Buick Battles

July 16th, 2009

Picture this.  You’re cruising down a highway in a chic new car.   You’ve got your music pumping, your shades on, and people on the street keep stoping to see what kind of car you’re driving.  What kind of car comes to your mind?  A BMW?  A Lexus, maybe?  If it’s up to the owners of GM, you’ll actually start thinking about Buick.  That’s right, a Buick.  Sure, you probably think of a Buick as a grandpa car.  But this is just the perception GM is trying to change.

As part of GM’s attempt to rid itself of more than a dozen unsuccessful models, this month it is attempting to reinvigorate the Buick, a line that is still somewhat profitable but always slow-selling.  With the average U.S. Buick owner over 70 years of age, GM is trying to figure out how to attract new, younger, more affluent buyers—and how to do it quickly.

GM’s first attempt to draw in younger buyers will occur later this month when they launch the new LaCrosse.  In addition to the restyled LaCrosse, GM is working on a new, smaller Buick as well as the Enclave crossover which has already recieved critical acclaim and a far younger customer base than other Buicks. And in a somewhat fitting move, the company is pursuing a more current marketing direction, limiting past ties to the golf world and instead planning a high-priced Internet ad campaign, focusing on national advertising and on services like Twitter.

It appears GM realizes if they want to draw in a younger audience they need to utilize the technology the younger audience is using.  Whether or not this will work is a whole other ball of wax.  And so far, GM is getting off to a rocky start.  It just launched a new commercial featuring a mock fashion shoot around two Buick models, an Enclave crossover and the new LaCrosse sedan, and a fussy, narcissistic director who is obsessed with the cars and himself.

Bob Lutz, GM’s vice chairman who was brought back from pending retirement by CEO Fritz Henderson, thought the new television ad campaign for Buick was so awful that he went public with his dismay.  Now Lutz, 77, has been put in charge of all of GM’s advertising and public relations in an effort to fix things.

Even if they can internally agree on the direction of marketing, ultimately engaging a younger audience will come down to breaking brand perceptions and creating a new understanding of the Buick as a hip, luxury car.  Good Luck GM!  Like many of your predicaments, rebranding the Buick clearly has a long, uncertain road ahead.

Posted Under: Advertising, Media & Journalism, Public Relations
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