Unmistakeably German

Citroën, have a big problem …

Despite being part of the PSA Peugeot Citroën group, the worlds 5th largest* Motor Vehicle producer, they have a problem when it comes to customer satisfaction and perception of product quality.

In a recent UK survey**, Citroën were ranked 33rd, of 35 car manufacturers, for customer satisfaction. In the same survey, the two other mass market French brands, Renault and Peugeot, were ranked 34th and 35th respectively. In the UK, being a French car brand, is not necessarily seen as a good thing.

Citroën UK, have come up with an interesting solution to this problem, for the launch of the new C5 … exploit the positive attributes associated with the same product, manufactured in another country. In this case, the quality and performance of German cars.

The Citroën UK, "Unmistakeably German" campaign, uses a cliché of German culture, through imagery, ( the German Count, the Bavarian Alps, the Brandenburg Gate,  the Berlin Olympic Stadium ) and a stirring, Ride of the Valkyries sound track, to link these positive German attributes to the C5. Other elements of the campaign, offer a more humorous but direct approach, to forging this link:

The Advertising elements of the campaign are beautifully constructed, however the PR and Experiential elements of the campaign, also have a significant role to play. Product reviews will undoubtedly focus on the "Unmistakeably German" claim. Ultimately, however, it is only through experiencing the quality of the product, through events such as Ride & Drive and the business as usual showroom test drives, that potential buyers will be persuaded, that the car is, "unmistakeably German".

Geographic & Cultural Considerations.
Swiss_watches_5Although the exploitation of positive cultural attributes, is often used in product positioning and brand development, such attempts are usually made, based upon the origins of the product or brand. As such, these activities can translate between different cultures and geographies. A classic example is the exploitation of attributes associated with Switzerland and Swiss Made, in the watch market.

In the case of the Citroën C5 campaign, such an approach will not translate across territories. The concept itself will not work in France, as it acts as a denial of their French heritage. Nor would it work in Germany. This failure is not due to the German stereotype in the execution, but due to the cultural pride in German engineering excellence. A more obvious analogy, would be marketing English wine in France, with the strap line "Unmistakeably French, *made in England". The French psyche, with its belief in the superiority of their wine making heritage, is simply not going to buy-in, to this claim.

This view is re-enforced by the different campaigns that have been used to launch the C5 in both France and Germany. Both of these campaigns, are more traditional, emphasising style, rather than quality, through the strap lines, "Distinguez-vous" ("Distinguish yourself") and "mehr Stil für die Straße" ("More style for the street")

Unmistakeably …

For a fiercely proud French brand, this is a brave attempt to overcome their customer satisfaction issues. However, the impact on the remainder of the Citroën range must also be considered. If the the C5 is singled out as being "Unmistakeably German", is the rest of the range unmistakeably …


*Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d' Automobiles (OICA) Correspondents survey 2006. Published – July 2007.
**Top Gear Survey 2006. Published – February 2007