Design and technology are not the only factors influencing the purchase of a vehicle; the brand and its image also play a significant role – which explains the importance of branding in today’s automotive industry. SEAT positions itself as a young, emotional Spanish brand – attributes that are perfectly embodied by Club SEAT.
NEW STARS TAKE THE STAGE – Club SEAT members had front-row seats when the new fuel-efficient SEAT ECOMOTIVE models were unveiled in Valencia, Spain.
Michaela Oberkoxholt has to catch her breath when she gets out of the car after a few high-speed laps. “I love driving fast, but racing around the Hockenheimring was a whole new experience.” For Oberkoxholt, an office employee from the Southern German city of Göppingen, the two-lap sprint with professional racing driver Fredy Barth at the wheel was the undisputed highlight of the most recent SEAT Leon Supercopa race day.
After winning a competition run by Club SEAT, the Spanish car brand’s online club, Michaela Oberkoxholt got to spend the weekend as a VIP at the spec racing event at the Hockenheimring. “I was right up close in the pit lane together with celebrities like Niki Lauda and Boris Becker,” the 48-year-old enthuses. Given her passion for fast, racy cars, she had the time of her life.
As someone with a penchant for speedy cars with a visual appeal, Oberkoxholt could not have chosen a more suitable brand. “SEAT is design-oriented, sporty and young,” says James Muir, Chairman of the Spanish carmaker’s Executive Committee since September 2009. Muir, a native of Wales, aims to sharpen SEAT’s profile and to raise public awareness of the brand: “SEAT stands for auto emoción and, with its unmistakable profile – especially in the mid-sized and subcompact segment – is an ideal addition to the Volkswagen Group’s brand portfolio,” Muir adds.
IMAGE IS A FACTOR THAT DRIVES PURCHASE DECISIONS
Muir’s strategy of focusing on the image of SEAT is a well-founded one. “Buying a car is a very emotionally charged process,” explains Franz-Rudolf Esch, Director of the Institute for Brand and Communications Research at the University of Giessen, “and the fact is that customers essentially buy brands, not cars.” For many drivers, the model and brand they choose is a way of expressing their personality. This means that, long before the car is purchased, awareness and image determine which brands make it onto the customer’s shortlist. “By the time customers get into a car for a test drive, they already have a definite perception of the brand in question,” explains Esch. When it comes to building a strong brand, a clearly-defined brand promise and a consistent brand policy are crucial. “There is clear evidence that changes in the strength of a brand ultimately influence sales,” maintains Esch.
An important means of conveying SEAT’s brand values is Club SEAT, which was launched in 2008 and is now the central instrument for building customer loyalty. “The Club now has over 230,000 members in twelve different countries,” says Rodrigo Bruecher Bravo, who is responsible for Customer Relationship Management and New Media at SEAT. Unlike other customer clubs, Club SEAT is an exclusively online platform. “70 percent of SEAT’s target group is made up of men – and these are relatively young, with an average age of 34. This being the case, the Internet is the ideal way to communicate with them,” explains Bruecher Bravo.