How does a carmaker change the public perception of a car that’s not enjoying the best of sales? It’s quite simple: its marketing needs a make-over, with the understanding that what makes a good marketing campaign in the automotive industry hinges upon the prospective customer seeing in a new vehicle exactly what the company wants him to see.
Every car has its flaws, but every car is also good when viewed from a certain perspective. Even the atrocious Toyota Avanza comes across as good if you need something that can carry seven people and you never want to venture outside the city limits.
The Nissan Tiida was another such car. It was originally launched in June 2006, and ever since then there has been some confusion in the industry about whether it is a C-segment (subcompact) or a B-segment (compact) car.
“The important thing is that to a customer, it does not necessarily matter what segment the car is in. The decision to buy is a combination of value for money, attractive design and financial feasibility. But to solve the confusion about the Tiida’s placement, we decreased its price by Bt30,000. This clearly tells customers that this is not a C-segment vehicle in terms of price, but rather it is between the C and B segments,” said Guillaume Langle, senior vice president for marketing and sales at Siam Nissan Thailand.
A brand new marketing campaign for the Tiida was launched last month, with ML Nattakorn Devakula as its brand ambassador, appearing on billboards around Bangkok. The campaign is aimed at impressing upon customers the claim that someone who is 185cm tall finds the Tiida very spacious and that the car meets the requirements of those who are often on the move.
“Nattakorn is someone who is respected by men and liked by woman,” Langle said. “He is also someone we can consider our ideal customer.
“Our surveys have shown that buyers of the Tiida are not those who enjoy a fancy and flamboyant lifestyle. Rather, they are more orderly and focused people and need their vehicles to move things around quite a bit.”
The Tiida, which previously suffered from poor high-speed handling, can now be fitted with a different set of shock absorbers.
“Some of our customers upcountry complained that the rear shock absorbers made loud noises when the car went over bumps. We considered each case individually and gave the customers the choice of fitting a different set of shock absorbers, which seemed to solve the problem,” Langle said.
Although the Tiida is widely considered to be more of a woman’s car, in fact the gender of its buyers is divided evenly between men and women. The company hopes to promote the vehicle as one that is used for everyday work but can also double as a weekend car, because of its versatility. The distinguishing factor of the five-door Tiida hatchback is the rear seats that can be slid back and forth and also tilted.
“The main problem we had was that customers were not aware of the Tiida’s advantages. So our focus is at least to have them come and experience the car. At the Bangkok Motor Show, we sold 470 Tiidas in 10 days, which shows that experiencing the car largely increases the likelihood of selling it,” Langle said.
After the launch of the Tiida’s new marketing campaign, sales reached 450 units last month, up 119 per cent from June. Nissan is confident third-quarter sales will reach 1,500 vehicles, although it has revised downwards its earlier sales target for the year of 6,000, aiming for a more modest 4,500 instead.
Langle admits that in the first half of the year, Nissan focused on the Navara and sidestepped its other products. To correct this situation, the company has provided all dealers with a Tiida and a Teana for demonstration purposes.
“We do not want to be a brand that focuses on selling only pickups or only sedans, like some other Japanese brands in Thailand. Customer perception should be that we sell both types of vehicles. We believe that this is the right way to go as the Thai market matures and more customers turn to sedans with projects like the eco-car,” Langle said.
While Nissan has moved boldly to correct the sluggish sales of the Tiida, very similar problems seem to have visited the company’s flagship sedan, the Teana. Its sales have been low, particularly following the launch of the new Toyota Camry.
“Our customers for the Teana are more ‘executive’ compared to the young and more sporty Toyota Camry customers. We need to create this awareness among our customers. The Teana is our flagship model, as it is the vehicle that customers associate with the brand,” Langle said.