Mazda should stop advertising, start branding

Malaysia’s January automotive sales nose dived 12% to 44,591 units although this was expected after the record highs of December 2015. Japanese firms were hardest hit with Toyota sales down 27%, followed by Nissan 22% and Honda down 12%.

It'll take more than a new logo and a dubious tagline to stop Proton's slide
It’ll take more than a new logo and a dubious tagline to stop Proton’s slide

Proton continued its slide with sales down 13%. And even though Perodua sold less cars this Janaury than it did in 2015, the relative newcomer to the industry saw its market share increase to 35% giving it more than double Proton’s market share. In an effort to stem the bleeding, Proton has created a new logo and tagline but Perodua is undeniably Malaysia’s number one automotive company.

Mercedes Benz sales went through the roof with a year on year increase of 139%. Mercedez Benz sold 1,027 units in January 2016, up from 430 in January 2015. Mercedes Benz was the only top 15 brand to sell more cars in January 2015 than it did in December 2015.

BMW and Audi probably spend more on traditional advertising than any of the other luxury brands and have been particularly active recently but neither brand was able to match the performance of Mercedes Benz. Audi sales were down over 40% in January over the previous month although they did manage a modest 9% gain over January 2015.

BMW fared better with a gain of 23% over January 2015 but compared to December 2015, sales were down 25%. This fall in sales would probably explain why BMW is now offering a longer warranty although anecdotal evidence suggests the BMW brand is losing its lustre in the local market.

But of most interest to me was the performance of Mazda. Mazda has come from nowhere to take 3% of the market share in Malaysia, up from 1% five years ago. This is an extraordinary feat because Mazda spends very little on advertising. Which is probably just as well because the advertising they do revolves around the words ‘ZOOM ZOOM’ and poorly written copy.

Seriously, what is this ad saying?
Seriously, what is this ad saying?

For instance ‘A new era of driving experience’ doesn’t make sense. The copy begins, ‘New levels of freedom, new levels of versatility. New levels of pure enjoyment on the road.’ Obviously the person who wrote that doesn’t drive on the roads of KL. Certainly not during the daily commute or on a wet Friday afternoon.

The copy also breaks the cardinal rule of not providing any solutions to problems but instead rambles on about nothing. I mean seriously, how can the CX-3 really be ‘designed and engineered to evoke emotions by closely matching human sensibilities?’ Get real. The copy is cold and doesn’t talk to anyone and ends with Zoom-Zoom is unique. It certainly is. I could go on but I’ll spare you the pain.

This is what I meant when I wrote my book Stop Advertising, Start Branding. It’s not that you should stop advertising, it’s that you should stop poor or weak advertising. Mazda is doing really well at the moment in Malaysia and globally. It has tripled its market share and could be on to something spectacular. But it needs to do more than churn out this sort of advertising because it is wasting money and it may have a negative effect on the brand. It needs to Stop Advertising, Start Branding.

I am yet to visit a Mazda showroom so can’t tell you about the experience. I will endeavour to do so and we’ll do some research and report back to you.