Opel to launch ‘Airbnb for drivers’ as it shifts brand gears from product to utility

Opel is readying an Airbnb-style service for drivers as it accelerates its shift from product-focused promotions to marketing mobility services to fuel its ongoing turnaround plan in Europe.

The peer-to-peer service debuts next month, allowing private drivers to lend out their Opel vehicles. All a driver needs to do is list their vehicle with the application and then it will match it to prospective loanees. It sees Opel become the latest brand to try and exploit the sharing economy that companies like Airbnb and SideCar have pioneered.

Speaking at the Financial Times’ Marketing Innovators Summit, Tina Müller, chief marketing officer and member of the boar at Opel Group, said the upcoming launch is reflective of how it no longer wants to be just a car manufacturer.

“We want to be a mobility service. It’s why the idea of connectivity will become more and more important for us,” she continued. “We’re moving from being a product brand to much more purpose orientated, becoming a mobility business.”

Opel’s evolving marketing strategy stems from the turnaround journey both itself and sister brand Vauxhall in the UK have been on.

An ageing product range and lacklustre marketing had dented the brand and given a greater sense of urgency to annual market share declines for more than 50 years in a row. The slump reached its crtical point in 2013 when Opel posted a 6.8 per cent market share in Germany with drivers in its heartland regarding the brand as outdated and stale.

Following a period of introspection, the business reshuffled its global manangement team and decided that the only way to save the Opel brand was to play with those same prejudices that had knocked sales in all its communications. The idea was that because its relaunched cars had been getting rave reviews, it needed to be on the front foot and use its marketing to actively address its image problems.

It led to the launch of the “Repark your mind” campaign in its heartland, which successfully revamped its image. Nearly half (47.6 per cent) of those who saw the campaign said Opel’s vehicles were good value for money.

Moving forward, Müller said the business planned to expand the approach for Opel and in the case of Vauxhall, look at how it replicate that open and honest brand feeling. She gave a glimpse into how this would manifest itself in ads for the brand with a preview of its latest campaign. Upcoming ads for its Viva brand humorously compare the old Viva to its new model, under the strapline “Just like the old Viva but completely different”.

“Being honest, authentic and truthful with [portraying] our customer feedback opened the door for us to treat the [Opel] brand with realism. Be a realist about where you’re brand is and don’t dream about your brand,” said Müller.

The changes come as Opel’s owner General Motors looks to profit in Europe in 2016.

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