The customer is always right. Again.

Opel (Vauxhall in the UK) has a challenge with it's perception amongst potential customers. After being one of the leading German car manufacturers for decades, a series of bad decisions and quality issues with the cars made Opel the laughing stock of the German car makers. Jokes with Opel cars in it are plentiful, especially in Germany. The effect of years of mismanagement and not taking their customers seriously turned Opel into a brand nobody wanted to be associated with. Selling cars to people who will never even consider your brand is rather difficult. You won't stand a chance.

So, how do you change that?

In the case of Opel, they decided not to ignore the sentiment in the market towards their cars and their brand any longer. In fact, they dove right in and really immersed themselves in it. Painful as it was, it gave them the foundation to work on changing the perception so they could at least get considered again by potential buyers.

They started changing perception by playing with their image. By being blatantly honest about it. And then bending it. This commercial featuring former Borussia Dortmund trainer Jűrgen Klopp is one example. It shows a flight attendant finding an Opel car key right underneath the curtain dividing economy from business class. Without thinking about it, she immediately assumes that an Opel car key can only belong to someone in the economy section, and she asks the crowd if someone lost their key. Enter Jűrgen Klopp, opening the curtain from the business class section and claiming his Opel key. The flight attendant says 'Oh, I never would have assumed....' and Klopp responds 'Most never do, until they drive it'.

It's a great example of a company being realistic about how customers look at them and working with that instead of pretending to be something they are not. It shows that Opel does understand what people think of it and that means that they take people seriously. There are too many examples of companies not taking their customers serious at all* so this approach by Opel is very welcome.

The question is of course, is it working for them?

It turns out it does. Opel has sold more cars in the last 6 out of 7 months compared to that same month a year before, resulting in it's highest market share in Europe since 2011.

The strategy of taking what your customers think of you seriously seems to be working for Opel. What could it do for you?


*If you want to see brands that are completely disconnected with their customers, have a look at this facebook page called 'Condescending Corporate Brand Page' which has dozens of, social media related, examples of companies really not taking what their customers think or do seriously. At all.