Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wood's Gone Wild: Tiger Woods & Your Dad's Old Car

I like Tiger Woods. He is a dream endorser, but suggesting that he's the band-aid attracting younger buyers to Buick is too much! Click the link. Read the article. Here are my comments to Ad Age Writer Rich Thomaselli:

Whose hype are you believing? Tiger Woods - "the magician helping Buick shake its image as an old people's car?!" Buick's Marketing Director must wine and dine you really well.

I was hired by General Motors, The Buick Motor Division and McCann-Erickson to revitalize Buick's image and positioning. Long ago Tiger was supposed to be "the man." He is! But as long as GM keeps making cars that "look ten years old before they are new" no one is going shake Buick's image as an old person's car.

That's GM's fault. They have a tenacious cling to old fashioned ideals and styling cues that matter to...well, only people at GM.

But McCann-Erickson has contributed to the brand's demise as well as to the ad industry's "reputation problem" highlighted in Matthew Creamer's current Ad Age Cover Story "Just Make It Stop..."

Do you remember McCann's, "It's the fine line between sport and sedan" for the Buick Regal? No one else does either. What dreck, as the Germans would say. What consumer ever asked for "a fine line between sport and sedan"? It's strategic and creative dribble. (Oh yeah. Go to McCann's web site. They have a picture of "Mental Jellyfish" on their home page.) The job was to sway those who otherwise purchase Honda Accords, Toyota Camrys and Ford Tauruses to Buick. My God!

Our research found that most competitive purchasers wouldn't recognize a Buick even if it ran them over. They perceive the brand's product lines as little more that rental fleet fodder. So GM should immediately stop selling the product to fleets. It dilutes the brand's equity. Oh yeah. I forgot. Then they'd go out of business because mostly fleets buy Buicks.

That's not McCann's fault. The brand's invisibility is not due to a lack of impressions. They have spent lavishly!

It is because GM clings to outdated styling cues that matter only to those at GM and their aging Midwestern buyers market. In fact, the division's 110 question long battery needs segmentation questionnaire is skewed to the wants and needs of this audience - not younger East and West Coast spenders. Bottom line. You have to make something that someone wants to buy. And Buick doesn't. So drop that study.

Yes, the Regal is a nice looking car. When we portrayed the vehicle unbadged, as a potential Porsche entry to the US mid sized car market, audiences went wild! Then they saw those horrible front and back end styling cues and sneered "Buick." "I knew it."

Tiger Woods is the cream of the crop as far as endorsers go. But you can't stick him on a brand like a band-aid and create a miracle. As long as GM, or Buick, makes cars that look like old people's cars, they will remain old people's cars.

Preceding a presentation at GM headquarters I was approached by Buick's strategy head. She let me know that I had many friends in the room. She also let me know that no one was going to turn Buick, or GM around single handedly. But somebody should.

That Porsche Regal is still in the wings. I have the strategy all mapped on paper ready to go. Projections indicated annual sales of 250,000 units - not including fleet sales. Will I have any takers? Or will they give me the John DeLorean prize?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As long as Buick persists in churning out cars designed mainly to avoid alienating it's existing clientle, they'll remain exactly where they are, Tiger Woods or no. Buick needs to really reinvent the brand, while continuing to produce a land yacht or two for the existing residents of Ft. Lauderdale that prefer the status quo (Whoops, there, I've bought into the stereotype too).

In addition to Tiger, they should hire a few more celebrity endorsers. The General's hemoraging so much cash lately, no one would even notice anyway. Next, nameplates such as "Lucerne" have got to go. No offence to the marketing types at GM, but this reminds people of a city in Switzerland or a 1/2 galon of milk. Go through Websters, or use the time honored technique of inventing new words that mean nothing, such as "Celica" or "Supra".

As a key part of the new marketing, you'll need some crafty product placement, such as their brothers at Pontiac got with Mr. Trump & Co. Maybe Buick could really get into racing. Sponsor some drifters. That'll give even more street cred, something Buick sorely lacks (Since the days of the GNX). NASCAR's got a huge and varied audience. Surely some of them could be convinved to slide behind the wheel of a new Buick if a few Buicks took the checkers once in a while.

Most of all, however, it comes down to product. GM has enough decent platforms in it's stable that it should be able to find one that's suitable for the kind of vehicle that's needed to be the new Buick. What about a variation of the Epsilon platform? They're using it for the Saturn and an Opel in Europe.

What ever the product planning types at Buick do, the new cars have got to appeal to the target demo. A great golfer's not going to make that happen, no matter how cool he is. For the young, sophisticated buyer that GM is hoping to attract away from Acura, Infiniti, and BMW, they need to provide a valid product as an alternative. They have, so far, failed to do so.