In recent years, the automaker's showrooms have been home to a rather odd and not-so-compelling mix of vehicles. Sure, there are bright spots, like the current Grand Vitara, a legitimately attractive small SUV. To a lesser extent, there's the Aerio, which I've heard is actually a fun and practical little car in its hatchback form.
The rest of the lineup, however, has had issues. The Forenza and Reno are rebadged Daewoo products that will ultimately be phased out now that Suzuki and GM have parted ways. The XL-7 was long-in-the-tooth and outclassed by many other vehicles in the segment. Nothing about those cars makes anyone think, "Oooh...fun!"
Suzuki is working to fix that, however, with the new-for-2007 XL7 (goodbye, hyphen) and the very appealing SX4. The XL7 uses GM's Theta platform and a lot of GM switchgear (a good thing), and blows away its Equinox and Torrent platform and production line-mates with a Suzuki-built V6 pumping out 250 horses. For its part, the SX4 looks good, has a peppy yet economical 4-cylinder underhood, features standard AWD, and will retail for between $15,000 and $18,000.
Those two cars are set to be Suzuki's launching pad for its US resurgence, and knowing they have two good things in the new rides, they are finally leveraging the motorcycle division in the marketing campaigns for the cars. The new SX4 print ad (above right) shows the Giugiaro-designed hatch casting a shadow shaped like one of Suzuki's sportbikes. The copy touts the company's fun reputation without mentioning any bikes specifically. The shadow says it all.
On the TV side, two new XL7 spots (sorry, we couldn't find them online) work the same angle. One pans from a motorcycle shadow over to the new XL7, which is the vehicle casting it. Another one shows a closeup of a foot emerging from the CUV, the door shutting, and a kickstand being flipped down as the driver walks away. Both spots ask, "Are our SUV's as much fun as our bikes?" and the Suzuki logo appears.
Only time will tell if customers think the answer to that question is "yes." We'll say this, though: both new products appear to have the goods to make a splash. Now, for the ultimate bike/car tie-in, Suzuki needs to hurry up and get their sportiest offering, the Swift, across the ocean as soon as possible. The SX4 and XL7 will put runners on base. The Swift is the car that'll drive them home.
UPDATE: Suzuki press release detailing the new campaign and images of the new print ads have been added after the jump.
AMERICAN SUZUKI LAUNCHES NEW BRAND CAMPAIGN
"Way of Life" brand philosophy taps into motorcycle heritage
BREA, Calif., Oct. 9, 2006 /PRNewswire/ -- Following three years of record growth and on the heels of three major product introductions, American Suzuki Motor Corporation (ASMC) today launches a new brand campaign designed to more fully reflect its heritage as a company that builds exciting vehicles – from motorcycles to automobiles.
"With the launch of the Grand Vitara last year, followed by the all-new SX4 last month and the all-new XL7 next month, we felt the time was right for us to honestly evaluate our strengths as a company and to reflect those strengths in our communications," said Gene Brown, vice president of marketing and PR, ASMC. "At the core of the Suzuki brand lies the promise of exciting, fun-to-operate vehicles, and it's a promise reflected in everything we offer, from our iconic motorcycles to these three all-new automobiles. With our new campaign, we are taking a significant first step to crystallize our reputation and image in the eyes of American consumers."
Suzuki's new communication strategy reflects Americans' widespread recognition and appreciation of the company's motorcycles, and it also brings greater clarity to Suzuki's "Way of Life" brand mantra, which promises vehicles that are designed for life enthusiasts – those who choose to live life to the fullest and not simply watch it go by.
One key element of the new strategy is an advertising campaign that broke Oct. 2 with two 15-second "teaser" spots announcing the upcoming launch of the all-new XL7, while also laying the foundation to link Suzuki's motorcycles to its automobiles. The campaign also features four 30-second commercials that integrate the invigorating thrills of riding a Suzuki motorcycle, while showcasing the product strengths of Suzuki's vehicles. As such, all broadcast advertising uses the themed mnemonic: "It's gonna be a great ride," accompanied by Suzuki Automotive's well-known "Way of Life" tagline. To subtly re-emphasize the point that the same company often thought of as a great motorcycle company also offers great automobiles, all spots end with the Suzuki logo "closing" as if it were a car door.
Developed in conjunction with the company's advertising agency, Colby & Partners of Brea, Calif., the comprehensive campaign sets the stage for an indelible stamp on Suzuki's brand identity as the company expands and improves its product line in 2007 and the years to come.
"If you entertain people, you get them to listen to your story. We were in the fortunate position of having a real story to tell, a question to put to the viewer, the idea that our cars and SUVs could be as much fun as our bikes," said Carmen Dorr, creative director of Colby & Partners.
The television campaign targets 25- to 54-year-old men and women and will appear on major networks skewing toward active-lifestyle programming including ESPN's "Monday Night Football," the Major League Baseball playoffs on FOX and regional college football games throughout the country. Additional cable support starts at the end of October and includes programming on ABC Family, Comedy Central, CNN, Lifetime, A&E, TBS, TNT, USA and VH1.
The broadcast ad spots are augmented by a series of print ads to further support Suzuki's "Way of Life" positioning, which will be featured in active lifestyle publications such as Men's Fitness, Men's Journal, ESPN, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, Shape and Surfer. Additional print support for SX4 spans several auto enthusiast publications including Sport Compact Car, Super Street and Import Tuner, and to reinforce the sophisticated styling and packaging of the XL7, Suzuki will advertise in publications such as Money, People, Popular Science, Real Simple and Time.
In addition to a dedicated television and print campaign, Suzuki also will launch a series of in-cinema and in-flight print and television efforts to support its all-new XL7. In December, the company will release a one-minute film trailer to be aired in movie theaters in key markets nationwide, as well as on the Internet. The XL7, along with the entire model line, will be featured in "The Briefcase," an espionage action-thriller produced as an extension of Suzuki's new television ad campaign. Viewers can visit www.suzukiauto.com and partner Web sites to access additional episodes of the three- to five-minute Suzuki feature film. Trailers will hit theaters beginning Dec. 8, and individual episodes of the movie will gradually be released for download thereafter. The final episode will be available exclusively at SuzukiAuto.com.
"Kickstand" and "Shadow" Teasers
- Two 15-second "teaser" spots that reveal only part of the all-new midsize XL7 SUV.
- Began airing October 2.
- Running for three weeks.
- Lay the groundwork for Suzuki's new communication strategy while letting customers know that the all-new midsize XL7 is coming November 1.
- One spot shows an XL7 with an unexpected feature – a kickstand.
- The other shows a Suzuki Boulevard motorcycle shadow being cast by an XL7 SUV.
- Introduces the leading voiceover, "Are our cars as much fun as our bikes?"
- Shows a Suzuki GSX-R 600 morphing into the all-new Suzuki SX4, then into a Suzuki Grand Vitara, and finally into the all-new Suzuki XL7.
- Closes with a reprise of all three of these exciting new vehicles and the campaign's new signature line, "It's gonna be a great ride."
- Filmed at Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington.
- Opens with an XL7 accelerating along the highway – suddenly a group of motorcycle riders overtakes the SUV.
- A voiceover asks, "Are our SUVs as much fun as our bikes?"
- The men pull over and step out of the XL7 while the motorcycle group leader presses down the kickstand, steps off the bike and removes a sleek black helmet, revealing she and the rest of the riders are all women.
- The leader surprisingly hands one of the men a cell phone and says, "You left this at the diner. There's a new number in it."
- The women mount their bikes and ride off into the distance, leaving the guys smiling and speechless.
- Closes with the campaign's signature line, "It's gonna be a great ride."
- Filmed outside Salt Lake City.
- Opens with a Suzuki Boulevard M109R motorcycle aggressively approaching from the right and XL7 from the left before sliding to a halt.
- A man emerges from the XL7 and a woman steps off the motorcycle. The woman asks, "Think you can handle it?" The man replies, "Can you?"
- They toss their keys at each other in exchange and drive off in the opposite direction.
- During the sequence, the lead voiceover asks, "Are our SUVs as much fun as our bikes?"
- The commercial closes with, "It's gonna be a great ride."
- Set in the desolate Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
- "Race" begins with a young man and a young woman leaving their house. The man is driving a Suzuki Grand Vitara, while the woman is riding a Suzuki GSX-R600.
- As a playful challenge, the woman says, "Don't keep me waiting too long," as she takes off.
- En route, the man takes a shortcut on dirt roads while the woman rides along a twisty mountain highway.
- The voiceover asks, "Are our SUVs as much fun as our bikes?"
- At the destination, a restaurant that is clearly popular with motorcycle riders, the man sits waiting for the woman and asks, "What took you so long?"... she playfully accuses him of cheating.
- The voiceover finishes with, "The 2007 Suzuki Grand Vitara. It's gonna be a great ride."
Suzuki's diverse product line now features the midsize XL7 and compact Grand Vitara SUVs, along with a variety of cars to match the needs of active lifestyles. The 2007 vehicle line also includes the fun and functional SX4 compact X-over (crossover), popular and versatile Forenza sedan and Forenza Wagon, European-styled Reno and sporty, yet fuel-efficient Aerio sedan.
The entire vehicle line offers something for everyone with standout virtues of toughness, leading-edge style and high-end features at very competitive prices. All 2007 Suzuki automobiles are backed by America's #1 Warranty: 100,000-mile/seven-year, fully transferable, zero-deductible powertrain limited warranty.
The Brea, Calif.-based Automotive Operations of American Suzuki Motor Corporation (ASMC) was founded in 1985 by parent company Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) and currently markets its vehicles in the United States through a network of more than 520 automotive dealerships in 49 states. Based in Hamamatsu, Japan, SMC is a diversified worldwide automobile, motorcycle, ATV and outboard motor manufacturer with sales of more than two million new vehicles annually. Founded in 1909 and incorporated in 1920, SMC has operations in 125 countries.