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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Saturn Comes Back Down To Earth

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Saturn Comes Back Down To Earth

After sporty new ads fell flat with buyers, GM's no-nonsense offshoot is stressing the basics

businessweek.com

The conventional wisdom at General Motors Corp. (GM ) used to be that its beloved but struggling Saturn brand only needed a few decent new cars, and the customers would come. Last October, as GM prepared to launch its Aura sedan and Outlook SUV--both critically acclaimed in the automotive press--the company rolled out ads showing how well the sedan drove. One TV spot featured the Aura gliding through hairpin turns.

Then, two weeks into the campaign, Saturn yanked the ads. Internal surveys had shown that the BMW-like imagery wasn't resonating with buyers. After all, Saturn fans have long cared less about horsepower and handling than about the haggle-free selling and friendly service that the brand always stood for. "The emotional connection with Saturn is security and trust," says Daniel Gorrell, president of AutoStrategem, a marketing consultancy in Tustin, Calif. "You can't suddenly say it's about excitement."

Consider it a lesson learned. Now Saturn has two big challenges. It has to overcome a reputation for offering only cheap compact cars. The Aura, for all the plaudits it has won, sells at one-sixth the rate of the Camry, its rival at Toyota Motor Corp. (TM ) And Saturn has to convince buyers that it remains true to its original "different kind of company" motto. "We're peeling back the onion to see what's core to our brand," says Saturn general manager Jill A. Lajdziak.

Like many companies, Saturn lost touch with its original vision. When sales tanked in the late 1990s, Saturn and its ad agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, tried several new marketing ploys. The "People First" campaign showed how the cars were designed around passengers. Last year, GM focused on the performance of the cars, some engineered with German sister company Opel (GM ).

When none of that worked, Saturn fired the agency in January. Eric Hirshberg, the chief creative officer of the automaker's new ad agency, Deutsche/LA, saw a simple solution: "We needed to go back to the original philosophy, just with a different tone."

Saturn's new "Rethink" campaign is Deutsche's answer. One TV ad shows a bodybuilder, then flashes to the wiry cycling champion Lance Armstrong. "Rethink strength" is the message. The spot ends with shots of the new models and exhorts consumers to "Rethink American." Back in the day, Saturn managed to get consumers to take a second look at GM compacts amid a sea of pint-size Japanese imports. Now it's trying to get drivers to think about American cars, period.

Saturn dealers are largely responsible for maintaining the brand's reputation for customer service. (Yes, they still hold parties for new customers.) But they needed to come up with new tactics to do so. Saturn didn't want to reinvent the wheel: It looked to other companies for ideas. Taking a cue from Toyota's hip Scion brand, Saturn built a chat room staffed 24/7 by product geeks who answer queries from prospective buyers. Inspired by the Pepsi (PEP ) Challenge of the 1980s, Saturn persuaded dealers to let potential buyers test-drive a Camry or Honda (HMC ) Accord; the sell doesn't get much softer than that. And as part of an ongoing refurbishment of its stores, Saturn borrowed Apple's "genius bar" concept, installing a birch-wood bar where customers can belly up and get the lowdown on the cars.

Lajdziak says that since Saturn launched "Rethink" and the test drives, Web traffic is up 50%, to 1.5 million visitors a month. Auto shopping Web site Edmunds.com says import buyers are at least considering a Saturn. Still, the company will probably sell roughly 260,000 cars this year, up from last year but 26,000 fewer than its peak in 1994, when it had just one model. Lajdziak acknowledges the challenge, but notes that "it's a credit to our [customer service] that our brand has been left standing."

SOURCE:

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/conte...36/b4048063.htm

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I'm sure Jill Lajdziak is a nice person. But the things that come out of her mouth are infuriating: "We're peeling back the onion to see what's core to our brand?" *&^%^$#^&^^%!!! You haven't yet figured out what's at the core of your 17 year old brand??? Unbelievable.

Just another sign that the braintrust at GM is lost. They've got to do something with this dealer channel so they make up an image that has nothing to do with reality or with history.

I seriously think GM might be better off selling the Saturn dealer franchise en masse to Fiat or Peugeot (or anyone else who wants a ready-made NA distribution outlet). They could hardly do worse and at least GM would get some cash out of the deal.

Edited by buyacargetacheck
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I think the Rethink campaign is genius. Abstract yet precise , confident but not arrogant.

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"The emotional connection with Saturn is security and trust," says Daniel Gorrell, president of AutoStrategem, a marketing consultancy in Tustin, Calif. "You can't suddenly say it's about excitement."

Why can't it gradually be both? Come on now...

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I loved the "Like Always, Like Never Before" ad campaigns...they should use those again...they clearly illustrated that Saturn is still about the experience, the service, the safety, like always, while having exciting and class leading new cars, like never before.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLDlERlMNls

Also thought the music went well too...very nice composed ads.

Edited by Dodgefan
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Give me a Saturn with dent resistant body panels, and one that's built in the United States, and maybe I'll buy one again. Until then, they can keep the Opels over in Europe.

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Give me a Saturn with dent resistant body panels, and one that's built in the United States, and maybe I'll buy one again. Until then, they can keep the Opels over in Europe.

That's ok. There will be alot of buyers waiting in line to make up for losing you as a customer.
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Count me as one of them!

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This brand, with 3 great products in a matter of months, should of had a monster, coherent marketing push. (Think Malibu's $100mil.)

GM tried to do it on the cheap and the results are obvious...Aura hasn't come close to hitting targets & the Outlook isn't any better. Luckily, the Sky can't be built very quickly anyway!

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This brand, with 3 great products in a matter of months, should of had a monster, coherent marketing push. (Think Malibu's $100mil.)

GM tried to do it on the cheap and the results are obvious...Aura hasn't come close to hitting targets & the Outlook isn't any better. Luckily, the Sky can't be built very quickly anyway!

But it had to be expected that they wouldn't just triple their sales overnight. With a limited dealer network, and limited image for the brand, I think they aren't doing that bad.

As long as they increase steadily, then it's a good thing.

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The dealer thing became really obvious when I moved to Idaho. There is ONE dealership in Idaho, in Boise, 4 hours from me. One north of Salt Lake City is closer, but still 2 hours. They need one in Idaho Falls or Pocatello, Idaho.

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That's ok. There will be alot of buyers waiting in line to make up for losing you as a customer.

I'm still waiting to see one of the Opel "Saturns" come even close to the sales numbers of the S Series.

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I'm still waiting to see one of the Opel "Saturns" come even close to the sales numbers of the S Series.

The Opel "Saturns" are being sold at a much higher price than the S Series could ever hope to get. To most of the buying public, they were throw away cars.
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The Opel "Saturns" are being sold at a much higher price than the S Series could ever hope to get.

Well, they're sitting on dealer lots at a much higher price than the S Series. I don't think too many are actually getting sold! ;)

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They once sold more cars with less selection and less dealers...so unless and until they can get back & exceed previous highs with 5x the product, I'm not convinced of the Saturn success story....

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I loved the "Like Always, Like Never Before" ad campaigns...they should use those again...they clearly illustrated that Saturn is still about the experience, the service, the safety, like always, while having exciting and class leading new cars, like never before.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLDlERlMNls

Also thought the music went well too...very nice composed ads.

I'm sure we both said this when "Rethink" was first launched. The "Like Always, Like Never Before" campaign just complimented Saturn perfectly. Definitely agree with you on the music for the Saturn ads. It seemed like they were going for a Garden State trailer feel, and possibly the same audience also. The free-thinkers, artsy, environmentally conscious, etc. types. Oh well, at least "Rethink" isn't bad, just not as fitting for the brand in my opinion, although the song in the Rethink ads is catchy. I will also say, the Rethink ads prob do capture the attention of the public moreso than the previous campaign, which is what Saturn needs right now. Edited by big blue
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The "Rethink American" tagline is probably an attempt to fool people into thinking it's an American car even though some Saturns are built in Mexico or Europe now.

Edited by vt_hokie
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The "Rethink American" tagline is probably an attempt to fool people into thinking it's an American car even though some Saturns are built in Mexico or Europe now.

Well, my two 2007 Saturns are built in the good ol' U.S. of A. (SKY = Wilmington, DE; AURA = Fairfax, KS) and the OUTLOOK is built in Lansing MI. The ION's replacement, the ASTRA will be built in Europe and the new VUE is built in Mexico. 3 out of 5 are built in the USA - - that's more than half of their lineup!!!
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Astra II will relocate to Lordstown as well.

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Astra II will relocate to Lordstown as well.

Is this confirmed? How did I miss this news?

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Is this confirmed? How did I miss this news?

While not yet official, its a most-likely-case scenario.

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4 Comments:

1) This isn't the 90's anymore.... The market is MUCH more competitive and Saturn has a COMPLETELY different focus.

2) "Rethink American" should've been the new CORPORATE campaign for GM in general showcasing all of the new product.

3) This is Saturn, not Chevrolet.

4) Japanese cars are assembled in america; does that make them any more american? I think we ALL know the true answer to that as we all know the true answer to Saturns being designed in Europe and assembled in Canada et al.

NO car company is going to turn around over night, especially not an american car company... It's just www.notgonnahappen.com It will require years of product and investment. However, the fact that Saturn is making progress, especially in a market that is DOWN overall, says a lot about the potential the division has.

Edited by FUTURE_OF_GM
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4 Comments:

1) This isn't the 90's anymore.... The market is MUCH more competitive and Saturn has a COMPLETELY different focus.

2) "Rethink American" should've been the new CORPORATE campaign for GM in general showcasing all of the new product.

3) This is Saturn, not Chevrolet.

4) Japanese cars are assembled in america; does that make them any more american? I think we ALL know the true answer to that as we all know the true answer to Saturns being designed in Europe and assembled in Canada et al.

NO car company is going to turn around over night, especially not an american car company... It's just www.notgonnahappen.com It will require years of product and investment. However, the fact that Saturn is making progress, especially in a market that is DOWN overall, says a lot about the potential the division has.

I agree that progress, on any front for Saturn, is a good thing.

My issue is with the perceived lack of commitment and marketing disaster that has accompanied Saturn's attempt at a rebirth...for instance, I believe that Saturn has one of the most compelling line-ups of ANY American nameplate, as well as the most positive perception and least baggage, yet GM has not created any buzz behind the product.

Before anyone says its a money issue, I call BS. Scion was an unknown brand 4 years ago...with little money and a very limited lineup, they've managed to go from 0 to 150k+ sales in that time.

I've seen 0 ride & drives or sponsorship of local events in one of the largest markets in the country. The local Saturn dealer has been closed for almost a year, yet no replacement has been lined up? The newest Saturn retailer in the area now shares a building with 2 import nameplates---when GM had committed huge dollars to underwrite the creation of the autoplex in the first place.

Saturn has alot to crow about. Where are the memorable ads, creative marketing, micro-web sites et al.? I look for these things and I can't find them...what chance does the average consumer have. Saturn cannot afford a launch and forget situation, but I fear that's whats happening.

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Before anyone says its a money issue, I call BS. Scion was an unknown brand 4 years ago...with little money and a very limited lineup, they've managed to go from 0 to 150k+ sales in that time.

Absolutely an example of where Toyota accomplished their task......and GM hasn't.

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