SYDNEY: Holden’s decision to sponsor this year’s Mardi Gras, Sydney’s annual LGBT pride parade and festival, signalled a dramatic shift in image for the iconic Australian car brand but one that is beginning to pay off according to a top executive.

Natalie Davey, Holden’s general manager of marketing, communications and digital, told, that people tended to think of the auto marque in terms of a particular version of Australia’s past.

“That icon from yesteryear was around meat pies, kangaroos and Holden,” she said. “But if you think about modern Australia today, we haven’t remained prominent to that, which is where we are catching up.”

It’s a point her colleague Mark Harland, executive director of marketing, made recently to Behind The Wheel, the automotive media outlet, when he observed that 64% of Australians were indifferent to the Holden name: “this proves that our brand image is our biggest hurdle,” he said. “We need to get Holden back on people’s radars.”

That has meant rebranding to attract a wider demographic than the “boy’s club” it has long been associated with. As well as sponsoring Mardi Gras, the logo has been softened to become more feminine and advertising has targeted women specifically.

Davey acknowledged that the “deep perception” of the brand was “not something we can brush off overnight”.

“We know changing perception is a long term plan, but we want to evolve to include all audiences,” she explained. “This isn’t about not wanting our loyal customers anymore. We want to build that appeal beyond the heartland.”

While not all previously loyal customers may be willing to embrace the new positioning, Davey insisted the brand had to move with the times and was already seeing positive signs.

“Since rebranding we are seeing an uplift in the brand health,” she stated. “There has been an opinion and reputation shift, which is a really good sign we are going in the right direction.”

Data sourced from, Behind The Wheel; additional content by WARC staff