Suzuki had long suffered the ‘middle market’ problem; trusted European premium brands dominated at one end, and at the other, the traditional Japanese “high tech-low cost” position, had been claimed by the Korean brands Hyundai and Kia.
Breaking through the middle of the mass required distinctive communications, yet going alone had proven to fall short of the mark, it had to leverage a partnership with a trusted and credible property, whose endorsement of Suzuki could instantly propel the brand to the famous status it sought.
To find this perfect asset, it began by accepting the hard truth behind the brand. With cars like the Jimny, Suzuki resonated with quirky people, who didn’t take themselves or their cars too seriously. For them ‘Why’ they travelled, was even more important than ‘How’ they travelled. The purpose trumped the pleasure. This as an attitude to driving was most prevalent in the surprisingly neglected family car buyer segment of the market. So it committed everything to them.
Ironically with less driving tech at the wheel, what also stood out to them was just how fun Suzuki’s were to drive, in fact the sale rate after a test drive was second to none, at 70%.
The7stars' communications had to show just how fun Suzuki’s were both as a brand and as a car to drive.
‘You can’t tell people you’re funny, you have to make them laugh...’
The agency's strategy was to create fame and show the brands ‘fun’ personality by connecting with popular family entertainment.
ITV’s iconic Saturday night entertainment programming was tonally perfect at this – delivering a style of humour which appealed to the family target. Yet it didn’t want any entertainment sponsorship that could easily be misattributed to any other family fitting car brand. The challenge was to engage with the crown jewels of ITV, which wasn’t the shows but their talent, or more specifically, Ant & Dec.
To give Suzuki a platform proven to get the country giggling, the7stars would strike a deal with ITV AdVentures to sponsor and use IP from Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway (SNT). This would give unprecedented access to Ant & Dec, and allow the use of pranks and challenges seen in the show to be adapted and used as part of the campaign – a UK TV first.
Not only would this allow the brand to sponsor the duo in their biggest ITV show, though it also allowed it to use their own production teams and writers to produce content for Suzuki featuring Ant & Dec being themselves, that could run on TV, across branded channels on mobile and social, and in dealerships across the country.
This significant partnership was brokered over two years, to allow real commitment from both the brand and the talent, maximising the authenticity of the endorsement.
Over a period of three days, it captured hours of footage featuring Ant, Dec and two Suzuki Vitaras in a series of skits, challenges and pranks. Rather than a traditional media campaign, the distribution of entertainment content was mirrored and #SuzukiSaturdays was born.
From this the agency produced 10 short films for TV, each to be aired only once. Placing two of these spots each week on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, before then airing them on ITV within key Saturday night primetime family programming. These spots focused on Ant & Dec’s pranks and worked as short sketches where the Vitara was always part of the fun.
On 20th February 2016, series 13 of SNT launched, featuring Suzuki sponsorship bumpers which extended the fun of the show into the ad break; viewers naturally loved it.
To take advantage of the social chatter in the afternoon prior to each episode of SNT, the agency released a longer film from its own seven-part exclusive online series - Suzuki’s Saturday Afternoon Takeover - through Suzuki’s YouTube and Facebook channels.
Broadcast TV was also used to distribute one-of-a-kind episodic content every Saturday evening.
This extensive sponsorship and licensing deal also meant that the fun could live off screen too, so #SuzukiSaturdays was taken around the country in a nationwide roadshow. Dealers jumped at the opportunity to embrace the Ant & Dec antics on the shop floor with many making localised #SuzukiSaturdays events.
This amplified sponsorship was the only branding activity Suzuki had running across Jan – March of 2016. Running in isolation to track results against previous years of traditional media, the results prove that when done right, content can drive conversion, even for high-ticket items:
• The sales rate for the Vitara (the model featured in the campaign) rose 38% between Q4 2015 and Q1 2016, selling just shy of 3,500 units in Q1.
• Suzuki car sales overall were up 14% vs. total automotive market growth 4% for the same period (Source SMMT registration sales data).
• Vitara’s share of the SUV and Crossover segment rose by 26% over the campaign period.
• Positive opinion of Suzuki rose from 9% to 14% in only three months. (Source: The Nursery, Brand Tracking).
• Brand consideration reached 44% during the campaign, the highest it’s ever been. (Source: The Nursery, Brand Tracking).
• Voted joint second by National Franchised Dealer Association (NFDA), keeping company with Mercedes and Lexus - the number 1 non-premium brand in the survey.
• YouTube best in class results for Purchase Intent, achieving 45.2% uplift amongst exposed viewers vs. control group (YouTube Brand Uplift study).