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Brand Health Check: Jaguar

Ford's luxury marque is struggling badly. While its rivals' sales have risen by up to 10%, its own fortunes have slumped. So how can Jaguar reverse its losses? Ben Bold investigates.

Iconic car marque Jaguar, one of the most quintessentially English brands, is facing one of the toughest periods in its history, after it emerged earlier this month that a slump in sales in the premium car market has forced parent Ford to shut its manufacturing operations in Coventry.

Jaguar only sold 122,000 cars across worldwide last year, while rivals Mercedes and BMW sold 1m each. Moreover, Jaguar's UK sales fell 1.7% from the previous year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

That contrasts starkly with BMW's sales increase, up nearly 10% over the same period, with Audi up by nearly 8%.

Ironically, just last month Jaguar announced it is spending £7m on sponsoring Coventry's £113m state-of-the-art sports and events venue (Marketing, 4 August). Buying the naming rights to The Coventry Arena was designed to reflect the car brand's historical associations with the area, but when it opens next August, the Jaguar Arena will rather be a reminder of the number of workers the company laid off in the city - the so-called 'home of Jaguar'.

Ford also announced it was withdrawing its Jaguar team from Formula One at the end of the season, the result of a failure to score points and cost-cutting measures.

Jaguar's critics say poor marketing is the cause of its ailing market share. Tony Woodley of the Transport & General Workers Union laid the blame at Ford's door, for failing to promote the brand effectively. 'Browns Lane is a productive plant,' he said. 'The failure is Jaguar's for not marketing and selling the cars properly.'

Is it too late for Ford to revive Jaguar's fortunes? We asked John Sanders, a Mercedes director at ad agency McCann-Erickson and previously MG Rover's marketing director, and self-confessed 'petrolhead' Carole Lowe, planning director at agency Archibald Ingall Stretton, which handles integrated work for BMW.

DIAGNOSIS 1 - JOHN SANDERS, DIRECTOR, MCCANN-ERICKSON

Jaguar is a brand that inspires a huge amount of goodwill, and you can't knock that heritage. As part of Ford's Premium Automotive Group it should be logical what to do with it. You have Aston Martin at the top, then Jaguar, a slightly more affordable prestige car that should be competing with the likes of Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Yet it falls short of being an aspirational brand.

In terms of product, it didn't have diesel or estate models at launch for the X-type and S-type, which limited sales and reduced the impact of marketing activity. Their arrival last year has clearly helped, but many potential customers have been lost to competitors. Jaguar's models have fairly narrow appeal, with an almost retro design that compares unfavourably with other brands.

It is not clear what Jaguar stands for, illustrated by its ill-fated foray into Formula One. Losing has potentially damaged the brand. Ford was trying to make it seem more performance-based, yet Jaguar has barely got off the back row of the grid. Jaguar is more about prestige than performance.

REMEDY

- Modernise the exterior design and increase the luxury feel of interiors.

- Don't be afraid of the target market - Jaguar's older customer base is well-off and no one really markets to them.

- Jaguar should not be associated with motorsport. Instead it should leverage its reputation for luxury.

- The money Ford spent on F1 should be put into product development and marketing, particularly in the US.

- Invest in really good PR.

DIAGNOSIS 2 - CAROLE LOWE PLANNING DIRECTOR, ARCHIBALD INGALL STRETTON

With only lacklustre sales to show for a $6bn investment, Jaguar was the natural candidate for surgery in Ford's Premium Automotive Group.

Unions are criticising the marketers' failure to attract young US executives.

Industry experts point to the entry-level X-type as the root of Jaguar's problems, while a weak dollar also hit hard.

It is all these things. In the prestige market, the balance of product quality, design and brand is hard to achieve. In a market short on growth, the industry must reinvent itself.

Jaguar remains a brand in transition from old conservative man to the young, talented Mr Ripleys of this generation. Its products and brand still display these conflicting identities. Experts believe Jaguar must introduce new models quickly, preferably a world away from the Ford Mondeo platform.

In short, Jaguar must bring back the glamour: shot after shot of Hollywood's elite - classy, superior and posing beside their Jaguars. As Lauren Bacall said last month, we're desperately in need of some real legends.

REMEDY

- Put as much distance as possible between Jaguar and its associations with Ford.

- The 'older conservative man' image has hamstrung the brand. Shed it and introduce more daring designs, with communication to mach.

- Inject some much-needed allure and excitement into Jaguar ownership.

- Remake To Catch a Thief; feature Jude Law as The Cat and get him into a Jaguar. Pronto.

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