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Customer experience key to Holden’s future success

Future now: Holden has kicked off a new advertising and marketing campaign that gives big clues to the company’s new-model roll-out.

Ad campaign hints at future line-up, customer experience the focus for Holden

18 Sep 2015

GM HOLDEN will refocus its marketing and advertising on highlighting its future product portfolio, but the company’s new marketing chief says changing people’s perception of the brand will take time.

The car-maker kicked off a new campaign the same day it revealed the final Australian-built Commodore – the VF Series II – featuring a child explaining that Holden will release 24 new “world-class” models that are set to arrive within the next five years.

Holden has previously announced that it will introduce 24 new products to replace its entire line-up by 2020, with models being sourced from Europe, the United States and Asia.

GM Holden executive director of marketing and customer experience Geraldine Davys said that while there was a level of risk in talking about a future product roll-out while you are trying to sell an existing portfolio of vehicles, she believes that there is more risk in not discussing future plans.

“I think there is always a risk of trying to get the right message to the market at the right time,” she told GoAuto at the VF Series II reveal. “And equally, though, I think it is a bigger risk not to tell them that we are going to be here for the future.

“So if they are buying a car they absolutely know that in five years we’ll be around to service, (and) there are 238 dealers.

“I think it is a better strategy than not, to do it that way.”

Ms Davys – who started the role as Holden’s head of marketing in April following Bill Mott’s return to GM Europe – acknowledged that convincing non-Holden buyers to consider the brand would be difficult, and said customer experience would be the key to sales success.

“It will continue to be a challenge over time. We have to again build that aspiration into the brand. We have to make sure that we have great product for the right customers at the right time,” she said.

“Being really laser-focused on customers I think that’s where you are going to win. Because, at the end of day, there is a huge amount of competition. But I think the customer experience is still relatively average in this industry.

“Understanding your customer and being absolutely laser-focused on what they want – does she want to go to a dealer, does she not want to go to a dealer, does she want to speak about the car with technology as opposed to your traditional catalogues, all that kind of stuff – that is the bit that is going to make you win.”

Ms Davys said Holden was in the process of further improving customer service at the dealership level, offering more options for consumers, and using strategies that have been successful for other non-auto companies.

“I think …we have an opportunity with dealers to consistently educate, consistently bring them on the journey of what the customer wants. If a customer wants to speak to a female as opposed to a bloke, then they should have that in their dealerships.

“If they have someone that’s a concierge customer service person in their dealerships on a Saturday and Sunday because that’s when this particular customer comes in, then that’s what we should be doing. It’s the Telstra model, it’s the McDonald’s model,” she said.

“McDonald’s are being very un-McDonald’s, and we’ve got to become un-Holden.

And that is the only way you are going to have people go, ‘wow what was that? Is that a Holden ad? Is that a Holden car?’ That’s what we have got to be about.”

Holden made huge gains in last year’s JD Power Customer Service Index (CSI) study, rising to fourth spot on the rankings – and sitting above the industry average – after coming in second-last place in the 2013 list.

Ms Davys said Holden’s recent campaign that kicked off a couple of months ago using children talking about the product had been successful in achieving its purpose.

“I think what is really clear is that we very much stabilised the brand. There are three measures we look at – brand awareness, consideration and opinion. And what I can honestly say that it stabilised all of those brand measures. That doesn’t means it is forever.

“What that was trying to do was just build the brand around children, saying they are the future. And in fact this campaign, which is the 24 new cars in the next five years, features a child for exactly that reason. Would we go and feature a child in a Commodore ad or Astra ad? Absolutely not. It depends on the situation but I think what it has done is stabilise that brand.

“Do we have a lot of work? Absolutely positively. It has just really helped in building that trust back in the brand. We are going to be here for the future and starting to talk positively about the new products coming to market.”

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