The power of advertising

Dacia Sandero (image courtesy of Dacia.co.uk)
MG 3 (Image courtesy of MG.co.uk)

If you don’t know about cars, here’s the chance to stop reading. Not taking it? Good, now we’re going to talk about MG. MG is an iconic British car brand: with a 92 year history based in Oxfordshire. Now the more informed among you will be thinking “wait a minute. They were bought by the Chinese weren’t they?”, and you’d be right. After the collapse of MG Rover (which, to be honest, went the same way BHS did: top brass paying themselves millions while they let their company fail.) MG were bought by Shanghai Automotive, while Rover went to Tata under Jaguar - Land Rover.

Sorry, I digress. What I want to talk about is the new, improved MG. No longer are they badge engineered Rovers, but UK designed, Chinese fabricated, and UK built, modern, practical, economical cars. Designed to compete with the likes of Dacia, and Škoda.

But something strange has happened. MG started building their new supermini, the MG3 in late 2013, and Dacia their Sandero in 2012. It seems pretty obvious which car would be the more popular of the two. Who’d choose a cheap, boringly styled little hatchback from a former Soviet bloc country that’s being built by Renault, one of Europe’s… less reliable auto manufacturers, over a cheap, good looking little hatchback designed and built in the UK by one of history’s most enduring brands which grew a reputation for driving pleasure. It had to be the MG hadn’t it?

Not so said the buying public. In September 2014, the 3’s first full year of production, MG managed to shift 1628 cars. While in the same year Dacia managed to sell over 18,000.

This astonishing figure may be down to price. But the entry level MG3 is only just under £2500 more expensive than it’s Romanian rival of the same spec. Personally, I think this is to do with advertising.

Try and think of adverts for the two brands and which comes to mind first? I’ll bet you its Dacia. They’ve taken a no-nonsense approach to advertising, showing you the car, the price range… and that’s about it. As well as this straightforward approach, they had their advert broadcast almost constantly. Not a day went by when you wouldn’t see a Dacia on the TV. Then you’d see it in the press too, with national newspapers having a page filled with a photo of a Sandero and it’s list price.

MG on the other hand,didn’t go with this approach. Their first advert for the 3 was shown in late 2014. Heck, they didn’t even do an advert for their first UK offering, the 6! (Well they did… but it wasn’t broadcast due to copyright). When MG finally aired the advert for the 3, it was just a mass of music, colours, and graphics that tried to make it look tres chic. The only price shown in the advert was that of the top of the range model. Would you watch that advert and think you were given enough information on the car? Nope, I wouldn’t either. As for print, it was much of the same really. Lot’s of colours, photo of the car, a price, but general distraction.

From this point of view, it’s easy to see why Dacia keeps going from strength to strength while MG trundles along, selling a couple of thousand units per year.

MG is releasing a new model this year, the long awaited GS crossover. For this car they really need to step up their game in terms of advertising. The C — segment crossover market is the most crowded at the moment, with offerings from Nissan with their fantastically popular Qashqai, which sold over 60,000 in 2015 alone, through to the more upmarket Mercedes GLC.

If MG want to succeed in the UK, they need to learn to advertise properly. Make it straightforward, and show it often.

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