When you think of stale, indigestible advertising, car ads quickly come to mind. What you don't think of is Audi.
Yes, in a sea of J.D. Power and Associate sameness, one German luxury automaker is reinventing modern marketing. CMO and EVP of Audi Loren Angelo says that shouldn't come as a surprise; after all, Audi has always been a little different. "A challenger spirit is crucial in everything we do at Audi," says Loren. "Therefore, pushing our communication to be anything but traditional drives us internally and is why we seek out clever culturally-relevant storytelling."
So how does Audi stay creative in an industry plagued by copycats, reheated strategies and way too many shots of cars driving on wet streets at night? Loren says that if you're looking for the secret to brand-centric creativity, then true enlightenment must come from within. "Creativity is driven by staying authentic to your brand and your mission. I'm inspired by ideas where I can connect my brand with cultural moments that engage a conversation," says Loren.
When Audi sets out to make creative, successful marketing efforts, they don't follow templates. In fact, they take everything into consideration when starting a project, starting with the medium. "Creativity comes in the message as well as the medium in which it's delivered," says Loren. "Building the brand with time-starved, affluent Americans requires us to bring unique ideas to a variety of channels."
This medium-agnostic strategy to building a brand has led Audi into some unusual places, including traffic navigation app Waze and one of the most unusual trio of brands this century: a combined marketing push between TV show Pretty Little Liars and Audi, shown exclusively on Snapchat. Letting form define function like this has unique advantages, most notably when trying to reach Millennials, a notoriously marketing-averse demographic that's beginning to enter the entry-level luxury category. As Loren alludes to, making a strong connection with Millennials when they're young can mean a strong body of brand advocates for years to come.
Even though the medium changes depending on the day at Audi, a consistency in messaging is a key point of the overarching strategy. "At Audi, we believe that keeping focus on a single message and finding the most effective way to deliver it within the channel proves most effective," Loren explains. "Staying true to the strategic idea is what drives a successful campaign that is reinforced when consumers interact at various channels."
For every new piece of advertising, Loren takes this overall strategic idea and brainstorms the most effective way to share it, utilizing the unique quirks of each medium and strategizing executions that aren't just impactful for the overall demographic target market, but also for the audience on that specific channel. "Identifying strategies that connect our message with consumer stories might take a storytelling path in TV, a more eccentric approach in social media or might be encapsulated in a single statement on an outdoor board," says Loren.
Even though Loren's company has shared the Audi experience everywhere from billboards to mobile apps, Loren claims that social media has unique advantages to help Audi pull away from the pack. "We identified an opportunity to engage a conversation with America through social media several years ago," says Loren. "[Social media] was the ideal platform to reinforce our provocative messages while establishing a clear voice for the brand."
And while Audi has had great success with its messaging, Loren isn't about to rest on his laurels. "[Digital storytelling] is crucial to bringing a brand into the conversation with today's consumer," says Loren. "While our fan base has grown organically through our engaging content, we've established Audi in over 10 social media channels." By combining a truly impressive amount of social media channels, each offering a unique experience to the audience, with cross-channel and brand-centric messaging, Audi has hit on a marketing plan that will never run out of gas.
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 Loren Angelo, click here.