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It is because GM clings to outdated styling cues that matter only to those at GM and their aging Midwestern buyers market.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?