By Clark Turner.
‘The baking of’ was without question one of the most talked about ads of 2007.
Remember? The award-winning work featured a collective of master bakers creating a life-size car out of cake, covered with icing, adorned with jelly headlights and with a “full of lovely stuff” strapline – accompanied by the ‘Favourite Things’ soundtrack from The Sound of Music.
For the first time in years the public were buzzing about a car brand that had been at the brunt of jokes for decades and Skoda was cool once again.
The ad however was only part of a much bigger strategy that was conceived around two years go as part of a marketing re-focus.
Head of Marketing for Skoda, Mary Newcombe (pictured), explained that the company was looking to grow the brand from a UK perspective; looking at both the cars they were manufacturing and what they were saying in their marketing communications.
“We’d been busy telling people what we didn’t stand for - and that we were better than they thought - rather than what we did stand for,“ she told us.
“But there comes that point when you have to have confidence in your brand and on closer examination we realised that customer satisfaction played a key role in how we performed.”
Testament to this is the fact that Skoda has been in the top five of the JD Power customer service index of car manufacturers for the past 13 years. The brand also came tops as Britain’s best loved motor in the Auto Express Driver Power 2008 survey.
The result was the creation of a new brand strategy under the slogan ‘Manufacturer of Happy Drivers’.
“We’ve been delivering on customer service not simply with our cars but though our retailers,” explained Newcombe. “It was no secret but we decided to bring our customer service offering to the fore as there were no number of different aspects we could talk about.”
Despite being an extremely bold positoning, communicating the message of how Skoda delivers exceptional customer service has been a relatively easy one to bring to life, being key to the solid brand platform.
“Brand positioning is a long term project, not just for Christmas. It takes a long time to embed brand messages,” Newcombe added.
But what about that cake ad? It was unquestionably a radical move for Skoda. But how did it all come about?
“We were working on our brief for our ad agency (Fallon) and were trying to determine what was the key aspect of the brand we wanted to communicate,” Newcombe revealed. “There was too much to talk about and the best we could come up with was ‘full of great things. I know, it’s an all encompassing, awful brief.
“When Fallon presented back their ideas to us there was a lovely cake at the briefing that kept catching my eye. Then they told me they wanted to make a car out of cake.”
She continued, “I’m a sucker for cake. What’s not to like? But the idea allowed us to demonstrate how every single component was made of lovely stuff and created by artisans.”
“It was also the most frightening advert we’ve ever considered doing. It was all done in real time over four days, and when we finished filming at 2am it was a wonderful moment and felt fantastic.”
Newcombe admits she had no idea how much it would capture the public’s imagination as the supportive marketing swung into action rapidly.
The ad certainly also set the media alight with column inches galore after the PR team took the initiative to send cake tins with ingredients to journalists. Meanwhile a direct marketing campaign from Archibald Ingall Stretton involved chocolate scented air fresheners.
The Skoda website has also been revamped completely to reflect the ‘Manufacturer of Happy Drivers’ positioning. New navigation aims to be user–friendly letting consumers find the information they are searching for quickly and easily, in a few clicks.
“Focusing on ‘happy’ and customer satisfaction didn’t seem a big deal at first, but then we realised it was at the crux of what we are delivering,” Newcombe said. “Any marketer should focus on their brand’s strengths and ‘The Manufacture of Happy Drivers’ is true for us and something we easily stand over.
“Delivering excellent customer service is a strong proposition in this day and age. Marketing positioning and messages don’t have to be high-faluting – just true to the brand.”
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