Skoda campaign drops VW link

Skoda is dropping its brand repositioning campaign associating it with its parent, Volkswagen Group, in the delayed launch promotion for its Felicia range.

Managing director Dermot Kelly says last year’s appearance of the new Felicia hatchback, developed with VW, represented a perfect opportunity to broaden Skoda’s appeal to UK motorists.

Ambitious plans had to be curtailed, however, when Skoda cut supplies to export markets to combat the rapidly growing share of the Czech market taken by car rivals such as Ford and GM. They were exploiting the six-month waiting list which built up for the new Felicia.

“We should have received 12,000 Felicias in 1995,” says Kelly, “but we only received 5,300. To maintain supplies to our dealers, we had to stockpile Favorits and continue selling them long after the Felicia was introduced.”

The delay prompted Skoda to extend the press and poster ad campaign which sought to change motorists’ perceptions of the brand, rather than promoting the all-too-scarce Felicias.

Kelly says brand loyalty is second only to Mercedes-Benz, yet years of jokes about outdated product design had taken their toll, with most car-buyers not prepared to take Skoda seriously.

Confused public perceptions had not been helped by the decision not to fit Skoda badges to the Favorit range that replaced the crude rear-engined Estelle in 1990. Sales were largely restricted to pragmatic older buyers with a “down-to-earth ap-proach” and a disregard for other people’s opinions.

Advertising manager Paul Hunter says: “National strategy moves on from the VW family theme. We have passed a critical benchmark, with more than half of motorists knowing Skoda is part of the VW group. We can’t hang on to their shirt tails forever, so with this new TV campaign we are seeking to broaden our customer base and create our own brand image that positions Skoda as the pragmatic, down-to-earth, honest alternative.”

A 4m TV ad campaign of six commercials to promote the Skoda Felicia launches on Monday through Grey Communications. The ads feature people who explain how the car fits their lifestyle.

TV advertising will be supported by ads in Gardeners’ World, Country Walking, Saga, Local Government News and the Times Educational Supplement.

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