Key lessons for marketers in Bentley’s niche advertising

Bentalgya, one of the car model that is expected in the Kenyan market.
Bentalgya, one of the car model that is expected in the Kenyan market after Transport firm Multiple Group recently appointed Nairobi-based dealer of high-end car brand Bentley. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

British luxury car manufacturer, Bentley plans to set up a dealership in Kenya by June this year, targeting consumers who can afford vehicles costing between Sh27 million and Sh39 million.

However, in a demonstration of the particular marketing needs of producers targeting niche consumers, Bentley has shunned traditional advertising in the country.

According to Michael Winkler, chief executive of Bentley Motors Inc in the US, one-on-one showings to prospective buyers at exclusive car shows resonates better with its deep-pocketed customers than marketing targeting the public.

“What we have decided is that we need to reinvest a little more in he experiential side of marketing. In 2015, instead of being at the New York auto show, we rented a very exclusive retail environment in SoHo and did a one-on-one showing of a concept car we had,” he said in a 2016 interview with Automotive News.

“It was very successful, it worked very well. Maybe it was a thought starter, too, to say maybe we can do things a little differently rather than being a small manufacturer and get lost at a huge auto show amongst all the other millions of dollars that are being spent.”


For brands with a niche market, popular mass advertising mediums that are designed to reach a lot of people can prove to be an expensive avenue that reaches few customers in their own small and exclusive market.

“If it is an exciting brand such as Bentley, an advantage is that that people will be talking about it touting the product, which is basically free advertising thus growing its brand exposure in the country,” said Odanga Madung, data science lead at Odipo Dev, an analytics firm.

However, beyond the talk factor, opportunities for niche marketing remain more limited in Kenya than in many other markets. In the UK, there are hundreds of specialist publications that cater exclusively for the interests of specific consumers, such as the Hat Magazine, for hat enthusiasts. “Niche magazines know what their targeted audience wants because they are a part of it.

“This is highly advantageous because it creates a connection that commercial magazines can take much longer to build.

“They instill a very powerful sense of exclusivity; thus providing advertisers with a means to reach their target markets rather easily,” reads an essay on ‘How Niche Magazines Are Thriving’ by the Simon Fraser University in Canada.

In markets where such channels are not available, direct marketing can quickly become a better option for niche producers in terms of the return on investment achieved.

“If it is a brand that only specific people would be interested in, and not just because it is ‘famous’, the marketer has to find the consumer by presenting the product through direct marketing channels that they would normally pay attention to,” says Odanga.

An example of this kind of approach was the direct marketing by US company Lehman’s hardware store, which specialises in non-electric, old-fashioned appliances and tools such as oil lamps.

The shop in Ohio was set up to cater for a niche market, the Amish, a group of Christian traditionalists who shun technological advances such as electricity, and it was an instant success. The Amish now make up about 95 per cent of its customer base.

In a bid to reach them, Jay Lehman, the owner of the store, uses paper catalogues that are distributed by hand. It also embraced the slogan: ‘selling low-tech items in a high-tech world,’ a message that resonated strongly with its specific niche market.

- African Laughter