All roads lead to the Internet for Stephen Berkov, Director Brand Marketing & Innovation for Audi of America Inc., who refrains from using the word “target” as much as possible, instead concentrating on psychographics.
But hold on, he’s as practical as he is esoteric. In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with MarketingSherpa, Berkov brings his complex and oft-copied multichannel strategies down to earth.I. Realign All Media to Reflect Online
To Berkov, the Web isn’t merely a role player contributing to sales alongside TV commercials, radio spots, billboards and direct mail. On the contrary, those channels revolve around online like the planets around the sun.
“I don’t see things as old media [versus] new media,” he says. “People are having experiences with media throughout the day, and you know people will be looking at the Web at work or at home. Rather than television, I see the Web as the hub or the core. It is *the* communications broker.”
Yet, at the end of the day, clicks will only do so much to secure the jobs of people like Berkov. Indeed, his team has to keep a steady stream of leads funneling into Audi dealerships across the country, and they can’t simply rely on the clicks they get from Edmunds.com.
Here are five specific tactics that Berkov and his team employ to generate leads:
-> Instead of big spends on national TV ads, Audi creates large-scope brand awareness at Yahoo!’s main page, while also running video spots at Forbes.com/video.
-> Ads within the Yahoo! Mail system hone in on prospects in the local TV sense, pinpointing leads and encouraging them to visit nearby dealerships.
-> Audi places ads in magazines like Details and New Yorker as part of deals they have online as well as other offline opportunities. It’s more profitable for them to court demographics within periodicals about fashion, politics and fiction than it is to advertise in publications like Car and Driver.
-> Ongoing focus groups keep Berkov in touch with what potential and current customers think of the direction of their products.
-> Enewsletter campaigns go out to opted-in Audi enthusiasts, providing them glimpses of upcoming models.
A melding of these promotions -- with the Web as the centerpiece -- has created an Audi model for experiential marketing, or customer experiences coming together to generate leads. Berkov’s team even has a General Manager of Experiential Marketing.
“I want my media managers to be in love with the complexity of how the mix comes together,” he explains. “If you know your brand’s psychographics really well, and what each of these other mediums offer the [online] hub, then you know how your psychographic will use each media.”II. “Human CRM,” Not Targets
Berkov’s team don’t talk about their customers as targets. “I don’t think they’d like that. All of us are sort of sophisticated in marketing. We do our thing and then we go home. On the way home we see billboards, we see different magazine ads and we see the newspapers -- and all of the sudden it starts smelling like we are being targeted. Marketers can become too ambitious for their own good and end up pushing people away.”
Berkov uses a concept they call “Human CRM,” which is the practice of putting more thoughtfulness into how customers will react to marketing and worry less about lead numbers and ROI. It also helped their perspective that they’ve become immersed in customer culture within the car-crazy Southern California region.
It wasn’t always that way, as they were once headquartered in Audi of America’s main offices half an hour south of Detroit. But armed with reports that Californians are about five times as likely to drive a high-end import car than the rest of the country, Berkov convinced his bosses to let him move a small staff to Audi’s product design facility in Santa Monica. From there, they watch import cars roll up to private jets at the facility’s own airstrip.
By leaving Detroit, Berkov’s team can better execute the philosophies of Human CRM. They invited the Southern California Audi Club to a sneak preview of upcoming Audi products. Largely pitched via email, three times as many people showed up as expected. Berkov even has been known to converse with Audi owners at stoplights in Los Angeles.
“Southern Californians express themselves through cars,” he says. “They will try new things -- and if those products stick, they will definitely end up on the East Coast, work their way South and up through the Midwest.”
In addition, Audi PR was moved from Michigan to New York, allowing the department to be immersed in its key psychographic. III. Marketing to the ‘Prestige’ Crowd
What the terms “luxury” and “prestige” mean to marketing are different, Berkov says. If you want to identify with the prestige set, your brand had better not communicate “innovation for innovation’s sake” or other forced ideas.
“Luxury is a little bit about frivolity and comfort. On the other hand, prestige is about authenticity. This isn’t about having gold seatbelt buckles and cushy leather. This is about not standing in line because my time is really valuable. It’s about how much can I get done today and get back home to be with the people I want to be with.”
Berkov has found that prestige shoppers:
o Do a lot of reading on a BlackBerry or Palm Treo, so make sure your messages fit their formats. (Think text-only options for email.)
o Prefer to be in control of the marketing they receive. (Establish one-to-one communications to find out if they want to receive information via email, magazines, direct mail, etc.)
o Respond to advertising with a look and feel that challenges conventionality.
o Use Macs over PCs. IV. Road Shows Taken Up a Notch
Berkov’s team put together an unconventional road show earlier this year to promote the all-terrain Audi Q7, visiting 10 key markets.
Like most of their efforts, this wasn’t a cookie-cutter rollout. Each event had a local twist to engage attendees. Cartoonists from the New Yorker sketched their stylistic depictions of guests in the Big Apple. The Dallas event took place at Southfork Ranch, the location for the iconic primetime soap opera “Dallas.” In San Francisco, they teamed with Fast Company magazine to give a demonstration on how to use the iPhoto program.
The road show was also an opportunity to see the Audi prospect and customer community in prestige settings and go after trendsetters. “We could have done them in spaces that were cheaper, but we said, ‘No, we have to do it at that place,’ ” Berkov says. “These are people who want not what’s new, but what’s next.” Useful links related to this article
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Audi’s agency of record:
Audi of America: