Struggling Ford Motor Co., which sold off niche luxe British brand Aston Martin a few months ago, signaled last week its two other British car brands, Jaguar and Land Rover, are also on the block. If these once-prestigious marques are going to be rescued, the new owner will have to avoid making the marketing missteps of the current owner.
Where did Ford go wrong? Mainly by treating them like Fords -- except in terms of actually investing in their marketing. The parent tried to manage them like it does its mass-market lines by sharing basic vehicle underpinnings, called platforms, and adding some variations in an attempt to differentiate models.
That was a classic case of operational thinking getting in the way of smart differentiation strategy, said Susan Jacobs, president of consultant Jacobs & Associates.
The most glaring example of this strategy at work -- or not working, as the case turned out to be -- was Jaguar's entry-level X-Type sports sedan, Ms. Jacobs and two other auto experts agreed. The automaker wanted to boost Jaguar's sales volume, so it dipped into its global parts bin and launched the affordable X-Type in 2001.
But the all-wheel-drive car had a bit too much European Ford Mondeo in it and didn't fit with Jaguar's heritage, said Charlie Hughes, president of consultant BrandRules and co-author of auto tome "Brand Rules." He dubbed the philosophy a "mass-merchandise mentality" that has hurt Jaguar "monstrously."
Ford has done a better job with Land Rover, which it acquired from Germany's BMW in 2000 for $2.7 billion. Still, the smaller, first-generation Freelander SUV, which arrived in late 2001, was compromised, partly because of inherited product plans from BMW, said Wes Brown, VP of consultant Iceology. And while the LR2 model is very popular in Southern California, it's not as distinctive-looking as past models. Yet, he said, "Land Rover owns the luxury SUV segment."
The one area the brands in which did not get the Ford treatment, was the ad budget. In calendar 2006, Ford spent $59.9 million on Jaguar; Land Rover got $111 million, according to TNS. Land Rover sold nearly 48,000 new vehicles in the U.S. last year, up 3.5% from '05, while Jaguar's sales plummeted 32% to 20,683, according to Automotive News.
While $111 million may pale in comparison to the money spent marketing Ford pickups, it's a decent chunk for the luxury market.
By comparison, Audi of America was backed by $100 million in U.S. measured media in 2005 (it only received $47 in 2006 during in the midst of an agency review). The difference is Audi sold 90,116 units last year.
The parent also rotated its people through various posts at Land Rover and Jaguar. Both brands have seen a variety of top marketers, resulting in changing ad directions and ad agencies. Land Rover is handled by Y&R, Irvine, Calif. Havas' Euro RSCG/Fuel handles Jag.
Despite the travails of both high-end specialty brands, they could flourish with the right strategies because both have strong brand histories, the experts agreed.
Marketing mechanicsAnalysts say Jaguar and Land Rover can succeed. Here's how.
- Decide how the brand is unique; only develop products that fit that strategy: "Luxury consumers are much more educated, so you better damn well know who you are."
-- Wes Brown, VP, Iceology
- Plot realistic vehicle volumes matched to profitability goals: "Jaguar has to find a way to be profitable on fairly lower volumes, like Porsche or Ferrari."
-- Susan Jacobs, president, Jacobs & Associates
- Sell separately: "If Land Rover and Jaguar are sold, they ought to be separated at rebirth. Each one needs a lot of focus and attention and require different skill sets."
-- Charlie Hughes, president, BrandRules