most memorable ads, joins Kia ahead of the launch of the Stinger GT, a performance car that Kia hopes will solidify its image as a legitimate producer of luxury vehicles, and not just value-priced small cars.
The newly created chief marketing officer role at Mazda adds a position between Moro, who also acts as Mazda's global chief marketing officer, and Russell Wager, vice president of marketing for Mazda North American Operations. Wager, who will report to Bernacchi, will continue to oversee Mazda's "external communications activities."
Mazda spokesman Thomas McDonald said Wager will retain his day-to-day responsibilities and "traditional marketing roles," while Bernacchi will focus on the overall Mazda Premium brand positioning and long-term strategy. Bernacchi, he said, was "absolutely not" hired to take over Wager's position.
Bernacchi has spent 23 years in marketing and communications positions at such companies as Harley-Davidson Motor Co., General Motors, Visteon Corp. and Detroit-based advertising firm Campbell Ewald.