There is a well known marketing cliché that even if you have invented the best mouse trap in the world, people will not beat a path to your house to buy it. In other words, the product has to be marketed well for it to be successful. This paper discusses some relevant points with regard to principles of marketing.
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The context used is the automobile magazine scenario in Canada with specific reference to an advertisement that has appeared in one popular auto magazine in the country. The magazine that is reviewed here is the Motor Trend and the advertisement is for the Acura TL model, which belongs to the Acura brand manufactured by the Honda Motor Corporation.
It is important for any organization engaged in marketing to define its target market and the target customer of its products.. It is to be noted that the word customer relationship is stressed here. In order to build a relationship, the first step is to identify the target market and the target customer.
A target market can be defined as “The group of potential customers selected for marketing. A market segment. Combines with positioning and marketing mix to yield marketing strategy.” (Lantos).
Motor Trend, as the name suggests, is a publication related to the automobile industry. “Motor Trend, part of SOURCE INTERLINK MEDIA, was founded in 1949 and has a circulation of 1.1 million and a total readership of 7.1 million. Internationally recognized as one of the leading brands in automotive publishing”. (Motor Trend Names Top 50 Industry Players to 2008 Power List: About Motor Trend).
The magazine itself provides comprehensive coverage on almost all aspects of the motor industry.. A few examples of the type of articles that are published is given here.
There are news items about new and used automobiles, technical specifications of selected models, product of the year, new about auto shows and about the automobile industry in general, adventure trips, future trends in products and the industry as whole and even a section on classic and vintage automobiles. So this magazine is useful to any person interested in any of the topics given above.
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It can be seen that the magazine has a well defined target market and audience. It does not move away from its core competency which is the automobile industry. The fact that the magazine has been in existence for nearly fifty years with a large international circulation and readership is proof enough for the publication’s successful market strategy.
The advertisement selected for the paper is from Honda Motor Corporation’s Acura brand. The particular model is the Acura TL and the relevant advertisement is attached to the paper at the end. The Acura TL range has in fact five variants, even though the advertisement is for only one. It does not also specify which variant is shown in the picture. The advertising copy only attempts to define its features as a representative for the full Acura TL range.
The following are the full range of variants namely the TL5AT, TL NAVI Package 5AT, TL Type-S 6MT and the TL Type-S 5AT. The prices range from 42,700 dollars to 47,800 dollars, starting from the first variant given above. (2008 Acura TL: 4 Available Versions for Acura).
Two engine capacities are available namely the 3-2 liter ones available for the first two variants and 3.5 liter ones available for the last two variants. But from what trade publications have to say, the model is a nearly a high end or premium end one with all accessories and facilities required in a car of that class. (All new 2009 TL Redefines Performance With Most Powerful Engine in Acura History and Super Handling All Wheel Drive: All-New 2009 TL Redefines Performance with the Most Powerful Engine in Acura History and Super Handling All-Wheel Drive).
The article states that the 2009 version has the 3.5 liter engine as standard for all models. The advertisement copy written on the selected advertisement communicates the following points to its readers. The focus is on aggression, and the easy and stylish way to handle aggression.
The actual ad copy is “The civilized way to handle aggression is to embrace it”. The copy also specifies that the model shown has 286 horsepower communicating the high power of the engine. The advertisement also stresses on the high technology used in the car and gives ‘voice activated navigation’ and ‘real time traffic monitoring’ as examples.
The final lines again focus on aggression and goes like this – “Aggression has been defined. Barely”. So the points that communicated strongly are aggression, technology, style and the civilized way of handling of the car. There is also stylish photograph of the automobile taken from a low angle and showing the full front and its left side at an angle.
The color of the model is black or some other dark color and the setting appears to be on a prairie. The time is either early morning or late evening and the background sky is filled with clouds. The words “Civilized way to handle aggression” appears in bold right above the body of the car. Aggression and refinement are the points that are tried to be communicated most strongly here.
Clearly, the target is youth and the younger section of the society. The potential customer himself/herself would be among the elite, a highly paid executive or a young businessperson. The hint is that the customer himself will be a highly sophisticated person or one who is aspiring to be sophisticated. Even tough the advertisement copy only contains three lines apart from the bold heading; it clearly defines the intended target audience.
The advertisement also does not indicate that the Acura is a part of Honda Motors. This indicates that the brand is well established and that the target audience knows that it is a part of the famous automobile manufacturer. On the whole, the advertisement is pleasing, with somber colors, uncluttered lettering and with clear communication of the target audience. The emblem of the Acura is given on the bottom right hand corner of the page.
The words Acura and Advanced appear below the emblem. This is one more focus on the level of technology and refinement of the automobile. The large dimensions of the car (not given in the advertisement) would be more appealing to the male customer rather than for the fair sex.
Price is not shown in the advertisement which is an indication that the potential customer is one who is not attracted by price, but rather on looks, performance, style and refinement. In other words, the customer will be one who has the money to spend on luxury.
Marketing theory (Relevant concepts)
Advertising and buyer behavior: Buyer behavior is usually a planned process. The theory of consumer buying behavior should be considered when creating an advertising copy also. The steps followed in the whole process involves the following steps namely, need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision and evaluation of purchase. (Lamb, Hair, and McDaniel, p.152).
Need recognition in this case would be the desire to own a luxury brand made by one of the most famous manufacturer in the world. The advertisement can create a need in the minds of many people, but only a few will go on to the next step or purchase evaluation (due to price).
Information search includes gathering information from relevant sources like the web sites, reviews in magazines like Motor Trend, brochures, visiting a car dealer, taking a test drive etc. In this stage the Motor Trend magazine plays a bigger role than the advertisement.
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The advertisement plays a small part here in the sense that the reader can see that the model is powerful, refined and replete with high technology (enough to satisfy some persons). Motor Trend can also help in evaluation of alternatives because reviews of other models and makes will be available from different or even the same issue. Once purchase is made, evaluation of the product will take place.
Here both the advertisement and the magazine is not relevant. Of course the buyer can read the review again and see if all that has been reviewed is actually present in the model. If the product is an inexpensive one and also if the customer is not satisfied with it, he might opt for a repetition of the whole process (with a different product). In the case of Acura there is little chance of dissatisfaction.
Even if it happens the customer may not dispose such an expensive car and look to purchase another make. So with regard to buyer behavior the advertisement can play a role in need recognition and a small role in information search.
Motor Trend magazine can play a bigger role in need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives and even in purchase decision. The fact is that the customer may look for other sources in all of the above factors (in addition to the magazine).
Remote association matching (RAM)
Creativity alone does not ensure the success of the advertisement. “According to RAM, a print ad is perceived to be creative (ie. clever, imaginative and amusing) when a seemingly unusual, unrelated or remote picture, termed conveyor, can be linked to an attribute or benefit of the advertised product using the headline or copy”. (Ange, p.2).
In other words the picture given in the advertisement should contain a seemingly unrelated picture so that it can pique a viewer’s curiosity. In the Acura ad context, the ad picture is quite straightforward though the main headline copy is quite catchy. Another concept is the use of confusion to attract a reader to the advertisement.
This concept was written in the work titled “The Hypnotic Power of Confusion” by Joe Vitale, author and well known copywriter. He adds that purposeful inclusion of confusing phrases can in fact increase the reader’s curiosity to know more about the product. (Vitale). In a sense, the copy headline mentioned above in the Acura ad is quite confusing in a stand alone context. It can motivate the readers to know more about the product.
With the availability of a number of similar products in the market a need to have uniqueness were felt by manufactures over the ages. In some cases even a single company may have many similar products (example Honda). With availability of some many Honda models, customers will need something extra to remember a particular model (or a range of models).
This was the reason why Honda released its luxury segment model under the brand name of Acura. The fact that Honda is trying to project this brand as unique is seen from the fact that the given advertisement does not feature the name Honda anywhere.
“APQC and the AMA define the primary purpose of branding as to “establish a meaningful, differentiated presence that will increase the ability to attract and retain loyal customers and improve marketplace ability”. (Bock). This again is an affirmation that Honda is trying to project Acura as a separate brand that differentiates it from the rest of the models in the Honda Stable.
Marketing strategy is a wide field and includes many concepts like marketing environment, marketing information, customer relationships, pricing, communication, public relations, completive advantage etc. These concepts in a sense are not directly related with the field of product advertising.
Hence these were not discussed in this paper. It can be seen that both Motor Trend and the Acura advertisement are successful in their own fields. Both have been able to establish a well defined target market. They also have been able to communicate effectively to the target market.
It can be concluded that the Acura advertisement is an extremely appropriate medium it place an advertisement for the model of a car.
Even though other media like newspapers and TV will have a larger audience, there will be the presence of other product ads as a distraction. The reader of the magazine like Motor Trend will be one who is interested in at least one aspect of automobiles. The chance of an advertisement being noticed is very high in such a case.
All new 2009 TL Redefines Performance With Most Powerful Engine in Acura History and Super Handling All Wheel Drive: All-New 2009 TL Redefines Performance with the Most Powerful Engine in Acura History and Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. Auto Unleashed. 2008.
Ange, Lawrence. Towards a Structural Theory of Creativity in Print Advertising The Remote Associate: The Ram Model. 2008.
Bock, Wally. Best Practices in Branding. Digital Age Story Teller Resources. 2003.
Lamb, Charles, W., Hair, Joseph, F., and McDaniel, Carl, D. Consumer decision making process. Introduction to Marketing. 2006.
Lantos, Geoffrey. Glossary in Terms in New Products Management: Target Market. Business Administration Department. 2007.
Motor Trend Names Top 50 Industry Players to 2008 Power List: About Motor Trend. Reuters: Business and Finance. 2008.
Olsen, Henrick. Supporting Customer’s Decision Making Process: The Consumer Decision Making Process. The Interaction Designers Coffee Break: Weeklyn Postings and Quarterly Articles About Interaction Design. 2003.
Vitale, Joe. The Hypnotic Power of Confusion. Web Source. 2008.
2008 Acura TL: 4 Available Versions for Acura. Yahoo Canada: Autos. 2008.