PARIS - The new naming system for Citroen cars will make it easier for consumers to identify models within the French carmaker's range.
'We've found that creating a pan-European name can be quite difficult,' says Citroen International Marketing Director Jean-Marc Savigne.
'We have to be sure each time that the name is available in every market, and that it's pronounceable in every market. With the C5, we're going back to a simple idea,' he says.
Citroen's new upper-medium C5 debuted at last month's Paris auto show. It is the first car to adopt Citroen's new naming system, in which the letter 'C' replaces 'X.'
The 'X' naming system was introduced in 1974 with the Citroen CX. Citroen's current 'X' models include the Saxo, Xsara and Xantia.
'It's really the same strategy that you see at BMW, with the 3, 5 and 7 series, and a number of other manufacturers,' says Yves Del Fratte, president of Havas Advertising-owned Euro RSCG Works, Paris, and manager of the global Citroen advertising account.
'We're simplifying the name, and making it easier for the consumer to place the model within the brand's range.'
Citroen plans to launch the C5 in early 2001. A new supermini scheduled for 2002 will be named C3. An upmarket sedan on sale in 2003 will be called C6.
Citroen may be simplifying things, but it will still use catchy names for special models with added personality.
That strategy has paid dividends with the Xsara Picasso, the compact minivan launched at the start of the year that is selling beyond projections.
Citroen's decision to buy the Picasso name - at an undisclosed, but admittedly high price - was the subject of debate before the launch.
Today, with 90,000 models sold, Citroen is convinced that 'in the end, we paid very little for a name with instant global recognition,' says Savigne.
The rapid association of the Picasso name with Citroen's compact minivan was boosted by an award-winning TV advertisement from Euro RSCG Works. In the advertisement, a factory robot paints Picasso-like designs on new cars as they roll off the assembly line.
'The impact of the Picasso name has allowed us to invest less to achieve a very high level of brand recognition,' says Del Fratte.
For the C5, Euro RSCG Works will focus on the new car's high-tech features. For example, the C5 is equipped with 'smart' hydraulics capable of adapting suspension to match road conditions, and headlights that light automatically in tunnels.
'We always focus the advertising on a single product attribute with a specific benefit to consumers - and our commitment to safety tends to be at the heart of the message,' says Savigne.
Euro RSCG Works hired supermodel Claudia Schiffer in 1997 to help get across Citroen's safety-first message in a TV commercial for the Xsara.
Schiffer drives a Xsara into a wall at 40kph, setting off the driver's airbag but she emerges unscathed.
'Here's Claudia, who represents beauty and purity, and whose looks are everything to her. And yet she's willing to risk it all in this crash test, to show how much she believes in Citroen's safety claims,' says Del Fratte. 'It sends a strong message.'
Because safety messages don't always sell, Euro RSCG Works created different advertisements featuring Schiffer for different markets.
In Italy, she turns a frog into a Xsara driven by a Prince Charming. In Germany, she uses a designer jacket to wipe dirty water off the car. And in the UK, the car compels her into doing a full strip tease, proving the strength of the company's signature slogan: 'Nothing moves you like a Citroen.'
Citroen has recently released its eighth Xsara advertisement starring Schiffer, and plans at least two new advertisements in the coming year.
'As long as it works, we'll keep using her,' says Savigne.
Euro RSCG's ability to find ideas that work will allow Citroen to trim global advertising spending in 2001, to just below the estimated $200 million it will spend this year on 1 million units sold.
'We are focusing on creativity more than concentrated media spending,' says Del Fratte. 'Better ideas translate into a greater return on investment for the client.'