Magazine article Marketing

Building the Lion's Share

Magazine article Marketing

Building the Lion's Share

Article excerpt

Building the lion's share

Car makers are quite used to international marketing and in many ways Eric Clairie, international advertising co-ordination manager of Automobiles Peugeot, is a typical example. He exudes "Frenchness", but he speaks English very well - the result of a two-year stint at Peugeot USA.

Peugeot, like all its rivals, has long been selling its wares right across Europe. But that doesn't mean it is not seriously trying to wrestle with the implications of a single European market.

Clairie, who has a penchant for exuberant phrases, refers to it as a "mystic catalyst". By this enigmatic conjunction Clairie hopes to sum up the forthcoming complex transition to economic and political union of a continent not known for its confidence in consensus.

Clairie's "catalyst" therefore means 1992 has been a great way of focusing people's attention on the important issues for the future of a competitive united Europe. "Mystic" is there to emphasise that great as the impending changes may be, they will not happen overnight, and are more to do with intangibles like attitudes and outlooks than rules and regulations.

The biggest problem facing the Single Market, according to Clairie, is the "heterogeneity" (another favoured word) of Europe's markets, brought about by many varying cultural and commercial practices. And it's a problem with no easy solutions. Says Clairie: "It has taken Europe centuries to get to this point, so you can't expect companies to know exactly how they will take advantage of these changes."

Certainly, Peugeot may be forgiven for feeling that economic factors are getting the better of its planning capabilities. The much-flagged launch of the 605 at this year's Birmingham Motor Show - representing Peugeot's first foray into the luxury executive sector in a decade - has been somewhat undermined by the news that the company is to axe 350 jobs in the UK and cut production by 9% from November. A further announcement last week revealed that Peugeot's total world output will now be cut by 10% - due in large part to poor performances in the UK and Italy.

Nevertheless, the 605 and its typically stylish ad campaign marks an important milestone for Peugeot. The company's massive rebranding exercise which began in 1985, and which has helped double sales since then, is now considered complete.

UK market share is up from 4.41% in 1989 to 4.61% for the first nine months of this year. And parent company PSA, which also owns Citroen, has increased its share of the European market from 12.8% to 12.9%.

Clairie's obvious delight in the creative merits of HDM Horner Collis Kirvan, Peugeot's UK ad agency which also handles much of its European advertising, is evidence that he for one has no desire to change tack now.

Through burning fields and down hairpin mountainsides, HDM has taken Peugeot's lion from strength to strength. If it is still not quite king of the jungle, Peugeot is undoubtedly a dramatically rejuvenated brand name. Dynamism, flair innovation and not a little danger have been added to the pre-1985 virtues of ruggedness, reliability, security and tradition.

The past five years have, in Clairie's words, been the "wait-and-see" period in Peugeot's metamorphosis and have coincided with record-breaking total new car sales in Europe. The question confronting Clairie is, now that the lion has regained its roar - and the European car market has taken a turn for the worse - will Peugeot be running to stand still or capitalising on its success? A cautious response from Clairie: "We have many reasons to feel confident, but in today's market we can't afford to pat ourselves on the back. …

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