'We positioned an old world, and opened it up': Scott Keogh, CMO of Audi of America

Audi of America has been one of the most interesting challengers in the US in recent years. Their preparedness to take on the larger players, whom they have grouped together as 'old luxury', and their balance between drama and thoughtfulness has led to a doubling of their share of the luxury car market. Scott Keogh has been CMO over that period of growth.

What led you to take a 'Next Generation' position against the established luxury brands?

In America, there is BMW, Mercedes Benz and Lexus, and if you were them, the world was good. They had high market share, high consideration, high awareness: they were very successful. If you were not them, things were bad. There had not been a real new luxury brand presented to America in over twenty years. They've been the same gang of competitors looking at themselves. They were saying the same things; targeting the same people; bringing similar products to market, and it was basically three people staring at each other around a table.

How did you do it?

We positioned an old world. We positioned a world of darkness, cobwebs, old rugs, dated furniture and dated ideas and we opened it up. We positioned it with light, innovation and technology. It was a classic 'out with the old, in with the new' strategy. You also had the replacement of a dated brand of yesterday - Mercedes Benz - by the innovative Audi A4. The car was actually more fuel efficient, and more powerful. It also had LED technology, and a host of other things that our older competitors didn't have at the time. It definitely got the fireworks going.

Did it get the traction you needed as a brand?

Audi now has 60% consideration. We've nearly doubled the amount of people [considering purchasing the brand]. We've also now got the cross-shop. Mercedes Benz and Lexus customers, and to some extent BMW's, previously did not consider buying an Audi. Those two things have been rectified. We're now getting higher pricing in the marketplace and we're getting higher consideration. It's exactly what we needed to do.

What's the benefit to a challenger of having an 'other surface' to push up against?

It's extremely important for a challenger brand to have something to push up against, because if you don't, you're not a challenger brand. A challenger's always challenging something; whether they're challenging the establishment; they're challenging complacency; they're challenging mediocrity: whatever it might be. For Audi if there's one thing that we're always challenging and going up against, it's this concept of being staid and mediocre. In order to set yourself apart it's crucial - whether it's an enemy, if you want to go as far as that, or a point of view. Because what that does is de-position instantly your competitors. It puts them into an archaic place and time.