Behind Mitsubishi’s ‘small batch’ marketing philosophy
Mitsubishi—which controls a tiny slice of the U.S auto market—is embracing its smallness in hopes of driving big results. The brand has adopted what it calls a “small batch” marketing philosophy that relies on a hyper-targeted, platform-agnostic media approach.
The term small batch has for years been used by food and beverage brands to the point where it has become a bit of a cliché. But it’s a new concept in the auto sector. Kimberley Gardiner, chief marketing officer for MItsubishi Motors North America, has described it as borrowing concepts from direct-to-consumer brands that make the shopping process “easy and fun”—which is not exactly how most people experience car-buying. The brand’s agencies include OMD for media and Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners for creative.
Gardiner—who took the marketing helm a year ago after stints at Kia, Toyota and Lexus—elaborated on small batch during an interview this week at CES. She also touched on how in-car tech is changing the industry and shared some predictions for 2020.
Explain the small-batch approach.
At Mitsubishi we are very much a challenger brand, and we are really trying to take on the industry in some new ways. Small batch is a big example of that. Essentially, it means we are thinking big but we know we are small and we are acting like a small brand would in terms of making things different, changing really everything we do from the marketing process to the shopping process.
How are you using small batch for test-drive marketing?
We try to take a little twist on the traditional ride-and-drive. Rather than targeting large-scale mass executions, we are doing things at a very small scale. For example, we are inviting people in certain neighborhoods that we know who are going to be in our target. We call them the potentialists. So they are optimistic, forward-thinking, open-minded people that are in market for a car
How are you targeting them?
We are targeting those people using a host of different techniques. Some of it is our own first-party data, some of it is third-party data. Some of it is just Polk data looking at particular DMAs to find out what people are going to be in market potentially for segments that we compete in.
That is really the first step is getting the right consumers and getting our cars in front of them. But rather than doing it in big locations, we are trying to dot it small-batch style—so cafés, coffee shops.
How is technology changing the auto industry?
It goes without saying that technology is becoming a really huge part of the vehicle experience, obviously—connected car, content in cars, all kinds of experiences that consumers are engaging with.
Ironically, that actually opens up a new opportunity for us ... because the one thing that people are very much close to is their phone—they are connected to technology every single day. The more that we incorporate that into their everyday driving experience—to really make that a center of their universe—then the car becomes more relevant again, much like it used to be maybe 10 or 20 years ago when if you asked people what is the center of their universe—was it your car, your phone?—back then it was their car. Now, it is more their phone. I actually think talking about cars through lens of technology actually makes it more relevant to consumers.