LOS ANGELES — With two critical vehicle launches over the next six months, Mitsubishi is taking no chances. It's planning its biggest marketing campaign in a decade, one that will include the brand's biggest digital push ever and an emphasis on Hispanic consumers.
Having enlisted the help of Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, its new advertising agency of record, Mitsubishi knows it must think creatively to compete with rivals with far deeper pockets.
"We may not have all the dollars that Toyota and Honda have," Francine Harsini, senior director of marketing for Mitsubishi Motors North America, said last month at the media launch for the Outlander plug-in hybrid crossover. "But what we're going to do is spend that money wisely."
This means ads running on network TV, but only Wednesday through Sunday. Mitsubishi will also concentrate on networks that overindex with its core audience, including ESPN, the History Channel and HGTV, Harsini said.
Mitsubishi also will lean heavily on its awareness among Hispanic consumers. Just more than 20 percent of the brand's U.S. customer base is Hispanic, second only to Nissan, and Mitsubishi wants to make the most of that critical base.
"Consumers coming into this market from Mexico, Central America and South America have a higher affinity for the Mitsubishi brand than those here in the U.S.," Harsini said. "There is a premiumness to the Mitsubishi brand in those markets, so let's capitalize on it."
The pint-size brand (96,267 U.S. sales in 2016) also plans its biggest spend on digital and social media advertising ever. It declined to provide specific numbers.
Mitsubishi Motors spent $86.9 million on U.S. measured media last year, according to Kantar Media. That includes print, radio, TV and outdoor ad spending.
The stepped-up spending underscores the importance of new models that are hitting the market after years of scant debuts. The Outlander PHEV goes on sale this year as the first plug-in hybrid crossover from a mainstream brand in the U.S. It will be followed next year by the new Eclipse Cross compact crossover.
Noting the importance of correctly positioning the brand and the new products in the eyes of consumers, Mitsubishi in September announced it has signed Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, of Sausalito, Calif., as its new agency, parting ways with 180LA.
BSSP's former automotive client was Mini; the agency resigned the account in March. BSSP's efforts to brand Mini as unique and irreverent caught Mitsubishi's eye.
"We wanted a company that would challenge the status quo," Don Swearingen, executive vice president of Mitsubishi Motors North America, told Automotive News. "They have very strategic experience in the industry and they've done some unique work that really breaks through."
Mitsubishi's U.S sales this year are up 6.5 percent through September, while the overall market is down 1.7 percent.