That's NOT a Buick

That’s a Buick?

No Gravatar

Back in 2000, it was time for a new car. And, as I had been doing for decades, I had a Chrysler on order. Ever since 1975, my car choice had been Chrysler products. (I even had a car leasing company that provided only the Chrysler family of products to clients.)
Except that Mercedes Benz had just bought the Chrysler Corporation. Right before the delivery of my car.

So, I declared “Force Majeure”, canceled the order, and got my money back. (It wasn’t quite that simple, but that is not the point of this blog, and I’ll keep this part short.) Instead, I bought another vehicle, the Oldsmobile Intrigue- not only because it intrigued me, but because it was a vehicle made in America.

That was about the time Karen Francis was heading the Oldsmobile Division of GM. Where her marching orders were to kill the brand. Even though it was the oldest car brand in the US. And, even when Karen managed to turn the Oldsmobile brand around- for the first time in decades- GM killed the division- but fired her first. One of my favorite slogans that demonstrated her brand change: It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile anymore. (That was about the time this statement was making the rounds: “GM doesn’t have too many divisions. They have too little imagination…”)

Consider now how GM handled another division differently. After killing Pontiac and Oldsmobile (and, of course, Saturn), they are left with the Chevrolet (Chevy), Buick, and Cadillac (Caddy)- plus GMC (for trucks)- divisions. Buick would have received my vote for the axe and not Oldsmobile. (You do realize I bought an Olds and NOT a Buick, right?)
But, the Buick team has managed to turn around their image. The turnaround covered all the bases- position, product service/experience, and communication. Which is what makes studying how Buick changed to be a worthwhile study in brand making and culture.

That's NOT a Buick

Of course, they fixed their product line first, making cars that were better and more attuned to the (desired segment of the) younger car buyer. But, even with improved advertising, Buick still had more to do.

So, the firm studied their sales data and spoke to potential buyers; this informed them that the customer was confused. The cars didn’t look like a Buick. Which is why they adopted that as their advertising slogan: the car “doesn’t look like a Buick”.

Instead of stressing the product features (appealing to one’s rationality), they capitalized on the radical new look of the vehicles. The question of “That’s a Buick?” was converted to the emphatic “That’s a Buick!”.

In essence, this was Brand Strategy 101. First you have to open the minds of the consumer. Then, you have to proffer a “brand promise”. But, most important is the third step- you have to deliver on that promise.

Which is just what they did.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter


12 thoughts on “That’s a Buick?”

  1. My family loves analogies..and this is a great one! I love finding lessons that can be widely applied. I’ve got a long day of driving ahead of me, and how to apply these lessons to my blog will be on my mind. Thanks for the food for thought!
    Susan recently posted..When You Can’t See God Anywhere

    1. First, Martha- thanks for the visit and the comment.
      Secondly, that’s the key point behind excellent branding. Unless and until it is brought directly to your frontal lobe, you just assimilate it. Now, you see the brand everywhere…
      Finally, among the myriad areas where I have had a chance to improve, develop, or market products, I’ve been fortunate to have been involved with a few engine improvements. That’s as much as I can divulge in a public setting.

  2. That’s pretty cool. Believe it or not, I’ve never owned a Buick. By the way, sorry it took me so long to get over here—between the hurricane and then two birthday celebrations plus my upcoming trip this week, I’ve been swamped. Also- I received your message, but when I finally got around to responding, I could no longer find it. Please let me now if the issue of loading the site occurred on a phone, tablet or laptop. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for the visit and the comment.
      The loading is on a laptop, 8 gigs of RAM which is why I notified you. The first few times it was slow, but it looks like you’ve added a few since then. The blog today (7 October) becomes visible in 3 seconds, but you can’t slide down to continue reading until it is mostly loaded (10-11 seconds) and it is fully loaded at 15 seconds.

  3. Interesting, as Buick used to have the image of being an “old person’s car”. A Buick (that once belonged to his grandmother – she had it for almost 10 years before he purchased it) was my son’s first car. It was quite a car.

Comments are closed.