Posts Tagged ‘SAAB’

SAAB is re-building its brand after years of neglect.

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Now that SAAB has shed the shackles of General Motors they are getting on with the business of re-building the brand.

Two weeks ago they announced (NYT’s 6/22/10) that they have hired a new head designer who has said that: “We want to return to the Saab DNA.” Just last week they announced (Media Post 6/29/10) that they were ramping up marketing investment, going back on TV and in print with a new campaign.

After years of being part of GM where the SAAB brand was neither appreciated nor nourished it appears to be getting it’s footing back. The SAAB brand has always stood for independence and a willingness to break convention.  SAAB has always had a devoted group of loyalists, some of whom played a vocal role in the brand’s most recent resurrection, PGM (Post General Motors).  Historically, SAAB has had all the foundation stones of a great automotive brand; a point-of-view, good interesting product, a genuine enthusiast group willing to proselytize, a group of loyal owners and marketing that conveyed its essential character.

As part of the GM stable of brands, SAAB’s essential character became a barrier to increased sales volumes.  “Different” didn’t mean special or unique, it became “quirky” or “weird.”  As we all know, very few people buy “quirky” or “weird.”  So SAAB product became less distinct, not necessarily bad, just less unique.  SAAB’s marketing also became more expected, more traditional.  Consumers were subjected to campaign after campaign that hung its hat on the idea that SAAB also makes jets…as if that was ever what the car company was about.

Last week this all changed.   (more…)

What to do about automotive marketing?

Friday, April 30th, 2010

What a difference a year makes.  It’s 2010 and the auto industry is beginning to recover.

After an incredibly tough 2009, consumers seem to be coming back.  For the first time in recent memory, Americans’ perception of domestic automobiles seems to be on the mend (Business Week 4/23).  Ford’s bet that Americans will buy smaller, fully featured automobiles looks like it may pay off.  GM’s product plan created by soon-to-retire Bob Lutz is leading a resurgence for the General.  Hyundai and Kia, supported my excellent product quality, have taken advantage of recessionary sensibilities and grown share of market.  Audi , Subaru and Mini have come out of the recession on a tear.

On the other side of the ledger, Toyota continues to struggle with recalls and concerns about quality.  This has led to unprecedented incentives by Toyota and the predictable response by competitors to match them.  So a good number of consumers who had been sitting on sidelines during the recession have come back to dealerships looking to for a good deal.  After 2009, it’s a relief to see traffic in the stores but at the same time if the incentives continue that will not be good for the industry long term.  In 2009, some progress had been made at reducing the use of incentives, but the moment Toyota jumped in to defend its franchise, that opened the floodgates again.

So the good news is that customers are returning to the stores, but are they coming back for the right reasons?

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Everything “Old” Is “New” Again by Curvin O’Rielly

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Curvin O’Rielly has been kind enough to allow us to publish this article on McNaughton Automotive Perspectives.  For those of you who don’t know Curvin, he is one of the most respected copywriters in the advertising business.  Among his automotive  accomplishments was the creation of the Saturn brand with his colleagues at Hal Riney and Partners.  As you will see, Curvin’s perspective on automobile advertising is both timely and timeless.

Everything “Old” Is “New” Again

By Curvin O’Rielly

In 1982, when I was a young creative director at BBDO in New York, I was asked to write an article about the automobile business for Magazine Age.

The article was well received. I even won an American Business Press award for it. The question is, has it stood the test of time?

Well, some of the details I included in the article are as dated as the wide ties we used to wear (the ones you’re saving, hoping they come back into style again), or the disco music we used to listen to (admit it; you boogeyed to disco), or the haul-ass iron we used to drive, the cars with more horsepower than their suspension systems and brakes could reasonably handle (unless they were well-engineered vehicles from Europe).

What’s still true about my article, unfortunately, is that the automobile industry is once again in deep trouble. This time, it’s poised at the abyss, owing in part to the economic tremors that came close to causing a complete meltdown. At the abyss, too, because it was smart (or so it prided itself) but then not smart enough. I mean, surely those at the wheel had to have seen all the danger signs on the road they were heading down, just as they had to have known they were racing toward a disaster of epic proportions.

That said, here are the observations I made 28 years ago, with some minor rewrites here and there.

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Muller said Saab can be “very, very profitable,” partially by staying true to its own DNA.

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Mr. Muller and Spyker have finally got a deal to buy SAAB from GM (Automotive News 1/26/10).  It sounds like Mr Muller and his team understand the importance of a brand’s DNA.

By rebuilding the uniqueness of the SAAB brand they will be able to re-ignite the passion of their enthusiasts and build the business. SAAB will never be a quarter of a million unit business in the US but it can be successful.  Forcing SAAB into GM’s”success” model was the problem, now it has a second chance.

Congratulations to Mr Muller, Spyker, and SAAB loyalists everywhere. Finally, an automotive brand that will be coming back rather than disappearing.  Like Audi before it, bringing SAAB back in the US market place will be a labor of love and a “mission from God.”   Sign me up.

SAAB and the commoditization of automobiles

Monday, December 21st, 2009

The SAAB brand is fighting for its life.  After being pronounced dead last week, there is a glimmer of hope this morning.  I think it’s important that SAAB survive.  Not just because thousands of jobs depend on it but because we need brands like SAAB to push back against the commoditization of the automobile industry.

There are lots of reasons to let SAAB go.  It hasn’t made money in years.  It doesn’t sell enough cars to compete in the global auto industry.  GM has starved it for product.  It lost its uniqueness years ago.  It was really never “iconic,” just “quirky.”  The list goes on and on, and many of the reasons are very sound.

I hope that GM will allow Spyker to buy SAAB.  An independent company like Spyker could enable SAAB to reclaim its position as a niche brand with a unique product and a loyal enthusiast base.  We need a brand like SAAB to prove that interesting, well engineered products still have a place in the industry and can be successful.

In its effort to make SAAB appeal more broadly and therefore justify volume levels that would make it “viable,”  GM turned it into just another undifferentiated near-luxury entrant.  The world does not need another undifferentiated automotive brand and from that perspective I understand why people think SAAB should go away. SAAB would be yet another automotive brand that was once distinctive, chased volume using the MDIBTYD volume forecasting methodology and ultimately failed because it lost sight of the core values that actually made the brand “viable” in the first place.

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