A Q&A with Marti Eulberg of Marketing and Sales for Jaguar N.A. on whether today's Jags are as gorgeous as they claim to be
Quick. Which automotive brand and model is the mechanical personification of sleek, style and sexiness? If you mentally responded with E Type Jaguar, you are not alone. It is the iconic Jaguar (Jag-u-are in the U.K.; Jag-Wahr in the U.S.) and, of course, a brand of British heritage and distinction.
A brand that became a topic of industry discussion and often derision, literally from the moment Ford bought it in 1990and comment, that frankly continues, albeit somewhat abated, to this day. Is it is or is not for sale? Why did they introduce the E type - an all-aluminum body? That's just some of the not so good news.
There is good news for Jaguar. Lots of it. The new C-XF concept car was Best In Show at the NAIAS in Detroit and Dream Car at the Chicago show; high rankings in JD Powers and Associates' reports, and a revitalized marketing, advertising and promotion campaign have positioned Jaguar as Gorgeous,' the brand for Fashionistas. Fashionistas? Fashionistas.
Fashionista is a non-gendered term used to describe people who do not follow trends in their life styles: they set them and live by them and others you and me may emulate. These are the "theys" who establish what is worn, where to go, what to eat, read, drink, and, of course, the all important what to drive.
And when you stop to think about it, the car business is as fickle, volatile and trendy as the world of fashion, often more so. It is the personification of the phrase, you are what you drive.
Fashion was one of the reasons I wanted to chat with Marti Eulberg, Jaguar of North America's executive vice president of marketing and sales. Her rapid rise through Ford domestically and then at Volvo in Sweden as vice president of sales seemed interesting for someone from America's heartland. Next, was her take on Jag's initial Gorgeous' advertising I really didn't like it and the other was her first name, which is the same as my wife's Marti.
So, after Marti meet Marty comments and laughs, we began our conversation.
MB: Good things are happening at Jaguar. Congratulations on the recent awards for that gorgeous (oops word) C-XF concept car. What have your customers said about it?
ME: Customers tell me how sexy the car is and I of course agree.
MB: Your recent promotion from Volvo to Jag is a dramatic shift in vehicle perceptions and personalities. How has it affected you personally and professionally?
ME: After coming back to the states for Jaguar and living in Southern California, I naturally drive an XF convertible. So, when you have to run errands on a Saturday, you throw on a pair of shorts, put your hair in a ponytail, right? Not in this car! I made sure that I'm dressed right and look good. Everybody wants to talk about the car. You get in that car and everyone wants to have a conversation with you.
MB: When will XF in some form be in showrooms?
ME: It's a concept car with design cues for the future. There is no specific date, but as one looks at the XF they see the start of the new lines of the family of Jaguar cars. It's absolutely beautiful.
MB: The 1960s E Type Jag, for me, has always been the styling design icon for Jaguar. It was my aspiration to someday own one. What's today's perception for Jaguar?
ME: I'd only been on the job at Jaguar a day or two and I was sitting on an airplane any where you go drive-up in the car and I hear, "I've always wanted a Jaguar!" You start to talk to them, and in their minds it's the old E type Jag.
MB: It's the iconic vehicle.
ME: Yes, it is and that's what is so great about the brand. It is an iconic brand and an iconic model. People start looking at our vehicles today and see what's happening as our iconic brand evolution accelerates. People are going with us.
MB: We know about the auto industry press' opinion of the C-XF concept car. What has been the consumer reaction to the concept?
ME: The consumer reaction to this car has been absolutely fabulous. And not polarizing at all, which is interesting too.
MB: X type polarization?
ME: Yes, to some extent it did. Why? Because it was different; a different type and at different price points than other Jaguars. It was something the "traditional" Jaguar customer was not used to.
MB: Is this being overcome?
ME: When people look at the new XF, our dealers tell me, we are attracting new people that have never walked into a Jaguar showroom before. They come in now based on this car and how it fits into the fleet of cars they own. It's given them permission to walk into the Jaguar dealership to look at the cars.
MB: The dealers have to love that
ME: Which is exciting because they are seeing the design characteristics and styling cues that will pay off in showrooms when concept becomes reality with this car.
MB: Tell me about Jag's new ad campaign please. Frankly, I did not like it a first, but it has grown on me.
ME: I don't wonder why it has grown on you because it has also grown on the consumer and it has actually happened with our dealers. Which, I think, is very important because the dealer base has to understand and buy into our brand-building advertising.
MB: Some dealers have asked me, "What is this "gorgeous" campaign with the big G?"
ME: Remember what was happening. We were totally transitioning our positioning from what we were to what we wanted to be. The original gorgeous campaign has evolved.
MB: To what?
ME: It has evolved into new fashioned luxury. Think about the customer who looks at our products, the cars. It's when they look at what they want to drive and drive it. You get into an XF and I say this all the time to customers, "It fits you." For a woman, it's like putting on a fabulous suit or a great pair of shoes.
MB: You use a lot print advertising in life style magazines for Jaguar, what is the thinking in these days of lowered circulations for most consumer magazines?
ME: It is what our customers look at open a good magazine and you are placing yourself next to other ads for luxury products like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, or whomever. These are products they buy, so Jaguar's advertising fits very well.
MB: Not to be chauvinistic, but weren't the first ads gender focused?
ME: The initial critique was female slanted. Now, readers see a true balance between male and female in the advertising. You see the vehicles the cars which is the critical piece of it.
MB: And the word gorgeous?
ME: The Gorgeous campaign has been very good because of the word gorgeous. It's always mentioned when people talk about our advertising. Customers have said to me, "I got gorgeous when I got into that car."
MB: The first ads looked like an agency art director's dream of color, type face design and layout to win awards, not necessarily to sell product. What's your take on this?
ME: Coming from an ex ad agency person, what's your opinion when you're doing something with radical placement, when you're trying to make a difference or make a change? Doesn't it sometimes have to be different, that extreme to be seen?
MB: Yes, sometimes you do need to shock people, but is it exciting?
ME: I believe it is exciting advertising. The print advertising is very evocative it makes you look to the ad, to the cars, to the people it is involving.
MB: How are you using viral advertising?
ME: From the consumer perspective print is still a very strong advertising medium. But until recently people looked to newspapers for their information when they were in the final stages of when they wanted to go out and purchase a vehicle. It does not work that way anymore. The Internet has won it from a resource perspective.
MB: I assume that Jaguar, like most luxury brands, is involved in event marketing, correct?
ME: We are heavily involved in charities and event marketing. There's a very good reason why; because we want to touch the people, either your customers or your prospective customers. And that's the best way to do it. And the way people fall in love with cars is to get in them touching, feeling, driving them.
MB: What feedback, or better still, results have been generated?
ME: We did a major charity event in Chicago sponsored by our retailer's last fall. An XF was raffled for the charity with the tag line for the entire event of "Get Gorgeous!" Event marketing allows us to talk to our customers and the feedback we get from customers is helping us in the evolution of the vehicle. We could not have gotten there without the customers talking to us about what is happening. People came up to me and asked, "How do I get gorgeous?"
MB: And you said
ME: It's by getting in the car. You can't buy that, can you?
MB: What types of events does Jaguar sponsor?
ME: We do a lot of different event marketing too. From who we partner with to where the events are held, the activities is it dinner or a driving event? At a museum? By taking our cars to the people it allows us to do so much more, and it gets the message across so much better.
MB: Obviously, you believe in the power of events.
ME: Brand building is the impact of the advertising and event marketing. When you are a nice, premium brand, you need to touch your customers and your prospective customers. And that's what we get to do.
MB: Last question: Aren't certain cars "fashion?" Do automobiles really have fashion?
ME: Yes, especially in the luxury car segment. You literally wear your vehicle. We watch the way people accessorize their vehicle the choices they make when it comes to paint color, trim level, interior colors. So, yes, automobiles are a fashion accessory. There is the rush of excitement a person feels when they get in that new car and they feel it, they know it matches them and their needs.
Jaguar, an important Brit Brand, is on a significant quest to recapture, rekindle and reignite its reputation and heritage as a prestigious brand in America. It's doing it with original styling, improved quality and ambitious marketing initiatives and programs.
All the essential elements seem to be in place. But a few questions remain: Will Jaguar go the way of Aston Martin to the auction block? Second, as Jaguar's new vehicles come to market and the new programs ramp up, can the shimmering luster of the old E Type that once existed be recaptured? And finally, will it again be a highly sought after, chic, dashing, dramatic, swank, even posh, brand again?
Good questions, without answers yet. Watch the monthly sales numbers to really gauge the results. I believe it is going to be interesting to see how this unique approach to fashion and automobiles is going to work.