Driver’s Choice: 5 Questions With Mazda CMO Russell Wager

Driver’s Choice: 5 Questions With Mazda CMO Russell Wager 960 474 C-Suite Network
Mazda Driving Matters

Mazda isn’t feeling the summer doldrums. The automaker is trying to grow its US market share by moving its brand and vehicles upscale, so the brand doesn’t have the luxury of standard summer clearance promotions to move 2017 models at a time of year when that’s exactly what many of its competitors are doing.

Instead, Mazda is running a branding campaign, “Driver’s Choice,” which features real people (premium car owners) in a sort of blind taste test of Mazda versus other vehicles. Mazda conceals the identities of its own models and identifying marks of premium vehicles in the same segment. The upshot: The majority of those surveyed preferred Mazda vehicles when they didn’t know the identity of the brands.

That aligns with what Mazda Vice President of Marketing Russell Wager has been trying to do for the past few years: give Mazda’s brand and vehicles a premium cachet at affordable prices. So long, the “zoom-zoom” imagery of the sporty but inexpensive Mazda; welcome to bold comparisons with Acura, Infiniti and other avowed premium brands.

Russell Wager Mazda

“This is continuing what we’ve started with our communications, telling people about our quality and that with Mazda you can get what you would be expecting from a premium brand,” Wager (right) told brandchannel.

As part of its efforts to buff up the overall brand, Mazda is also nurturing a number of sub-brands and subsidiary concepts that enhance overall appreciation for its cars and marque.

These include Skyactiv, a suite of technology and weight-saving features across all of its cars; “Koda,” which Mazda calls its dynamic exterior design language that is resulting in highly streamlined new vehicles; and now “Jinba Ittai,” which Mazda says is the connection that drivers feel with the vehicle, which it has been enhancing with heightened mechanical responsiveness in its smaller vehicles.

Mazda also is pursuing certain demographics more determinedly. The brand just launched a new digital campaign aimed at the Hispanic community, aiming to tap into the group’s existing positive affinity for Japanese-made products, Mazda said.