Susanne Franz: Global Marketing Director of SEAT
Life in the fast lane
How SEAT is meeting the fresh demands of young consumers
Global Marketing Director of SEAT
Looking at the more than 70 years of SEAT history, what have been the key factors in the success and growth of the brand?
It all started in 1953, when SEAT launched the 600, the first car which brought mobility to Spain. Then in 1984 we started with the first generation of Ibiza, which was the first international product for the brand. Then in 1986 we became part of the Volkswagen Group. Another big milestone was last year, when the brand decided to enter into the SUV segment. That was the moment when we launched the Ateca, another great success story for the brand and now, in 2017, we are launching the fifth generation of Ibiza, the best Ibiza we’ve ever built and reflecting the complete DNA of the brand of being a young, modern, functional, comfortable car, heavily design-driven, so part of that is the key success of the brand.
What sets SEAT apart in the minds of consumers?
Since 2012, we have implemented new brand values or a new “brand way”, which is based on values like being dynamic, design-driven, young-spirited, reliable, efficient, accessibility and quality. Our customers see us as a young and modern brand from Spain, heavily design-driven and we are accessible; we put functionality and technology from the higher segment into a lower segment to give accessibility to a young, urban mindset. We are definitely a young-at-heart brand and that kind of dynamism gives us differentiation.
What role does the customer play in the definition of brand strategies?
We listen to customers; we invite customers to participate in co-creational processes. For example, we are just closing the co-creation of a sound logo, and we are inviting all of our customers to participate in the naming of the large SUV we are going to launch.
How has your media mix changed over the years?
It has changed a lot but there’s no recipe behind that. We adapt ourselves to the needs of each campaign and to how to approach the right customer at the right moment. Our customers are 10 years younger than the market average, so of course we are heavily digital-driven and mobile-driven, and we are a frontrunner in the use of programmatic media buying. But there is also an offline world, and we try to combine both.
We can see that when customers come into the showroom, they are heavily prepared about the technology of the car, about the latest news, so the role of the dealer is changing a little bit: they were the advisor a couple of years ago, now the dealers are the ones closing the deal and who are giving additional value, emotional value. And people are looking for a relationship. You have to create a brand experience process that makes customers feel home.
What is the relationship between 'brand Spain' and SEAT?
SEAT is part of Marca España and we have always paid tribute to Spain, so all our products have got Spanish names. We also want to be recognized outside Spain as being a Spanish brand. I’m not Spanish and I can tell you this Mediterranean spirit gives sexiness and modernity to a brand.
How do you adapt to new markets?
We try to speak one language, we respect the brand values we work into every direction, but we help individual markets to deploy the assets we deliver and to interpret them to meet the needs of each market. So there is one SEAT, one brand, and one voice everywhere, but deployment is matched to the market’s needs.
SEAT has been a great supporter of sport and music. How do artists and athletes reflect the values and aspirations of the brand?
Sports and music present what the brand stands for and are very emotion-driven directions. If you look at festivals, they’re the moments when people really experience life, and that perfectly fits to the emotional values of the brand – we make beautiful things happen and we work in the right direction. People can feel the youth and the modernity of the brand.
How do environmental considerations fit into SEAT's brand strategy?
This is pretty unique. We’ve got the biggest solar panel in automobile production – it’s bigger than 40 football fields – and we use the power of the sun to build our cars. In fact, every fifth Leon leaving the factory is built purely by the sun’s energy. So, we’ve got a big sun corporation, which links with our Spanish DNA. We’ve also just shown our new TGI line-up, which it is all about high-technology engines and low emissions and, of course, we are working hard towards introducing electric cars in 2019.
How will SEAT adapt to the new of future automotive trends that we’re starting to see already?
If we take the three fields of automotive trends in terms of innovation, it’s about electrification, it’s about autonomous driving and it’s about connectivity. Regarding electrification and autonomous driving, due to cost reasons, we will be an early adopter, or early follower. When it comes to connectivity, we want to become the frontrunner. Our customers are 10 years younger than average so what young customers and what millennial customers are looking for is connectivity. And that’s why we are focusing on that – becoming a frontrunner when it comes to being connected to a city, connected to the car, and connected to your person and their needs.