Communicate spoke with Elmir Arnautovic, Director of Marketing & Communications for Audi Middle East, to learn more about Audi's refined brand strategy.
How is Audi planning to approach 2021 from a marketing and branding perspective?
2021 has already started on a high note for Audi in the Middle East. Since the last seven months have been fueled with excitement around the introduction of our new R and RS models in the region, we decided to start this year off with some performance. With the introduction of the RS Q3 Sportback, we wanted to offer something extraordinarily special, by inviting our friends of the brand and our customers to experience the newly launched vehicle and its R and RS siblings on a bespoke experience designed to thrill and excite.
It is important for us, at Audi, to fascinate through creative innovation and we take that to our driving experiences as well. While we strive to stay consistent and true to our global brand positioning and appearance, it is of utmost importance for us to consider local requirements and customer needs, in order to remain true to this region as well.
The Middle East is a digitally savvy region with young and connected customers who perfectly reflect the progressive new brand direction of Audi and who truly live progress. So, when we had to rethink the way in which we live, work, and communicate throughout the past year, it was important for us in brand communications to continue towards our 360 digital transformation. In fact, we worked on bringing showrooms and new product launches closer to customers through new digital formats. And while we continued on this digital journey, it was important to gravitate towards [a hybrid form of ] events as well.
2021 promises to be an exciting year for Audi with some truly iconic product launches and brand experiences, which will positively shake the industry and further position the brand as the shaper of premium mobility of the future.
Audi is planning to position the brand in a new direction. What prompted this decision?
As we can all surely relate, 2020 was a different kind of year and in these times of transformation and change, a strong brand [position] is very important. Throughout the years, Audi has managed to build a unique premium image. Icons such as the Audi TT or the Audi R8 were decisive for this, but also technologies such as Quattro and the brand’s success on the track as well.
Now is the time for us to create the icons of the future. Audi stands for innovation, fascination, perfection, and passion. Based on our strong heritage and brand DNA, it is time to evolve to a future-oriented brand identity. We demonstrated that with the introduction of the all-electric Audi e-Tron Sportback to our region and, this year again, with our Audi Performance Week. I am sure you will start noticing more and more of the new brand direction through our current and upcoming work both globally and in the region.
You mentioned that you're sharpening the character of the brand. What does that mean exactly and how does one go about doing that?
A clear strategic direction is a key success factor for a global company such as Audi. Our new strategic direction sets a clear path for our brand moving forward and is very easy for us to regionalize. With sustainability, electrification, and digitalization in mind, we wanted to tackle these in a more human-centric way. Therefore, we did this by putting people and their needs at the heart of our refined brand strategy. We’re moving past a sole focus on mechanical innovations and placing a bigger emphasis on togetherness, people, and a more collaborative culture to shape a better future.
By translating the characteristics that have made Audi successful for over 110 years, we have driven our brand strategy into a future-oriented direction that is authentic to Audi. Future is an attitude. It's as simple as that. The purpose is to improve people’s lives through innovation across the board and to make a sustainable contribution to society. Audi’s ambition is to shape the future of premium mobility and to create fascinating experiences along the way for its customers.
How will technology play a role in future communications for Audi?
Technology has always played a key role within Audi’s overall brand strategy. With the new brand direction, we have charged "Vorsprung" [from Audi's brand slogan “Vorsprung durch technik” meaning “Advancement through technology.” ] with a new meaning which drives a future-oriented brand identity. At its core, it is no longer just a matter of exploring technological boundaries, but about using technology to improve people's lives and to contribute to a transformative, more inclusive future.
In fact, we are placing the customer at the center of our activities much more firmly than ever before. The Middle East has a naturally younger customer base who is digitally sophisticated, connected, and socially active on a much wider variety of platforms than the rest of the world. Therefore, we have been working on bringing the Audi brand closer to these customers by being bolder and louder with our content and brand communications.
“Future is an attitude“ is our communicative motto for all upcoming communication activities. This campaign reflects our spirit, which is deeply rooted in our brand DNA, where passion, courage, and curiosity come together and mobility progress emerges.
The shift towards sustainability, digital transformation, and design will continue to form the core for us. Notwithstanding, through our refined approach, we are aiming to create a holistic and fascinating premium customer journey – one that offers a consistent brand experience throughout, from the digital customer experience and the retail experience to the products themselves.
This is the attitude at the heart of everything we are doing at Audi, as we shift into this new era for our brand and for mobility – approaching innovation and the future from a whole new perspective – this is the key to true progress
How has Covid-19 impacted the automotive industry when it comes to marketing?
The past period has had an unprecedented effect on the region and on the world as a whole. The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly impacted people, businesses, and industries. We surely learned to do things differently and that is also true for our brand communications strategy. It was time for us to rethink the way in which we communicated with our audience.
Despite the full lockdown situation in most countries, which created obstacles for many companies to connect with their customers, we saw it rather as an opportunity to learn and to innovate and push the creative boundaries further. Most importantly, the global pandemic taught us to be more mindful of our customers and to speak to them on a more personal level.
The brand pushed a number of initiatives forward to give peace of mind to customers across the region. In order to keep our people and customers safe, we further digitalized our business and brought events and showrooms closer to customers while offering them all our services from the comfort of their home.
It was also important for us to give back to the community. We had to put our fleet to good use. Therefore, we decided to provide our fleet of Audi vehicles to the Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services (DCAS) to support its efforts to fight the pandemic in Dubai. The fleet was used to transport critical equipment, medical supplies, and meals to team workers and their families living in the UAE. Our Audi Middle East team was extremely proud to support the DCAS and do its part during the Covid-19 situation locally.
As we continue on this journey, it is important for brands to be closer to their customers, to understand changing behaviors, and to communicate with more impact.
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