Porsche brand management head talks young Chinese buyers and auto shows

Deniz Keskin, the brand management head of Porsche, speaks about millennials’ attitude towards car ownership, auto shows, and the brand’s enduring ties with motorsport.

Deniz Keskin
Deniz Keskin

The average age of Porsche buyers in China is just 36––and 47% of them are female. Compared to Germany and the US, where the average age hits 53, with female buyers accounting for 11% and 21% of sales respectively. 

Deniz Keskin, brand management head of Porsche, believes that being so close to reaching gender equilibrium among Chinese buyers simply means China has achieved a more gender-equal view on consumption given that it has been Porsche’s biggest single market since 2015. 

To top it off, the Volkswagen-owned German auto giant launched its experience centre next to the Shanghai Formula 1 circuit last year, where visitors can receive one-on-one coaching and the chance to race around the track in one of its luxury sports cars. 

Porsche China has also recently piloted its Brand Academy programme with the EMBA faculty of Tongji University in Shanghai, which it also plans to roll out at the Experience Centre for brand management executives.

Though the average age of Chinese Porsche buyers is fairly young, the general sentiment is that it has been harder to convince millennials to purchase cars. How does this affect Porsche?

It’s always difficult to draw a generalisation, ‘All of the Gen Y people are like this or like that’. What we have to take into account is that if they have extra money to spend, they will not necessarily spend it on cars only. There are other competing interests and other aspects of self-actualisation. It’s a changing landscape that we want to take into consideration.

We have the pilot Porsche Drive programme in Europe and Canada where you can rent a Porsche for two to four hours a day, there’s also Porsche Passport in the US where you pay a flat fee for a month and choose from a range of Porsche vehicles that you want to drive. The important work from a brand management perspective is that we stay connected to this target group. When the situation arrives that they need to settle transportation needs, we are relevant to them. 

Close to 80% of Porsche’s sales in China are from the Macan and Cayenne SUV models. Does that dilute the luxury element of the brand?

Up to now, all I can say is that the introduction of Macan has not been a problem in terms of the prestige of our brand and the perception of customers. For many of our customers, to buy a Porsche is to show to the outside world that they have achieved lifelong ambitions. So you need to offer an entry point to buy into that dream.

How closely do you work with the events team? Are auto shows going to be a mainstay in your events agenda?

The whole marketing team is working closely with the auto team. Auto shows are still a very important backbone of our communication exercise. For Porsche, it’s really important on one hand [to have] the exclusivity and social acceptance…[and] the contradiction, to be open for the public.

For many people when they go to an auto show, it’s the first time they can sit in a car, touch the car and have that feeling. In terms of connecting to the wider public, it’s really important that we cater to this platform. On the other hand, we also offer special hospitality areas to our customers and high net worth individuals, they can come to auto shows to get more specific treatment behind the scenes.

Porsche opened an experience centre in Shanghai in April 2018.

Will we see the end of VR at auto-related events?

VR will continue to be used as an experiential format, in fact we have done so for a couple of years, to display products that are not physically on stand or to offer enhanced views.

Auto shows are good training ground for virtual and augmented realities where you have an environment that you can control. I guess we will be following with the pace of technology, and I think we are very convinced at Porsche that AR and VR technologies will change quite dramatically in the way we consume media in the future, it’s something we are preparing for by doing the pilot projects in auto shows.

In terms of the shift in balance between AR and VR, because of the development of apps, people are focused on AR because we have a great channel to deliver this kind of experience. Everyone that has an up-to-date phone is AR-ready, which is really interesting. This is really the first time
that these things offer functionalities
that a normal person can access. 

What about the motorsport element in the Porsche brand, and what is the importance of racing events?

Motorsport has been an integral part of our DNA right from the start, from the moment [Ferry Porsche] designed the first car [the 356], he put it on the race track to compete against others to see what the level of the technology was. 

Ever since, we have produced over 30,000 race victories and also, in line with electrification, by entering the Formula E to learn from the race track what we can adapt for the future series production. [This is] because nowhere can you have the same speed and pressure to learn quickly to come up with a good solution as in motorsport.

Gaming is another area that we are working on more and more extensively, to tie into the discussion with the younger generation. Of course we see there is a lot of gaming that they do as a hobby, that is why we are actively managing our franchise big titles [such as] Gran Turismo [Porsche entered in 2017] and Need for Speed, just to make sure that the dream cars being driven there are also Porsche cars. 

We are now looking very actively at esports, [which is] growing quite quickly. At the moment we are establishing foundations with the relevant organisations so we can do more in this field. [When it comes to] content creation with people who are offering these gaming platforms, of course like many other sports teams, we would consider some involvement from Porsche
in whichever shape or form.


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