The Land Rover Defender is no ordinary vehicle. For the first hands-on introduction of the all-new generation of the 2020 Defender 110 four door and Defender 90 two door models, a two day festival—with off-road driving, music, historical vehicles, food and a range of outdoor activities—was created in Coachella Valley, CA. While there, we had the chance to speak with Jaguar Land Rover’s global Chief Commercial Officer Felix Bräutigam about the festival and marketing such an iconic and important vehicle for the brand.
The Defender name has been in use since 1991 and carries on the mission of the historical Land Rover vehicles from 1948-1985 (known as the Land Rover Series) and from 1983-1990 (known as the Land Rover Ninety and One Ten). Though widely available around the world they were only available in the US from 1993-97, after which safety regulations made it impractical to continue making a North American edition. These Defenders have cult status among many passionate owners and admirers. Though American consumers are now familiar with the brand’s Range Rover and Discovery models, for many this is the first time they’ve encountered the Defender name.
Launching it required more than a standard advertising campaign. A conversation that the marketing and communications team at Land Rover had over the years about music events evolved into the ambitious 4xFAR festival, which it developed with Corso Agency and then partnered with Outside Magazine through Dentsu Aegis Network.
Performers including Mark Ronson and Q-Tip, Sofi Tukker, Kaytranada, Anderson .Paak, Young The Giant, Kurt Vile and the Violators, and Maya Janes Coles played over the two days. In between performances visitors were the first consumers in the world to get behind the wheel of the new Defender 110 and other models on an elaborate off-road course, where they could also get a ride with a pro driver in one of the vehicles. One of the Defenders on site featured in “No Time To Die,” the new James Bond film. Two of the film’s stunt drivers were also there to share their experiences with the vehicle during filming.
“I said to the team, this has to feel different. Let’s be honest, how often in your life do you have the chance to relaunch an icon? To completely reinvent an icon for the digital age and for a whole new target group? Let’s also use it to give Land Rover more momentum, let’s use it to pull up the whole brand,” Bräutigam says.
4xFAR was the brand’s largest activation yet, and an impressive one. Stuart Schorr, Vice President of Communications at Jaguar Land Rover North America, noted “being rooted in authenticity is really meaningful to younger customers who don’t know [Defender’s] history,” and that was one of the drivers behind creating the elaborate event.
“Every Land Rover has to have purposeful design, it has to be the most capable in its segment. Range Rover adds refined luxury to that. Discovery adds total versatility to that,” Bräutigam says. For a few years what was missing in the market was this third pillar. “Defender is an unstoppable 4×4. You will never ever hear us use the word ‘SUV’ in the context of Defender—it’s just an off-roader, a 4×4. Now the Discovery pillar can be a true, proud, very capable SUV. And Range Rover can continue being the most capable luxury car, truck, SUV, whatever you want to call it—it’s just the ultimate expression of capable luxury,” Bräutigam says.
“That was really what we wanted to achieve, to really take this amazing car, this icon, into the 21st century, make it relevant for new target groups and second to really generate momentum for the whole brand and give each pillar a boost,” Bräutigam says. This two day experiential program delivered just that.
He adds that “while the intention is the same all across the world, every region and every market went off to ask ‘how can we achieve that?’” That’s when the idea for 4xFAR came in, and when the idea was presented Bräutigam signed off on it and approved the budget. He said “yeah, that’s exactly the way for us, that’s money well spent and it absolutely fits to our strategy and I get it, what it means for the US market.”
“We have quite a cult following and the name is known to a certain degree, at least in special interest circles, but it’s a very, very small customer base,” Schorr explains. That customer base is extremely opinionated too—and it was important to acknowledge their passion for previous generations and to try their best to get them to see the next generation as an evolution and not a replacement for the iconic vehicle. A trip to the brand’s Classics center in England was hosted for some media who hold onto that passion, and they were shown the passion the brand has for its historical vehicles. They were then shown (before most) the new Defender, and the context helped win skeptics over.
From a marketing point of view, focusing on a niche audience is a luxury that most brands can’t afford. An experience like 4xFAR allows the brand to welcome those who are passionate overall, those who have already put a deposit down on a new Defender, and for those who hold on to sentiment to see important historical vehicles, including one of the first three prototypes of the Series I, the one that was first shown to the world in 1948.
“We have a very important shift in the US market toward the next generation of premium segment car buyers,” Bräutigam says, referencing thee emergence of millennials. It will be interesting to see how the US continues to support the new Defender, and to see the types of experiences that new markets will require to be won over.
Images by Josh Rubin