Mitsubishi ponders Canadian marketing plan

Mitsubishi Motors is searching for a Canadian agency - it has shortlisted six - to help power its brand in this country next year. 'We won't take 100% of our U.S. work (from Los Angeles-based Deutsch) and do a media placement here,' says Randy Sears, president of the Canadian operations, who won't say what the ad spend will be north of the border. 'We need to make sure the message is relevant.'

Mitsubishi Motors is searching for a Canadian agency – it has shortlisted six – to help power its brand in this country next year. ‘We won’t take 100% of our U.S. work (from Los Angeles-based Deutsch) and do a media placement here,’ says Randy Sears, president of the Canadian operations, who won’t say what the ad spend will be north of the border. ‘We need to make sure the message is relevant.’

The Japanese auto manufacturer, which will unveil its Canadian division in September, hopes to repeat the success it’s had in the U.S., where the dealer ad business is estimated at U.S. $70 million and brand awareness has climbed 34% in the last three years.

‘The image we’ve built is that we have hip, spirited product,’ says Sears, adding that 38% of buyers are under the age of 35. ‘That’s critical, because you want to get young consumers and retain them as they move up the product ladder.’

While its brand positioning won’t shift gears once it crosses the 49th parallel – the firm introduced the tag line ‘wake up and drive’ in 1998 in the U.S. and uses edgy music in its advertising – it faces a unique obstacle in Canada, concedes Greg O’Neill, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America’s EVP and GM, since it will debut nine products at once.

‘It’s a lot of information for a concentrated period of time… We’ll use TV for brand enhancing and go to other sources to [explain] who we are, what our cars are like and what segments we compete in,’ he says.

A major difference between the North American markets is that Canadians have a propensity for compact cars, unlike the mid-size vehicles preferred by their southern cousins. ‘Our Lancer [model] needs to occupy a larger part of the budget here,’ adds Sears, who says the company’s goal is to sell 20,000 units in its first year.