Suzuki: We Don't Just Market Cycles

Episodic campaign aims to extend bike attributes to brand's other vehicles

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Suzuki sells cars too.

Owning up to the fact that it's best-known as a motorcycle brand, American Suzuki Motor Corp., for the first time since it began marketing both cars and cycles here in 1986, is beginning to link the two in an integrated blitz that breaks today on national TV cable networks.

It's a strategy the marketer didn't take lightly. "There were some people at our company and our ad agency concerned our motorcycle heritage would not be relevant to the car side," said Suzuki's Gene Brown, who arrived as VP-marketing in March from Nissan North America.

So the automaker directed Dentsu's Colby & Partners, Santa Monica, Calif., to research how far the ads could tie cycles to cars. The agency, which handles both accounts, conducted focus groups with storyboards showing ads with no motorcycles, some with motorcycles shown very explicitly, and several in between, Mr. Brown said. One of the in-between executions won out and became the campaign, which carries the lines "Are our cars as much fun as our bikes?" and "It's going to be a great ride."

The blitz will include an episodic, espionage thriller that begins with Suzuki's first cinema ad Dec. 8 and will run through the holidays and at well into the first quarter. The work showcases a competition between a man in a Suzuki vehicle and a woman on a Suzuki cycle.

Wes Brown, analyst at consultant Iceology said that cross-promoting cars with Suzuki cycles that are perceived by the consumer as reliable, fast and a good value seems like a smart idea. "Why fight something that is a very great perception of your brand?" he said, citing how Honda successfully advertised the Civic in the 1980s by tying into technology learned from its Formula 1 racing participation.

He cautioned, however, that Suzuki's car models must reflect the "fun" related to its cycles in the ads.

Suzuki's Mr. Brown used the word "exciting" to describe the three 2007 models featured in the ads-the Grand Vitara SUV, the redone XL7 midsize crossover SUV and new S4 compact cross-over-saying they are "much more in keeping where out motorcycles have always been."

Suzuki spent $47 million in measured media in the first half of 2006 compared to $39 million for the same period a year ago, and $93 million in calendar 2005, according to TNS media Intelligence.

The automaker reported last week that its U.S. September sales jumped by 11% vs. a year ago.
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