The deal: As part of an ad campaign that pairs its line of cars with its more recognizable motorcycles, American Suzuki Motor Corp. has produced the film "The Briefcase," which will be shown online in episodic installments.
The result: The slickly produced series, which heavily targets young males, should only help Suzuki revamp its image in the U.S. from that of a mere motorcycle maker.
|Biker baes, a mysterious briefcase and Suzuki's cars -- yes, cars -- are key elements in the company's online movie series.
Branded entertainment can be a funny thing, especially if it's in the form of a short film or web series. If done correctly, the projects show off a brand's products, attributes and give viewers a sense of the company's overall identity -- or at least the identity marketers want to portray.
Suzuki thinks its identity is cool and slick, an image the company is promoting in "The Briefcase," a film it produced with commercial-production entity Aero Film. The movie launched at SuzukiFilms.com in December.
It's not necessarily a bad image to have, as its motorcycles are ridden through the desert by leather-clad biker babes and its cars and crossovers driven by Men's Fitness magazine cover models eager to get into a car chase at a moment's notice. Of course, there's pounding rock music to accompany all that.
The film, broken up into cliffhanger-ending episodes, revolves around Rusty and David, who must face off against a handful of biker chicks who want a metal briefcase the two men are carrying. What's in the coveted case remains a secret in the four episodes that have been posted on the website so far. More episodes are planned.
All of it is very tongue in cheek, though production values are top-notch. The biker babes work for an organization called the World Bureau of Espionage, and back stories for other characters show them growing up on llama ranches or in nunneries or riding giant iguanas. Either way, the entire production -- from its attractive cast, purposefully cheesy dialogue and impressive stunt work -- is designed to appeal to 18- to 30-year-old males.
Of course, one can't talk about Suzuki's effort without bringing up BMW's film series "The Hire," which brilliantly beefed up that automaker's image with something consumers hadn't seen before and ultimately enjoyed.
Is Suzuki's film project better than what BMW produced? Hardly. But it's a completely different animal.
Where each BMW film stood on its own, with a self-contained story and a changing cast of actors and high-profile directors, each Suzuki segment contributes to an overall story, and each installment ends in a suspenseful fashion that aims to keep consumers coming back for more.
And you do want to watch more -- probably because the episodes are only 90 seconds to 150 seconds long.
"The Briefcase" helps Suzuki highlight its 2007 line of vehicles -- the Grand Vitara SUV, the redesigned XL7 midsize crossover and the new SX4 small hatchback, as well as the Boulevard M109 motorcycle, are the real stars. In one chase scene through a warehouse, the company proves that even the smallest Suzuki car boasts some serious moves.
Viewership so far has been paltry, but "The Briefcase" only hit the web in December and hasn't been backed by any notable marketing effort. A link doesn't even appear on SuzukiAuto.com, the company's official website.
On YouTube, a mere 3,599 people had viewed the first episode as of Feb. 6. On iFilm, the episode had been viewed by 32 people.
An edited version of the film's second episode (showing two characters racing across a white desert and swapping their black SUV and motorcycle) has run on TV and in movie theaters.
If the point of "The Briefcase" is to generate some cool points with consumers, Suzuki may be on the right track as it tries to move 100,000 vehicles in a year for the first time since launching in the U.S. in 1985. The series should help the company continue to boost brand awareness, which rose more than 30% among U.S. consumers in the past year. Buyer consideration has also grown 15% during that time frame, executives have said.
But Suzuki needs to get the word out that the film exists. BMW marketed its project well, and that venture paid off handsomely for the company and still has marketing mavens talking.