September 07, 2012 00:00 By Pattanadesh Asasappakij
Before any product is produced and marketed, the manufacturer and distributor must conduct accurate research on market demand as well as consumer requirements.
Then they must clearly designate a target group or consumer group before going ahead with communications and public relations so that target consumers understand the message accurately. This would give the product the opportunity to become successful.
It may sound easy, but in practice many products that strictly follow these guidelines do not become a market success.
Meanwhile, there are many products that did not follow these rules yet turned out highly successful. The main thing is to accurately carry out research on what consumers really want.
For new products, we often see messages and PR blitzes that are designed to impress consumers so they buy into the idea. Once the consumer believes the message and is emotionally inclined, he/she would want to purchase that product. But we must accept the fact that consumer behaviour is different in different markets around the world.
Last week there was an automotive event that I, as a commentator, cannot resist talking about. It is an event that has not taken place for a long period of time in Thailand , and it is interesting to watch and see whether this is a sign that the market has evolved or is just a coincidence.
It is an advertisement in various media for an eco-car. The content concentrates on the manual transmission model, and if this advertisement was seen in other countries, especially in Europe, it would have seemed normal. This is because eco-cars are supposed to be cheap and have low running costs, whether it is extra-low fuel consumption, low maintenance and repair costs, or high durability. This is one of the reasons that cars with manual gearboxes are more popular than those with automatic transmissions.
But in the Thai market, it is clear that automatics are more popular, and the trend extends even to the 4x4 pickup market. In this segment, more automatics are sold than manual gearboxes for every brand, while in the eco-car market, the automatic models have a much higher share than those with manual transmission.
So when I saw that advertisement I started to think that the marketing department of that particular brand must have used information from overseas consumer research to make this decision in offering the manual model. And the number of manual models to be produced is as much, or even more, than the automatic.
However, due to the higher popularity of automatics in Thailand, they would have inadvertently suffered from an excess in cars left in stock, leading to this new advertisement campaign. Once they clear the inventory they would then adjust the production ratio of manuals and automatics.
But a second opinion of mine says that the manufacturer and distributor of this model, although having researched and understood the requirements of consumers in Thailand, believes that this consumer preference is not right. They know that once automatic eco-cars are used for many years, customers will find out that they must bear higher maintenance costs from the automatic transmission.
So it decided to produce and market the product that they think is the “right and most suitable” one. They are also willing to exhaustively try to convince customers to follow its idea. If successful, it would create permanent customer loyalty to the brand. And this is better than following the marketing game set up by the bigger market leaders, while the brand has just entered the mainstream market for a short period of time.
Actually I can see that this brand has entered the market with their own concept, which is different to other brands already present in the Thai auto market. They have taken a different route compared to others by concentrating on the new generation who have high self-confidence and want a fashionable car similar to the Mini.
That’s why you can see many of these cars being dressed up with aftermarket customisations. If my thoughts are correct, this brand will enjoy higher popularity in the market, and the eco-car market will go through a major change, with manual models enjoying a much higher ratio in sales.
Personally, I love this kind of marketing strategy and I do hope that they have made the right decision and become highly successful in the Thai automobile market.