The launch of the all-new 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander is big news for the company. They have been maintaining a low profile for more than awhile, so I wanted to get the word on what the company was thinking.
Francine Harsini, director, marketing Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., was open to talking with me. Following, the interview:
Holly Reich: You said in our initial interview that “Mitsubishi was great at being inconsistent, and it’s really about recognizing what it is and not using the same old thinking.” Can you delve into this and tell us what you are doing to bring Mitsubishi front and center again?
Francine Harsini: It starts by communicating both the brand and the model together — not just the name or not just the model. For example, we need to talk about both Mitsubishi and Outlander. In the past, we only referred to models but there is not enough awareness for our brand to do that at this point.
We also are focusing on staying relevant and being true to who we are: a brand for the intelligent individual, with products that inspire passion and pride. For example, on July 11, 2015, we had our annual Mitsubishi Owner’s Day at our Cypress campus. Over 2,500 people attended and parked as early as 10 p.m. on Friday night for the event that opened at 9 a.m. on Saturday. That’s passion! We need to bottle this.
In terms of media, it means looking at the traditional buy through a different lens. We buy national cable, specifically networks that have the highest reach, and then choose programming that does well against our demo in terms of passion pillars: sports, entertainment, and news. We need to be where consumers are. The traditional purchase funnel doesn’t exist anymore. To participate in the consumer conversation, you need to be where they are in a consistent manner.
HR: Is Kia is your benchmark for marketing? If not, do you have another one?
FH: Kia is not the benchmark. If I had to say whom we use as a reference for branding purposes, I would have to say Subaru. The reason is that Subaru has done a great job with consistency in both their products and in their marketing. Over the past 10 years, you can see the “adventure” message through Subaru’s lifestyle/slice-of-life advertising.
HR: What can we look forward to Mitsubishi doing in the future from a marketing, branding, and product perspective?
FH: On branding: ‘Find your own lane’ will continue to be utilized. It started as a campaign theme and has now evolved into more of a mantra for the company. People attracted to our brand want something a little different, and they do want to find their own lane.
For marketing: We are looking for strategic partners who align with our brand where we can leverage each other for a “bigger splash.” Especially media networks that have content creation and digital properties that generate other content that we can use on our social channels, website, dealer use, etc.
HR: Do you market things outside of work? When you go into a grocery store or boutique, do you think about how the product would look better placed in the front, on the wall, etc?
FH: You are so right! I think many of us who work in this arena look at things a bit differently. I typically pay close attention to the details of things rather than the overall look. By that, I mean the “small” things, whether it is materials use, staging, or the service. It’s often these small things that have a tremendous impact.
HR: What do you do for fun outside of work?
FH: I love to cook. I’m from south Louisiana (Cajun Country), and food is such a big part of everyday life it’s a natural to not only love to cook but enjoy food and family. I also like to hike and travel. Being outdoors with no “connections” is essential to staying self-aware and not getting too caught up in the day-to-day grind. Nature centers me and allows me to get refreshed so that I can continue to be grounded and open to new ideas.
HR: Where do you go for inspiration?
FH: The question circles back to the question of what I do for fun outside of work. In today’s workplace, putting in long hours is rewarded, and you’re constantly on the go. That’s something that is hard to avoid, so I find it crucial to carve out time for myself to disconnect and unplug. I think it’s taking these breaks that refresh you and help to spur on creativity and new ideas.
Over the years, I also have realized just how important it is to listen to the feedback of others. Whether it is dealers, consumers, staff — you can learn a lot about their needs directly from the source and translate it into effective marketing. Dealers have to sell our vehicles, and consumers buy them, so any chance I get to interact with them directly is beneficial.
— Holly Reich, Motor Matters
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2015
Manufacturer Photo: Francine Harsini, director of marketing, stands in front of the new Mitsubishi Outlander. Harsini oversees all aspects of the company’s marketing strategy and creative; media planning and buying; as well as interactive/social initiatives. Writer Holly Reich interviews Harsini.