Buick behaves unexpectedly.

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When General Motors was going through bankruptcy many industry observers were surprised that Buick would be one of the four brands that would be part of the new company (along with Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC). The explanation was that the Buick brand was very successful and respected in China. What was left in the “un-said” was that Buick was a basket case in the United States.

Since coming out of bankruptcy there has been lots of discussion and coverage regarding Chevrolet and Cadillac but relatively little about Buick.  Chevy represents 70% of the company’s business and certainly warrants attention.  No one was really surprised that shortly after arriving, Joel Ewanick hired Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to help re-build the Chevy brand.  Cadillac, the company’s luxury brand also seems to garner a lot of attention.  With bold designs, terrific new products, another new agency (Fallon), the folks at Cadillac believe that they are in a position to finally break into the Tier 1 portion of the luxury segment.  Marketing for Chevy and Cadillac has been stepped up and through November sales are up 18% for Chevrolet and 38% for Cadillac.  All good.  There’s also quite a bit of anticipation for the Superbowl as one or both of these brands will launch new campaigns in the big game.

While Chevrolet and Cadillac seem to grab the headlines, Buick has been quietly going about its business and making unexpected progress in the US market.  In fact, Buick is the fastest growing GM brand; it is also the fastest growing automotive brand in the United States with sales +54% year to date.

It would be easy to attribute Buick’s success entirely to product, after all the new Lacrosse and Regal are pretty darned impressive (see my earlier blog post) but that would be unfair to the marketers.  The folks responsible for marketing at Buick continue to find interesting ways to let us know our expectations of Buick are misplaced and that we should think of the brand differently.

This starts with the television advertising that clearly establishes an unexpected competitive set for Buick:

A Buick that looks like that and is competitive with the Tier 1 luxury brands is certainly unexpected, even if the executions are pretty standard fare for the industry. I also find the tag line  “Its the new class of world class” a bit ham-fisted, but it’s on-point.  That may be the best part of this TV it’s on-point.

On the “more interesting” side of the ledger is Buick’s Moment of Truth website for the Regal.  In the spirit of creating a conversation around the Regal, Buick has created a website that sources consumers, enthusiasts, critics and anyone else who comments on the Regal and publishes what they say both good and bad.  The result is a website that is full of good information and leaves you with the sense that Buick is operating in a very transparent fashion.  I give the folks at Buick high marks (see earlier blog post) for being willing to accept the “risk” that they might be criticized in favor of presenting an objective view.

Most recently, Buick has embarked on another interesting marketing approach. Yesterday the New York Times reported that Buick has partnered with MSN to underwrite “a new Web-only travel series on MSN that promises to give an insider perspective on American cities” called “Re: Discover.”  It would be easy to dismiss this as just another product placement effort, but that would sell it short.

Re: Discover is all about really good and interesting content, not Buick.  Local people from a number of cities (LA, Chicago, New York , Miami so far and more to come) talk about their city, their favorite places to go, things to do and why they love living there.  The videos are interesting, fun to watch and I’m sure that a number of local businesses are going to find their customer base growing. Obviously, Buick is hoping that target consumers will enjoy the content and appreciate that Buick made it possible.

Who would ever have expected Buick to compare itself to the best manufacturers in the business, or create a website where critical comments are published or form a partnership with a media outlet where the car is not the star?

Of course, no one expected Buick to be the fastest growing automotive brand in the United States either.

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One Response to “Buick behaves unexpectedly.”

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