Suzuki ran an ad for its SX4 Crossover in 2009 that compared it to the Mini Cooper. “Mightier Than the Mini” the ad proclaimed as it spelled out how the SX4 was superior to its small car competitor. The mission was to create new demand as well as tap into exiting Mini demand (i.e., funnel pre-existing Mini demand to SX4). The ad ran once in Q1 and again in June and received significant air play. Compete analyzed whether the ad drove drive more SX4 shoppers and if so, whether it was able to capture the Mini shoppers Suzuki was targeting.
The ads appear to be generally successful in increasing SX4 Crossover demand, with some caveats. The "Mightier Than The Mini" campaign ran in Q1 2009 and SX4 Crossover shopper counts reached a period high 16,000 in March. That SX4 shopper count best occurred near when Mini shopper counts reached a period high (February). The Mini lift may be the result of Mini advertizing, though both models were recovering from fourth quarter 2008 demand lows, driven in part by the economic meltdown which drove market-wide shopper counts to historic lows. When the ad ran again in June, SX4 Crossover shopper counts improved 10% month-over-month from May, but this time Mini shopper counts fell to a period low 21,500.
While the campaign timing coincided with higher SX4 Crossover demand, the second test is the extent to which it drove more Mini shoppers to consider an SX4 Crossover. To reveal that, Compete analyzed cross-shop behavior of those same Mini and SX4 shoppers. In general, cross-shop levels are very low, suggesting that the Suzuki campaign, if successful, would generate new behavior (rather than re-enforcing existing behavior).
Cross-consideration of the two vehicles reached a 2009 high in March (the same month SX4 Crossover shopper counts peaked). The combination of more shoppers and higher cross-shop with Mini suggests the ads were successful on both target measures"”the first time. In June, when the ad ran the second time) cross-consideration continued a downward path. Success is a relative term: Even at that March high, fewer than 3% of Mini shoppers also shopped a SX4 Crossover. And the period high cross-shopping came in November 2008. Mini may represent an attractive aspirational target to position SX4 against. Unfortunately, consumers don’t necessarily share that sentiment.
Instead, SX4 Crossover is shopped against other Asian small car models such as Fit, Versa and Yaris, in addition to the SX4 Sedan. Those models are consistently in the top 10 cross-shop set of SX4 Crossover shoppers. In June, SX4 Crossover shoppers cross-shopped 117 other models more than the Mini.
Suzuki SX4 — Mightier Than Versa? Suzuki SX4 — Mightier Than Honda Fit?
Mini may be an aspirational target for Suzuki to position the SX4 Crossover against. Its demand is consistently ahead of SX4’s, though Mini demand has softened of late. However, SX4 is not naturally on the radar of most of SX4 shoppers. Hence there are some additional business questions that can be used to further refine the understanding of the success and refinement of the campaign, with a goal of cost-effectively driving sales:
- If the SX4 campaign’s greatest success (March 2009) was due to Mini advertizing driving Mini demand coupled with "Mightier Than" ads channeling some of that demand to the SX4 Crossover, it would make strategic sense to time future runs of the same ad around specific instances when Mini is advertizing (such as around launches of new versions and packages). To validate, compare Mini ad spend with Mini shopper counts.
- With SX4 shoppers pre-disposed to cross-shopping other small Asian brand models, Suzuki may want to consider targeting one of those vehicles in future ads. Because cross-shop levels are already relatively high, the ads could focus on the reasons to buy an SX4 Crossover. Good targets would be vehicles with high demand, such as driven by launch-related ad spend (such as the recently launched 2010 Mazda3) and/or models with poor conversion of shoppers to buyers. Track shoppers, conversion, and sales over time to stay abreast of the best targets.
Dennis Bulgarelli is a Client Services Director at Compete. At Compete Dennis is responsible for advising auto clients on trends in consumer online shopping behavior. Before Dennis joined the Compete team he did research and planning at most of the large ad agencies. Dennis hopes to one day, drive cross- country on the blue highways. Follow Dennis on Twitter @dennisbul or connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/dennisbulgarelli.