Revamped Jaguar tries new route to market

Keen to keep costs down but still inspire affluent consumers, Jaguar is ditching TV for an experiential launch strategy involving PR, roadshows and sponsorship.

Jaguar XJ

The launch of the new-look Jaguar XJ sedan last week not only gave the car a facelift but ushered in a different style of marketing for the brand. While previous TV spots showed the cars off in cinematic style, the strategy behind promoting the XJ will rely on sponsorship, roadshows and PR.

Jaguar UK marketing director David Steele claims that “TV just doesn’t have this commercial reach anymore”. Rather than adopting a policy of “out-advertising” its competitors, the car brand hopes to be “influencing the influencers and growing the brand”.

Ditching a TV presence also helps keep spending down. Jaguar, part of Indian firm Tata Motors since March 2008, needs to cut costs. It recently announced its first annual loss of $522m (£322m) in seven years. However, it decided to press ahead with a glitzy launch party for the XJ – which retails for a minimum of £52,000 – in London’s Saatchi Gallery to maximise any PR opportunities.

Steele defends the approach/ “Jaguar has always been a luxury brand that associates itself with glamorous lifestyles, so we need a show like this to encapsulate a luxury experience and influence that audience segment.

“In times of recession, people need that added incentive to consider splashing the cash. This launch is just the first in a series of roadshows to drum up interest in what we are calling the ‘new Jaguar’.”

The XJ is being marketed under the strapline “The all new XJ – the icon reimagined” and Steele has been given his biggest marketing budget to date to help promote the vehicle, which has been revamped for the first time since its original launch in 1968.

Steele admits the brand has struggled in the past: “Parts of our history have been criticised as tarnishing the brand, and we have had some flak for having too many different owners and poor quality production.”

It isn’t just fears over the quality of the cars that might concern potential Jaguar buyers. As well as problems of declining sales and falling profits, Jaguar has been plagued by speculation of mass job losses and extended shutdowns. The company is also still trying to convince the European Investment Bank to provide a loan guarantee that would unlock a £340m advance from the bank.

Steele acknowledges there is “a tough job on our hands”. This is one reason he is beginning his PR push so early; the car itself will not be available until December this year. Jaguar will also use affinity marketing, roadshows, will sponsor Sky’s online coverage of the npower Ashes season and take over most of Heathrow Terminal 5 and some city centres in a major outdoor campaign.

“Like most marketing teams, we’re under pressure to make every pound work harder for us, but we are also trying to reach out to a more affluent audience, so we need to target correctly,” says Steele.

Early indications show the approach is working, with 60% of Jaguar XF purchasers being new Jaguar customers. The XF model, launched last year, also won a car of the year award and topped the JD Power vehicle dependability study.

Paul McGowan, chief marketing officer at brand consultancy Added Value, says the new marketing direction is wise in the current climate: “Critics might not like the change, because they are iconic models of the past, but it is necessary to strike a balance.”

While Jaguar seems unlikely to escape the auto industry’s turmoil altogether, it hopes that adopting a more channel-diverse advertising strategy, will help it survive. Jaguar managing director Mike O’Driscoll sums up the company’s vision as a drive to “make Jaguar, Jaguar again”.

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