Mitsubishi Motors And New Chief Marketing Officer Kimberley Gardiner Think Small… And That’s A Good Thing

Mitsubishi Motors And New Chief Marketing Officer Kimberley Gardiner Think Small… And That's A Good Thing

MMNA’s New “Small Batch” Philosophy Debuts With Crossover Family Marketing Effort Ahead of Far-Reaching Changes to the Brand’s Go-To-Market Strategy

Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA), the fastest-growing Asian brand in the US for the second consecutive year, is on the rise, but in order to accelerate that growth, the company is thinking small. But not small as in diminutive, small as in “Small Batch,” a term that speaks to carefully crafted products, thoughtfully curated collections and a proudly independent mindset.

“Mitsubishi has enjoyed significant and sustained growth in the US over the last six years, and from new vehicles to new dealers, there are a lot of exciting changes coming,” said Kimberley Gardiner, who joined MMNA as vice president and chief marketing officer in January. “But we have to admit to ourselves that, in this market, we’re a niche player in an industry that is expected to be relatively flat in the near future, so if we want to maintain our momentum and grow, we’re going to have to change the way we think and act as a brand.”

Gardiner and her team, including Ad Age 2018 Small Agency of the Year, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP), and Adweek Global Media Agency of the Year 2019, OMD, looked to modern, tech-savvy direct-to-consumer brands for inspiration across categories as diverse as eyewear, fitness, mattresses and travel gear.

“The best D2C (direct-to-consumer) brands have found ways to differentiate themselves from their more traditional competitors while making the discovery, shopping, purchase and ownership experience easy and fun; we need to find our own way to do the same,” said Gardiner. “And we need to own who we are. Mitsubishi may be a small brand in the U.S., but our spirit is mighty. We might not be for everyone – and our customers tell us they love that about us.”

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Because of this unique, outside-the-auto-industry thinking, Gardiner also will be traveling to Cannes, France, to participate in the Cannes Lions “Festival of Creativity” week June 17-21. Invited to speak on multiple panels, Gardiner will share her perspective on the value of agency creativity and the changing face of the agency/client relationship and the way challenger brands must present their unique messages. She will also debut with media partner Teads a custom version of ‘Small Batch’ creative as part of their L’Atelier interactive workshop.

“We’re looking outside of the automotive industry, rather than just within it, to find new ways of thinking and engaging,” said Gardiner. “We’re seeking technology and partnerships that are new to the category, enabling us to transform our business.”

The “Small Batch” vision celebrates the marque’s adventurous and ambitious spirit as a challenger-brand. It’s based on a mindset expressed by Mitsubishi owners, who look at uncommonness as cool and see their own confident, independent choices as key to their own success in life.

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As the first manifestation of the “Small Batch” strategy, the Crossover Family marketing effort debuted first on social media in late April with a heavy focus on digital distribution before expanding to video and broadcast. Creatively, “Small Batch” features black vehicles in front of a black background for a distinctly premium look. Bold, bright white copy superimposed across the image succinctly conveys key brand and product messages and maximizes engagement, particularly when viewed without sound as most digital messages are today.

BSSP-produced assets include multiple cross-carline 15-second and six-second videos, model-specific “featurettes,” as well as more traditional 30-second television spots. Moreover, a new relationship with Team Velocity of Herndon, Virginia, will help translate MMNA’s new marketing vision to dealer-level communications.

Media is structured for an always-on, hyper-targeted approach that is platform agnostic. Additional changes in agency scopes of work and areas of responsibility will facilitate full integration across earned, owned and paid channels.

Additional “Small Batch” creative will debut throughout the summer, but the strategy is intended to reach far beyond advertising alone. It will incorporate partnerships and experiential marketing, and ultimately touch all aspects of Mitsubishi’s business in the United States.

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