Even though Kawasaki Motors is more than 140 years old, it's a company that's all about the thrill of adventure - "wild, unrestrained, amazing fun," according to CMO Chris Brull. At the helm of its marketing campaigns, Brull embodies the brand's enthusiasm and energy. "We build products that are all about bettering people's lives," Brull says. "Our company actually builds the Shinkansen bullet train. We build the fuselage of the Dreamliner. We build the factories where our products are made. ... Our engineering comes from something bigger and it's very compelling for the customer."
Brull's task is incredible: juggling 14 sub-brands and 84 different models while somehow keeping the brand consistent and personal for long-time Kawasaki fanatics. The industry of power sports is, more so than others, extremely hyper connected, making it a great challenge with even greater rewards. Brull cites authenticity as the name of the game, because "... these enthusiasts can spot a fake. To connect with them, we really have to know what we're talking about."
Home Is Where the Fans Are
The personal connection is key in Kawasaki's success. "Personal interaction (especially in our industry) is still so critical," Brull says. "We might have a customer sitting on the website at 2 AM getting hooked. But at the end of the day, you can't buy our product online. You still need to get the person to the dealership."
By speaking directly to the fans and helping to build the community, Kawasaki is creating a bond that goes beyond just a product or service. "They want to connect," Brull says. "They want to belong. So the product itself is almost a ticket to the Kawasaki party."
Marketing to the Community
In order to tap a direct line, Brull and his team have wholeheartedly embraced online tools such as social media and mobile apps. As the first company in their industry to really develop a social presence, Kawasaki didn't just "post a bunch of cool shots of cool bikes." "The conversations actually go pretty deep. We're sharing riding tips, riding locations, history of the brand, dealership locations," Brull says. "Another nice thing is that we've never bought a single fan on social. Our 800,000 fans are hard earned."
Not only did Kawasaki see great feedback from their customers, but they also found a way to satisfy the need for fresh content and the latest news. "They wanted to see the next big thing in Kawasaki and we were giving it to them," Brull explains. "Our idea was to just give them a little bit. We were taking our content down to bite-sized pieces and giving our customers reasons to buy Kawasaki."
At the same time Kawasaki was exploring the online space, they were also creating huge experiential events in offline spaces. In Times Square, they staged a launch for the Kawasaki Ninja sport motorcycle to an audience of 1.5 million people.
Telling a Story
Ultimately, the main draw of Kawasaki's brand is its story and lifestyle. Brull says that, though of course customers are interested in how their products work, the most important question for Kawasaki to answer is "Why?" "Is it the wind in the face?" Brull asks. "Is it the escape? Leaving friends and family behind? Or is it riding with a big pack? It's the inspirational part of riding."
Just like their targeted marketing campaign, the answer to that question can't be too broad. Brull and his team are looking to speak directly to a certain group of people. "We call our appeal 'intelligent rebel,'" Brull says. "We're not for everyone nor do we want to be. We're about going further, faster."
In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Neisser's complete interview with CMO Award Winner Brull, click here.