SAN FRANCISCO – For an automotive brand to be successful, people not only have to know about it, but also consider buying one of its cars.
While Mitsubishi has about the same general-market awareness as Mazda in the U.S., not enough Americans are willing to buy one of the brand’s models.
“We’re not on people’s radar, we’re not on their shopping lists,” Francine Harsini, director-marketing for Mitsubishi Motors North America tells media here at a ’16 Outlander preview.
After research two years ago showed car buyers had no perception of the brand, rather than a bad one, Mitsubishi has been working toward consistent, unified messaging for its advertising.
Harsini says this hasn’t always been easy due to a revolving door of marketing executives and an advertising budget dwarfed by those of the Japanese and Detroit Three.
For the launch of the refreshed ’16 Outlander compact CUV, Mitsubishi believes the vehicle and the ad campaign it has crafted for it will break through the industry clutter and get Americans wanting to put a Mitsubishi in their garages.
Dubbed “100 Spokespeople,” the CUV’s oftentimes funny campaign touts its 100 updates from ’15 to ’16.
“We knew when we set out to work with (agency 180 of Los Angeles) on a new creative position and campaign we simply couldn’t do the same thing. We couldn’t blend in,” Harsini says, adding prior spots that focused on safety left Mitsubishi in “a sea of sameness.”
So as not to downplay the new Outlander’s safety attributes, but also tout its improvements in other areas, including driving dynamics and styling, each spokesperson has a profession or identity that relates to an area of improvement.
For example, in a rough-cut TV commercial shown to media here, an actor playing a plastic surgeon discusses the CUV’s redesigned front fascia.
“As a plastic surgeon it pains me to say this: I wouldn’t change a thing,” the actor says while crouched down examining the vehicle’s front end.
In another spot, a ninja dips his head down through the Outlander’s moonroof and stealthily moves around and inside the vehicle to play up a quieter cabin.
A ballerina represents the CUV’s suspension, an Inuit its windshield de-icer.
“They’re kind of fun and it’s a bit of a different take,” Harsini says. “I don’t have the dollars that Honda and Toyota have, so we’ve got to make the spots (different).”
The campaign encompasses many platforms including cable television, streaming and point-of-sale materials.
On social media, gifs, short animated clips, will be used, while current Mitsubishi owners will receive emails promoting the ’16 Outlander.
“We have to be where the consumer is,” Harsini says of the leave-no-stone-unturned campaign.
100 Spokespeople launches Aug. 1, although the ’16 Outlander’s own page on the brand’s consumer website, mitsubishicars.com, debuts June 18.
The brand intends to consistently promote the Outlander and its smaller sibling, the Outlander Sport, as its flagship and co-flagship models given the popularity of the CUV segment in the U.S.
Harsini says she likely will let the 100 Spokespeople campaign run through the end of the year before switching to a national push on the Outlander Sport early next year, then switching back to messaging on the Outlander.
She won’t reveal how much Mitsubishi is spending on the 100 Spokespeople campaign, but says it’s the automaker’s biggest ad campaign in terms of spending since launching the ’14 Outlander in June 2013.