Holden turns its back on bogans for new 'modern' strategy
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When you think of Holden, Bathurst and blokes come to mind.
From the early days of the iconic Torana and Gemini, to the more recent times of the Monaro and Commodore Ute - Holden has forever been a brand for the boys - or, dare I say it, the 'bogans' of Australia.
The roaring lion, the red and white flags and roaring V8 engines - the Holden brand has been exclusive to a select pool of fanatics since inception.
But bosses say that 'rev head' demographic is no longer part of their new age "modern Australia" strategy, with the car manufacturer hoping to realign the brand to appeal to a wider range of buyers - particularly women.
But, as Holden gears up to close its last car factory in Adelaide in October before opting for imported vehicles - the manufacturer is facing its biggest battle yet - changing a deep-rooted perception of the iconic Australian brand.
This year, Holden unveiled a new plan for winning over a new breed of buyer, and extinguishing public indifference to the brand.
"Research has shown that 64 per cent of Australians are indifferent about the Holden name and this proves that our brand image is our biggest hurdle," executive director of marketing at Holden, Mark Harland, told Behind the Wheel.
"We need to get Holden back on people's radars."
At the media launch of the new Holden Astra sedan this month, which is one of several new vehicles to be included in its 2017 portfolio, Holden's general manager of marketing, communications and digital, Natalie Davey, said breaking away from its former brand had been a big challenge.
"If you think about Holden ... we are iconic as an Australian brand," Mrs Davey told news.com.au.
"That icon from yesteryear was around meat pies, kangaroos and Holden. But if you think about modern Australia today, we haven't remained prominent to that, which is where we are catching up."
A screen from a new Holden advertisement. Photo / Holden
In 2015, Holden posted its lowest sales in 23 years. But with women influencing up to 70 per cent of all car purchases, it is hoping the rebrand will lure more females into dealerships.
Earlier this year, Holden released a targeted Facebook ad made especially to acknowledge how women felt when purchasing a vehicle.
"Going into a dealership can sometimes I feel, maybe, as a woman, be a little bit intimidating. It's a bit of a boy's club," a young blonde woman said to camera in the advert.
"I feel like the car industry portrays women quite unfairly. You always see a man driving the car in the adverts. I feel like it doesn't really represent who I am as a woman," another brunette added.
The commercial ended with the tagline 'Change is coming' alongside the Holden Spark.
Mrs Davey said the advertising and marketing rebrand, which included a change in logo and social media approach to the brand, has been a big step.
"We have a long and proud heritage in Australia, but there is a deep perception of the brand," she explained.
"I grew up with Holden - the V8 supercars, Bathurst, the utes and Commodores. We have all grown up with the Holden of yesterday, and it's not something we can brush off overnight.
"We know changing perception is a long term plan, but we want to evolve to include all audiences.
"This isn't about not wanting our loyal customers anymore. We want to build that appeal beyond the heartland.
"We want to show today's Australia we have vehicles for everybody."
This year Holden "came out" as a sponsor of the Mardi Gras, joining major partners like Facebook, Airbnb and SKYN.
Mardi Gras Holden Colorado promotional vehicle. Photo / Holden
"We're coming out ... As an official sponsor of this year's Mardi Gras!" the Facebook post from February said.
"Why? Because Australians are changing and evolving, and so are we. So it's time to show our support for the causes that we believe in.
"As a starting point, in 2016 we pledged our support for Australian Marriage Equality, and are now proud to sponsor this year's Mardi Gras.
"Be kind, we're new to the party!"
But 'kind' fans were not - with thousands slamming its decision to take part in the parade.
"Why does Holden support a divisive issue that attacks families, promotes depriving children of a mother or father, reduces freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and promotes sickness and death? Stick to selling cars, and leave extremist politics aside, and you might do better," one fan wrote.
Others said the move would cost Holden much needed support.
"I bought a Holden last year. I'm now sorry that I did it. If they want to sponsor the mardi gras, they've lost me," one person said.
Mrs Davey acknowledged that all brands receive positive and negative feedback, but said it was pivotal for Holden to change with the times or risk its future in the current automotive market.
"We are positioning ourselves as a more modern brand for Australia," she explained. "We are on this road and it won't happen overnight.
"Since rebranding we are seeing an uplift in the brand health. We want to be known as a more inclusive brand, rather than a blokey masculine brand.
"There has been an opinion and reputation shift, which is a really good sign we are going in the right direction."