Brand Intimacy 2018 - Automotive (UAE)

Driving at the Top: How Lexus Builds Intimate Brand Relationships

Exploring the essence of a leading automotive brand in the UAE


For the second year in a row, five of the top ten brands in the UAE are automotive brands, corroborating the market’s passion for cars, and firmly parking the industry at the top of MBLM’s Brand Intimacy Study. Despite lower oil prices, the introduction of VAT, as well as other economic factors, the UAE automotive industry continued to grow in 2017. The anticipation of Expo 2020 has left the industry optimistic, and the shift towards sustainability strengthens as brands like Tesla start to permeate through the region.

Delivering on their promises to exceed their users’ expectations, industry leaders such as BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz ranked high for the fulfillment archetype–one of the six markers that identify the character of ultimate brand relationships.

Industry Average Fulfillment Scores

The automotive industry takes the lead with the highest score for the fulfillment archetype

Lexus is the #1 brand in the automotive industry (it was #1 in 2017 as well) and second in the overall study, ranking very close to this year’s most intimate brand, Apple. The brand received the highest score for fusing–the ultimate stage of intimacy–where a person and a brand are inexorably linked and co-identified. Lexus’ daily usage increased by 120% since the previous year, and the brand increased its quotient score, which placed almost 40 points above the industry average. Its performance improved in all six archetypes since 2017 and the brand saw a significant rise in its Net Promoter Score–indicating continued growth in user loyalty and evangelism.

It is clear that the self-proclaimed challenger brand keeps its competitors on their toes, but how exactly did the brand achieve its Brand Intimacy success? We examined Lexus’ marketing efforts this past year to discover how it built and strengthened its intimate relationships with consumers. Two underlying themes stood out:

1. Live and breathe (and advertise) craftsmanship

The Japanese concept of Takumi is the foundation on which Lexus builds everything from its brand promise to its products. Takumi refers to the meticulous modus operandi of a passionate artisan. Every detail from product to design to experience is thought-through and born from a wealth of expertise and precision–as explained through the origami cats in the introduction advertisement for Takumi on YouTube–a significantly different creative concept relative to those used in automotive marketing. The idea of Takumi links well to the Brand Intimacy archetype fulfillment, as defined above. The brand is dedicated to exceeding expectations, quality and attention to detail in a way that appears to distinguish it among automotive consumers.

The result of this pursuit of Takumi resonates with more than one market: a younger generation of design aficionados, tech junkies, and creative souls who identify with the brand’s aesthetics, innovation, and eco-friendly positioning; and an older generation who values luxury, comfort and precision. The brand ranked #1 for users between the ages of 25 and 44.

In November 2017, Lexus executed the Lexus Drive-In experience–an event where attendees got to watch movies drive-in style, complete with popcorn, pre-movie entertainment and the ultimate luxury; watching a movie in a Lexus. Reflecting the interests of the brand’s younger users in the UAE may help explain the brand’s high score for the identity archetype. At the same time, this event also appealed to an older audience, harnessing the nostalgia archetype–bringing up memories of the past, and the warm, poignant feelings associated with them. The event was so successful that the brand hosted it again a few weeks ago.

Stages of Brand Intimacy

Lexus outperforms the automotive industry average in every stage of Brand Intimacy

Both the brand, its products, and its communications are centered around edginess, excitement, sustainability, luxury, and individual expression–attributes that align to its stakeholders and drive Lexus home as an enhancing, fulfilling brand. One way in which Lexus delivers enhancement (another Brand Intimacy archetype), is the brand’s affiliation with Mark Levinson in the form of superior audio. This value-added feature demonstrates Lexus’ commitment to excellence, ergo its high score for the enhancement archetype–becoming better, smarter, more capable and more connected through the use of the brand.

Other examples of demonstrating craftsmanship is Lexus utilizing social media like YouTube to reveal and advertise most of its new models in dramatic fashion. These videos illustrate the brand’s commitment to craftsmanship quite literally, for example, the reveal of the Lexus LS 500 H and its unique Shiatsu Seats. A bold experiential marketing effort by the brand was their design-conscious café-shop-intellectual multi-functional space, Intersect by Lexus, which made the esteemed ‘Esquire Middle East’s Top 50 Restaurants’ list. This is another example of the brand’s devotion to quality craftsmanship brought to life in a way that lets users interact with the brand in different ways.

Choosing to team-up with hugely popular and anticipated movies such as Valerian and Black Panther was another effort that paid off. Both the films feature concept and real Lexus models and emanate the elite craftsmanship of the brand.

The variety marketing initiatives Lexus has done, from leveraging Takumi as a core principle, partnering with Mark Levinson, creating engaging events, and cafes showcase the innovative ways the brand is defining itself as delivering fulfillment and enhancement and successfully attracting a broad range of consumers in the UAE.

2. It’s cool to be considerate

Like Takumi, Lexus has another concept that is considered part of their DNA, Omotenashi–the unique Japanese approach to hospitality. In essence, it refers to anticipating the needs of one’s guests, or in this case, keeping an eye on consumer demands and responding to them. The brand’s foundations of Omotenashi evidently agrees with the local market. Approximately 50-60% of all Lexus buyers are Emiratis, pointing towards a deep understanding of the Middle Eastern audience, as well as a consumer-driven mindset. Lexus even produced a limited edition variant of one of their most popular models in the UAE, the LX 570 Signature. The SUV is only available in the UAE and comes with a specially branded Lexus prayer mat.

Boasting the largest line-up of hybrid vehicle offerings, Lexus spearheads the sustainability movement in the UAE. The brand claims that all its models will be electric by 2025. Reflecting values and initiatives for environmental consciousness without detracting from a superior experience, results in the brand becoming even more identifiable. Lexus’ shift towards eco-friendly products resulted in a 255% hike in sales for their Hybrid Electric range sales in 2017.

Moreover, Lexus collaborated with Conde Nast Travelling in educating consumers on conservation. Projects like Al Maha Resort, Green Sheikh and Green Heart are all associations with which the brand promises and delivers on being considerate to both their customers and the environment. This helps the brand strengthen its identity archetype performance, projecting admired values and beliefs that resonate deeply.

Lexus Archetype Performance 2017 vs 2018

Lexus also makes sustainability and technological advancement accessible. The brand does not believe in premium-pricing their hybrid models – they cost the same as their petrol peers. Lexus’ preferred-brand status is further strengthened by new tech category players such as Uber expanding its fleet with Lexus models. The fact that Lexus is associated with a brand that is a unicorn model tech start-up, confirms its leading position in categories like green mobility, innovation and comfort.


Lexus has always asserted itself as a brand deeply cognizant of the experience it affords users. From “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection” to “Engineering the Impossible” to, the latest, “Experience Amazing”, the brand has committed itself to absolute craftsmanship and unsurpassed customer service, both geared toward deepening customer bonds. The underlying pulse of the brand–Takumi and Ometenashi–links closely to Brand Intimacy archetypes and appear as the key differentiator between Lexus and its competitors. By engaging with customers and projecting admired, shared beliefs, the brand is connecting with users in powerful ways. Lexus’ thoughtful focus on Japanese principles is helping it build strong customer relationships and emotional connections.

Read our detailed methodology here, and review the sources cited in this article here.

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