Experimental marketing (image repositioning)… Get used to it

Let’s start this week with something to think about untill the weekend… I think I’m going to make this as a feature, start an interesting topic which I will think about and answer at the end of the week… Not bad…

Okay, let’s talk about experimental marketing, what the hell that is all about? Everybody knows about experiential marketing, but what about experimental marketing or EM to make things simpler. Well, EM is everything that revolves around continual changes of marketing concept, a sign of rushed or reckless planning, something we got used to in developing countries, or in this case, Indonesia. Usually, when a marketer set tone and manner and the image positioning, it usually already set and written in stone (unchanged). But sometimes due to poor marketing research, a change of mindset in the society, a change in company’s goal and everything in between, an initial positioning of a product or brand may change down the line.

Want proof? “Yamaha Mio Soul, the soul of man”

When Yamaha launch Mio, an automatic scooter in Indonesia, it positions the product as a vehicle for woman. Yamaha did their homework very fine, applying what they got from market research that Indonesians, especially the male gender prefers manual gearbox for their motorcycle. Boys will be boys some say, and boys love to drives fast, and you can not do it on an automatic scooter, for obvious technical reasons. Yamaha captures that essence and apply it to the first generation of Yamaha Mio, positioning it as a “civilized” motorcycle that woman could appreciate.

But what do you know? Those who buys Mio are males… The same male gender that prefers fast bikes rather than the slow automatic scooters. How could this be? Well, Yamaha did a very heavy marketing campaign for the bike, buying a 30 minute slot on one of Indonesia’s leading news channel, and make a show based on that scooter alone. The show was crazy to say the least, and I give my two thumbs up to whoever proposed it. On the show, the scooter was used in a variety of interesting conditions, acrobats, drag racing against a turbocharged car, fan club interview, design contests and everything.

The result? Well, you can say Honda and Suzuki are hoping that at least half of Yamaha Mio buyers are theirs. Honda and Suzuki sucks at marketing (the bikes)… Compared to Yamaha, they are like sitting still, well you can gives a hat’s up to Honda because they can cling to their brand image, but what about Suzuki? Suzuki needs to follow Yamaha if they want to improve the market share.

Coming back to experimental marketing, we now see that Yamaha is indeed positions the new Mio as a vehicle for man, no longer a woman motorcycle. One TV spot I saw about the new Mio is that it is depicted as an aggressive vehicle, driven in a sandy desert situation, avoiding obstacles with ease. On the background you can notice a woman singing in a sensual voice saying “My Soul, My Man” Or something like that, if not my soul, she may also says mio soul (mio and my sounds similar). The change of positioning here is as clear as day and night, and it shows that Yamaha reacts to a change of people’s perception against automatic scooter.

Although the term that I used, experimental marketing might not be proper to be used in the situation of Yamaha Mio, I define that a change of image positioning in just a short time as a sign that the marketing plan for it is not set in stones, that means it is experimental. For example, Honda Life (www.honda.co.jp/LIFE) positioning has always been as a car for woman from the get go, even the highest trim of the car is called Honda Life Diva…D’oh.

So experimental marketing, or with the example I’ve written above, changing image positioning is quite normal nowadays, especially with the constant change of people. Like a classic sociology definition of humans, “we are finite and creative” therefore, what works for us today, might not work for us tomorrow.

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