In the Hutong
Do Marketers Dream of Sheepvertising?
When I wrote in Media in October about Tengzhong acquiring Hummer, GM’s suburban assault vehicle marque, I noted that in addition to the challenge of developing new vehicles and upgrading its lackluster marketing program, Tengzhong would need to completely rehabilitate a brand that had become the poster child of environmental nihilism. As we enter the home-stretch of Zhejiang Geely Holding’s purchase of Volvo from the Ford Motor Company, Geely faces many of the same problems as Tengzhong, but with one more very important issue.
One of Volvo’s greatest assets is its consistent consumer satisfaction, a factor that helps significantly in building repeat business. Repeat business is really important – it drops your customer acquisition cost, and that means you don’t have to spend as much on advertising and other forms of marketing, savings that either go right to the bottom line or to the customer in the form of lower prices. In other words, high satisfaction means greater competitiveness. No rocket science there.
But Volvo’s dependence on its large customer base means that Geely will have a major communications challenge ahead: how to convince millions of Volvo owners around the world to stick with the brand when some Chinese compact-car manufacturer with neither reputation nor brand awareness outside of China starts running the show?
Initial messages have been alright, but have come off in that stilted sort of a way that sounds like they’re playing to the industry, the dealers, the unions, and the street, but forgetting the consumer.
This is a worrying first sign that Geely has a tin-ear for its current marketplace, and is thus ignoring one of Volvo’s great undervalued assets: Volvo owners. Unless Geely is betting on China being Volvo’s only market in the future, or on having to spend a fortune correcting for it’s weak communications, it needs to start tuning into current owners, and right quickly.