Holden top marketer on brand feels: 'Indifference is death'

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 2 August 2017
Mark Harland

Top marketer of Australian car manufacturer Holden, Mark Harland, is the first to admit the brand has had its challenges, but it’s shaking things up by zoning in on emotion and upping its focus on content.

Speaking at the AdNews Media+ Marketing Summit in Melbourne today, the director of marketing and customer experience said research found that 64% of its customers were ‘indifferent’.

“We want to continue to be an iconic Australian brand, but 64% of Australians were indifferent to the Holden brand,” he said. 

“That means there’s not a whole bunch of people who hate your product and there’s not a whole bunch who love it - 64% indifference is death. 

“We have to get those 64% that are sitting on the fence, off the fence.”

Harland said that indifferent feeling is a very unhealthy area to be in and as a result, the brand has upped its focus on content, particularly on social media and has zoned in on the real ‘people’ of Australia, particularly when it comes to breaking stereotypes around communicating better with women.

He said buying a car is more about emotion than rationale.

How do you differentiate? 

Harland said brand stigmas such as Holden is out of date, poor quality and that it’s a ‘macho blokey brand’, have to be left in the past as this is the brand’s “transition year”. 

He also said in order to be an iconic brand you have to have a point of view and discussed why it launched content supporting diversity.

“Some people are always going to disagree with your view, but if you don’t just dip your toe in you’ll be called out -  quickly,” he said.

“I think this industry is ready to do some things that are really unique,” he said, adding he wants people to feel ‘emotion’ when they see content from Holden, or when they see a Holden vehicle.

Regarding the fact that the brand will no longer make cars in Australia, Harland argued that plenty of iconic and great brands don’t build here and while this ‘dark cloud’ looms - with October being the final production date – it has big brand ambitious ahead.

In July last year Holden turned to social media behemoth Facebook to leverage its lucrative State of Origin sponsorship, ensuring that its multimillion-dollar investment extended past the three games. The automative brand, in partnership with Channel Nine, its creative agency AJF and Facebook, created a mobile first content series centred around the first ever Holden Junior State of Origin, with the aim to attract different demographics to the brand as well as raise the aweness around Holden's State of Origin sponsorship. 

Speaking to AdNews after Harland's keynote, Carat CEO Paul Brooks said: "We are proud to partner with AdNews for the inaugural Media and Marketing Summit in Melbourne.  It is opportunities like this, where thought leaders can share insights and trade ideas, which can result in big leaps for our industry."

Carat is the event's Presenting Partner, along with support from Fairfax Media, The Trade Desk, Tonic Health Media. RadiumOne, GumGum and Bloomberg Media. Genero and Tribe led the FastFront sessions, showing off the latest developments from their businesses.

More content from Harland’s talk, and his Q&A with Brooks, to come.

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