Ma Zhenshan: Follow the Real Logic of Communication and Rebuild the Brand Perception of Automobile Enterprises

Core view:

This should be analyzed based on the first principle. The essence of marketing is to start and change cognition, and the core is communications. Let potential customers notice you, like you, pursue you, and let non-potential customers talk about you, so that the sales will be boosted eventually.

Main body:

Keep learning and practicing is what we need most at the moment. In the brand communication of automobile enterprises, there have been several cognitive mistakes that need to be focused on:

First, the cognitive mistake of the Marketing Department: it is believed that the Marketing Department of an automobile enterprise’s sales company knows nothing but spends money on materials and media: the outside world (in fact, so do a lot more from the inside) believes that the Marketing Department has unlimited resources because of its sufficient budget, great power and extensive connections. In fact, everyone in the “Encircled City of the Marketing Department” knows that the (sales) clues and customer visits are not enough. As the Marketing Department is often questioned by the Sales Department, using the word “suffering” to describe this is not exaggerated at all. Many dealers also believe that both OEMs and their own Marketing Department simply spend money on media, outreach, appraisal and group buying; hence it is enough to replace communication with activities.

Second, clues can be bought with money: once bumping into sales pressure (of course, the frequency is getting higher and higher now), the Sales Department will urge the Marketing Department to spend the budget to buy clues as soon as possible. The actual effect shows that the long-term effect is not apparent. After careful calculation, the cost of arriving at a store is usually over a thousand yuan, and the transaction cost is stubbornly high.

Third, the cognitive mistake of KPI results: in each bidding, the strategic target, production target and media target are clearly separated, and everyone is in charge of one section, but no one is responsible for the overall effect. The KPI of each section is good, but the KPI of customer visits cannot be reached. Once the production starts, the sales company is the first to bear the brunt. If the sales volume is unsatisfactory, the sales company shall bear the most responsibility. Then they will say that the Marketing Department does not have enough clues to promote customer visits. All the above have been encountered by those in marketing, and will cause strong resonance. In my opinion, these concepts are not “incorrect, inappropriate and in lack of objectivity”, but are completely wrong.

How to address the problems? This should be analyzed based on the first principle. The essence of marketing is to start and change cognition, and the core is communications. Let potential customers notice you, like you, pursue you, and let non-potential customers talk about you, so that the sales will be boosted eventually. Because the logic of the existence of any enterprise is eternal: providing value for customers, customers are willing to pay for the value provided by the brand, and customers are deeply attracted by the brand.

In fact, after a deep consideration of the above phenomena, one will find how to examine the goals and indicators: a single KPI is far from enough, at least with OKR and others.

Big brand strategy and establishment of unique brand DNA are of top priority

The barrel theory states that it is better to have long boards. But what if the boards are not long enough? This is the basic view that I have mentioned on various occasions before that brand generates traffic. In the current era of intelligent new energy vehicles, the industrial chain of the EIC system, chassis systems, intelligent cabins and driver assistance is becoming completer and more homogenized. What can we do without brands? At this time, the thinking of “Big Brand Strategy” may rise to the strategic level and be presented in front of practitioners.

Establishing a new brand is the hardest, but too many people are not aware of it. It requires for the absence of obvious short boards and the long boards that are extremely strong, so that a tremendous following effect will be generated in the market. This calls for genius creativity, sand table simulation and long-term doctrine. Only in this way, can we fight a way out.

However, what the existing brands should do is to make a balance between inheritance and innovation. Taking the All New Range Rover, which has been developing for ten years, as an example, while retaining the styling and proportion of previous generations of Range Rover, it has perfectly interpreted the sense of the future in terms of styling, technology, cockpit, etc., which enables the momentum and status of the Range Rover brand to be continued. The All New Range Rover has balanced between inheritance and breakthrough well.

I am deeply concerned that at present, the styling of current electric vehicles is “stereotyped”, almost all being streamlined and simplified. Since there is no unique brand DNA, to differentiate the brand personality has become quite difficult.

To conclude the situations above, the core is to form unique brand DNA. It includes basic items such as founder, history, culture, ties of blood, innovation, technology, styling, customer operation, etc. These should be listed out and carried forward.

See, hear and inquire more about the current Chinese automobile market by applying the integrated traditional Chinese and western methods to marketing 

Based on the past 20 years of marketing practice experience, I hereby propose a big brand marketing model for the new era: product – brand (narrow sense) – scenario – potential energy. See Figure 1.

Figure 1

Here, the product refers to physical things. As Mr. Ren Zhengfei says, to support the viewpoints of mathematicians, physicists, chemists, etc., is to enable products to hit the stimuli of customers on the physical level from the aspect of rational appeal. Without solid work and entropy reduction, it can be hard to show the beauty of product in terms of craftsmanship and material.

The “brand” in the narrow sense is to raise the attraction to customers in terms of emotional appeal, especially in the aspects of concept, behavior, vision, hearing, etc. Although consumers make more rational decisions now, most of the motivations before making decisions are emotional. In this sense, emotional appeal is more important for a brand. “Biodiversity principle” is highly applicable to brand diversity. As long as the brand DNA is unique and adaptable enough, China’s electric vehicle market will have a bright future in building its own brands.

The scenario is also becoming increasingly important. As a saying goes, “a good horse matches a good saddle”, “when drinking red wine, one should always know how to pair wine with food ideally”, which is also true in the new energy vehicle market. In materials and offline, paying attention to scenario matching has become a compulsory course for new energy vehicle brands.

Potential is “brand potential energy”. People engaged in marketing would have a sense of the potential energy of a brand or a product: this will be captured from digital indicators such as clue adequacy rate and online interaction rate; like feeling the pulse in traditional Chinese medicine, pulse conditions and potential energy are invisible but perceptible. The accumulation of potential energy is a process of entropy reduction. Without careful planning and patient cultivation, potential energy will never be generated, and, of course, become more difficult to be accumulated.

If we follow the above thinking logic and look at the successful and failed products on the market, we can ask ourselves:

When facing your target customer groups, how many stimuli does your product have on the physical level?

Has your brand realized your customer’s dream and raised their bragging rights? 

Are your communication and display materials properly matched with scenarios? Where is consistency?

Is your product likely to attract the attention of potential consumers and to be discussed by non-target customers?

In fact, to achieve the points above, an OEM needs to adjust its concepts, strategies and organizational structures to achieve results. Being customer centric means focusing on the demand power of physical products, brand appeal power, consistent scenario experience and continuous potential energy scale that customers need. If we can’t do this, being customer centric is still an empty talk.

Does the era of intelligent vehicles require a brand perception system?

In the era of intelligent new energy vehicles, the work of parent brands and sub-brands needs to move forward, and to participate in the vehicle characteristics of product research and development, especially in the setting of styling, innovation and charming points. On this basis, here I use a visual picture to outline how to deploy and deal with the complicated and changeable challenges in the future. See Figure 2.

Figure 2

As shown above, cognition, belief, execution and rhythm are four organic combinations.

1. Recognition: only a brand can generate traffic, and traffic is difficult to generate a brand;

2. Compliance with the law: believe in the principle of biodiversity, and pursue diversity and concentration in brand building;

3. Knowledge and action are one: the Marketing Department is the main responsible department for brand building, focusing on the unity of knowledge and action of strategy and implementation, but it must not have wrong priorities or even replace work simply by spending money;

4. Rebuilding the value chain: the Marketing Department requires an urgent reform, and so does the agency mechanism. The reform direction should be centering on brand building. Digitization and content are two important innovation means and trends;

In practice, we need to guide strategy, public relations, media, event, digital, private domain and other tactical units like conducting symphony concerts, so as to perform perfect campaign chapters. See Figure 3.

Figure 3

Only by skillfully using and flexibly combining the ideas of guerrilla warfare and regular warfare, can we adapt to China’s automobile market where lost opportunities will never return. The training of system thinking is also significant. I have used two articles to analyze the reflection points from theory to practice. Hope they would shed some lights for the colleagues in the industry.

Author: Ma Zhenshan, General Manager Assistant of Chery Automobile Co., Ltd., Deputy President of Chery Jaguar Land Rover Co., Ltd.

Co-authored by: Yang Make, Chief Researcher of Shouyuxing Intelligent Car Research Institute