Wednesday 24 January 2018

Meet Stephen and Sarah - they're the people Seat aims at to make inroads into SUV sector

As a challenger brand, Seat may only have 2pc of the market - but it has a road map, as Neil Dalton tells John McGee

Neil Dalton, head of marketing and product at Seat Ireland. Photo: Mark Condren
Neil Dalton, head of marketing and product at Seat Ireland. Photo: Mark Condren

John McGee

The Irish motoring industry is positively humming at the moment, with the latest batch of figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) showing that new car registrations for the first seven months of the year were up by 19pc to 131,264 on the same period in 2015.

With the figures likely to break the 150,000 mark by the end of the year, this is good news for the Exchequer, which can expect to pocket in the region of €1bn in tax revenues. The buoyant market is currently sustaining the employment of around 40,000 people throughout the industry.

Although it only has around 2pc of the total market, the VW-owned Seat is looking to grow this substantially over the next few years, according to Seat's head of marketing and product, Neil Dalton.

A big part of Seat's strategy revolves around its first foray into the popular SUV market, a segment which has grown substantially in recent years, according to Dalton.

Aimed at the mid-market, which includes popular brands like the Nissan Qashqai and the Renault Kadjar, Seat's SUV offering, the Ateca, may be long overdue, but timing in the motor industry is everything.

"We are late into the market but it's a market that has grown by 85pc year to date on the back of the industry growing by 24pc.

"This shows that it's outperforming the rest of the market and it is obviously the fastest-growing segment in the market," says Dalton, a former head of marketing for Audi.

There are several reasons for the SUV's popularity, he explains.

"Consumers have changed over the past number of years, they expect more for their money and are a lot more demanding. SUVs have a better image, are more practical for younger families, there is a perception that they have a better residual value and people feel they get more bang for their buck.

"So the demand is there and we think that's only going to increase over the next few years."

The launch of the Ateca will be followed up next year with another (albeit smaller) offering in the form of a rival to the likes of the Nissan Juke, the Renault Kaptur and the Mazda CX3.

Then the gloves are off.

In a highly competitive and cluttered market, knowing its target audience and how to reach it has been a key focus for Seat over the past few months.

"We are obsessed with targeting the right audience and how we engage with it," says Dalton.

With the help of the market-research firm Spark Market Research, the company undertook some interesting research into the typical persona of the average Seat driver and how they perceive the brand and its three key different models - the Ibiza, the Leon and the Ateca - which, between them, account for around 80pc of Seat's sales in Ireland.

The research found that overall Seat is predominantly perceived as an urban brand and this is reflected in its sales in Dublin, Cork and Galway. In their research, they also found that their customer base broke down into three cohorts. The typical Ibiza customer is a mid-20s woman (they called her Holly) who is digitally savvy, likes fashion, is image-conscious and consumes her media through her smartphone. The brands that she likes include Penneys, Asos and Zara and she listens to Spin 1038 and FM104.

The Seat Leon driver they christened Stephen, in his mid-30s and probably with a young family. Professional, urban-based and a first-time house owner, he likes to frequent trendy Dublin bars at the weekend. Stephen also likes to go on rugby weekends with the lads and while he likes to socialise, he is health-conscious and goes to the gym several times a week. The brands he likes include Ted Baker, Ralph Lauren and Under Armour. Like Holly, he consumes a lot of his media through his Samsung smartphone but also dips in and out of other media when he can.

Finally, they called the Ateca driver Sarah. A mid-30s mother of two, she expertly juggles family life with her work in sales and marketing. She likes the Ateca because it's stylish, practical and value for money. She is health-conscious, sometimes thrifty and likes brands like Catimini, Xara, H&M and M&S. She likes the theatre and takes occasional breaks in Majorca.

Who knows, maybe somebody called Stephen tags along with her?

Caricatures and stereotypes aside, you get the picture.

Having this type of research, however, has allowed Seat focus more on its customers and what they actually need, as opposed to what car manufacturers think they need. But the research also informs creative and media strategies and helps deliver more targeted and effective advertising by eliminating waste.

"This has been hugely important for us and it has allowed us focus our resources on our key target market," says Dalton.

"Programmatic buying, for example, now accounts for 30pc of our digital spend which is significant. We can only do that because we know who are our target audience is and it means less wastage," he adds.

Sunday Indo Business

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