Can Qoros Inspire Confidence In a New Chinese Auto Brand?

BBH Campaign Pitches Perfectionism to Persuade Consumers to Buy a Local Car With International Ambitions

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China's new premium car brand, Qoros, faces a double-barreled challenge. It has to convince local car buyers to take a chance on a brand their neighbors don't yet drive. Even tougher, it must persuade them that "made in China" can mean high quality.

BBH China's TV commercial for the launch of the carmaker's first product, the Qoros 3 Sedan, explains how designers built a prototype, decided it could be better, scrapped it and started over.

Executives at Qoros Auto Co., a Shanghai-based venture between China's Chery Automobile Co. and investment company Israel Corp., wanted to show "the spirit behind how we make cars, which is a relentless pursuit of quality," said Jamie Ahn, head of branding and advertising for Qoros.

Though many people know Qoros is 50%–owned by China's Chery, Ms. Ahn said, "we want to position ourselves more as an international company that strives toward the highest quality innovation and international standards."

The commercial shows a designer ripping a car blueprint from the wall and feeding it through a paper shredder. Meanwhile, an actual car gets shredded as well, revealing the improved model beneath.

China has yet to produce a car brand to gain international acceptance, but Qoros aims to be the first. While some Chinese cars have performed poorly on European crash tests, Qoros' sedan achieved 5 stars in EuroNCAP standards and won its highest safety rating this year.

The company hired many foreigners, including design head Gert Hildebrand, who previously helped rework the Mini for BMW. Qoros designers are based in Shanghai and Munich. Its sedan is already selling in Slovakia, and the brand plans to expand elsewhere in Europe in 2015.

In China, Qoros plans to have 40 dealerships by the year's end. To stand out in a cluttered market, BBH focused on the designers' perfectionism and stayed away from standard fare "like the cliché of a car racing around meandering roads, or a happy family jumping up and down, or a supermodel-looking couple" on a drive, said Johnny Tan, BBH China executive creative director.

"The perception of Chinese-made anything is usually of lower-quality," he said. "So the first and foremost duty of our communications is to introduce a certain level of credibility and to showcase what this car is about in an authentic way, without the hard sell."

BBH also prepared print ads and short films around last month's launch. Its partner agencies are Mindshare for media and Agenda, part of WPP's Wunderman network, for digital.

The sedan's starting price is about $19,600 – close to the median price of cars in China's market, said Jochen Siebert, managing director of China-specialized JSC Automotive Consulting Co.

Siebert said Qoros straddles a line that may confuse consumers: It has to be Chinese enough to satisfy the government's desire for a great homegrown car brand, but European enough to overcome consumers' trust issues about locally made cars.

In a country where image is important, Qoros has a big selling point, Mr. Siebert said: "In my opinion this car looks more expensive than it is."

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