Porsche gears up for major marketing push

Ads launch this weekend at Millionaire Fair

By Published on .

SHANGHAI--Jebsen & Co., the Porsche importer for China, is gearing up for a major marketing push to promote its sportiest models in a country that historically has not been a major market for sports cars. China's road system is poorly maintained and frequently jammed.

But the world's fastest-growing auto market does have a lot of rich consumers eager to flaunt their wealth with status symbols. More than 300,000 Chinese are worth more than $1 million, according to Merrill Lynch. While these nouveau riche consumers likely have a chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz or BMW, sports car makers like Porsche are betting they're ready to start investing in a flashier second or third car.

Sales volume in China "isn't big," said Mark Bishop, Jebsen's managing director for China, but "China is going through such dramatic changes. The economy is continuing to grow at a staggering rate, so strategically it's quite an important market as one of our top growth opportunities."

Of the 88,379 cars Porsche sold last year, only 857 were in China, but that figure was a 200% increase over 2004 sales, and this year, the company hopes to sell 1,350 cars in the mainland.

"That's our goal," said Mr. Bishop, who relocated to Shanghai 16 months ago from Dubai, where he oversaw Porsche's development in the Middle East, "but I"m pretty confident we"ll go past it."

The campaign, created by Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, Shanghai, was designed to get Chinese to view Porsche more as a sports car. While its image is firmly established in developed markets, 80% of Porsche buyers in China take home a Cayenne, a sports utility vehicle.

"Cayenne doesn't look like a sports car," said a DDB executive in Shanghai. "In that sense, there is an identity problem. When people talk about Porsche in a Western country, they think 911 or Carrera but when they hear about Porsche in China, they don't think of those models."

Also, he added, "roads in China are not friendly to sports cars, sometimes driving here is more like off-road conditions in the West, so the Cayenne is more adaptive to local road conditions."

The tilt towards SUV sales "is not surprising for a developing market and culture that's more about being driven than doing the driving but we're seeing sports car sales come up in numbers," he said.

New creative, both corporate image and product ads, and below-the-line events promoting smaller cars like the 911 will break this weekend at the first Millionaire Fair in China, a lifestyle event organized in major cities by Amsterdam-based Gijrath Media.

Porsche is talking to other luxury marketers about co-organizing events, and invites potential consumers to a 16-day road show at Shanghai's Grand Prix circuit. That event gives 40 Chinese per day a chance to live the lifestyle by getting behind the wheel in a protected environment and receive training from Chinese and German instructors.

"We are exclusive and have to maintain that exclusivity, but in China it helps to let people touch and feel us," said Mr. Bishop.
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