AUSTIN, TX – Lexus takes aim at the3-Series with the all-new ’14 sport sedan, but a top marketer says that isn’t necessarily the ultimate goal of the latest model from ’s luxury division.
3-Series buyers are a loyal bunch, oftentimes not even considering a different model when purchasing a new vehicle, says Brian Bolain, Lexus national marketing manager.
“It’s difficult to imagine knocking (BMW) off that perch,” he tells WardsAuto during a recent IS test drive here. “And I’m not so sure we as a brand are interested in knocking them off that perch.”
Even if Lexus wanted to dethrone the 3-Series with the new IS, it would have its work cut out for it. According to WardsAuto data, BMW last year delivered 99,602 3-Series cars in the U.S. compared with just 27,708 sales of the IS. Through February, 3-Series sales totaled 11,804 to the IS’s 2,918.
Now in its third generation, the ’14 IS, available in 250, 350 and F Sport configurations, focuses more on driving dynamics than on pure luxury with increased body rigidity, new front and rear suspensions and a revised steering setup.
The model is aimed at younger buyers who are entering their prime earning years, Bolain says, calling the IS the entryway into the Lexus lineup.
“IS brings a lot of people into the brand we’d like to keep going forward,” he says. “It is also the youngest vehicle in our lineup and typically the youngest in the luxury industry.”
Lexus hopes to attract more male interest in the IS with the new model, as buyers of the current iteration are more than 50% female. Ideally, the split should be 50/50 between male and female buyers, the auto maker says.
To attract the desired demographic, Lexus plans a widespread marketing campaign featuring television, radio, print and social-media elements, Bolain says, noting the brand has 2 million Facebook friends and 350,000 followers on Twitter.
Bolain says the social-media aspect of the campaign will focus on mobile devices rather than laptop or desktop computers, noting Lexus research indicates most online dealer leads originate from mobile users.
“Social media is changing so fast, but mobile is the trend of the future,” he says. “People are no longer tethered; they’re doing it while on the go. Anything we build for digital space has to be built (for) mobile first.”
TV and print, two forms of media often considered ineffective in today’s digital age, remain effective in targeting consumers, Bolain says.
For example, a recent IS advertisement in Sports Illustrated specifically was targeted toward sports enthusiasts partial to performance-oriented vehicles.
And although TV spots typically are 30 seconds or shorter, they still reach a massive audience and, depending on the channel they appear on, can be targeted toward specific viewers, Bolain says.
Most visual elements of the campaign will be executed in black and white, with images displaying certain attributes of the IS appearing in color.
Bolain declines to reveal all aspects of the multimedia campaign, but says it won’t call out BMW or other competitors by name.
One ad shown at the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit displays a hash tag followed by the slogan “change lanes,” which Bolain says is a key message of the campaign.
“That’s the notion we want to put out there,” he says. “We’re giving (consumers) a new option. Take it.”