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Brands we like: Buick

Eric Groves

By Eric Groves

When is it time to change your brand?

In order to stay on top in today’s ever-changing market place, brands must be able to take a good look at themselves in the magic marketing mirror and realize that the message and methods that worked yesterday – might not work today.

Just think about it.  Big name brands have undergone big time changes over the years.

Apple computers ‘thought differently,’ stripped down their logo and concentrated on marketing a set of lifestyle products instead of just a high-powered Macintosh computer.  iBet you know how that turned out.

American Express went from the premium businessperson’s credit card to one that comes bundled with hot digital content, offers and spokespeople.  Wonder how many young business pros are leaving home without it now?

And then, there’s McDonald’s.  Those easily identifiable golden arches became somewhat synonymous with obesity and unhealthy lifestyles (Remember “Supersize Me?”) So, the fast food king switched up its menu and offered healthy options. Then, they brought on Justin Timberlake to come up with an original tune to kick-off a great campaign and now, folks are ‘lovin’ it!’

But, let’s take a little deeper dive (or drive) into one brand that is changing – and changing for the good, we might add.  This month’s brands we like:  Buick.

Here at Flying Hippo, we spend a lot of time talking about brands – the good, the bad and the great ones.  The great ones deliver carefully crafted messages that fit their brand identity to their ideal customer time after time.  And, the great ones always test, analyze and revise if the need arises.  In Buick’s case, their magic mirror was dishing out some harsh realities: a customer base aging past the ideal auto buying demographic, products and designs that were old and drab and marketing that remained, well, a bit stodgy.

The time had come to craft a new image, a new campaign to bring awareness back to the brand and it was time to target a new ideal customer. Buick began to shift away from the messaging appeal designed for the older driver who wanted a comfortable ride and drive towards a more youthful driver, a driver interested in high style, modern luxuries and a reliable, comfortable product.   Buick was now chasing youth in the fast lane.

So the gears began to turn at GMC HQ and slowly but surely the auto giant was cranking sleek, contemporary automobiles on the assembly line.  Gone were the lines of yesteryear, to be replaced by the grills, glitz and gloss that younger drivers are after.  Newer models, too, have adapted a digital dashboard as well as some cool digital integration with Apple and Android.  One thing was for certain: Buick wasn’t your Grandpa’s car anymore.

With the product line looking better in the mirror, it was time to crank the creative into high gear.  After tons of research, brainstorming, creative pitches and more research, GMC decided to jump start their marketing with a campaign designed to “attack head-on the false familiarity of Buick being an old person’s brand.”

And, “That’s not a BUICK!” was born.

The key to this campaign would be to speed right through the typical car commercial clutter, braking only to stop to make an emotional connection with the younger auto-buyer.   That connection would be with humor, specifically with a risky, self-deprecating style that banked on the fact that most folks wouldn’t know a Buick when they saw one.

Commercials and digital ads featured everyone from Grandma to Millennial party-goers (and even the neighborhood dogs) to get their point across.

Since the campaign kicked off during NCAA football games across broadcast and cable channels (Buick is an NCAA sponsor,) the decision makers at Buick are feeling pretty good.  Sales are up across the board, some model records are being set and that negative brand connotation of the ‘Old Fogie’ car?  We’d say it’s well on the way to the scrap yard!

Like the other behemoth brands noted above, Buick looked in that magic mirror and took pause to reinvent themselves.  And, just like any great brand, they won’t stop looking, nor should they… even if they like what they are seeing now.

If you think it might be time to examine your brand, download our Spotted Zebra workbook now and take a look in that magic mirror for yourself.



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