A subtle change in nomenclature, but it signals an important shift in the way General Motors Corp. is determined to build the brand identity of individual models.
You might call it GM Marketing by Smale.
An estimated $40 million marketing push for the model goes into full swing Sept. 8 with a multimedia campaign that uses "Riviera by Buick" as the only tag. "The new symbol for quality in America," the theme line used in other Buick advertising, won't be applied to Riviera for at least six months.
The car's exterior carries two Riviera badges, front and rear, and a "Riviera" nameplate on a side panel. The Buick name appears only on the interior dash, where "Riviera by Buick" is scripted.
"We want to really put the spotlight on Riviera," said Jay Qualman Jr., Buick's general director-advertising. Mr. Qualman and other Buick executives hope the sleek new $27,000-plus Riviera will earn the status of "a new classic" in the tradition of the original Riviera, a 1963 model that established the idea of a personal luxury car.
The Riviera isn't the only new GM model that will be marketed as if it were a separate brand.
The Aurora, a new $32,000 luxury sedan, will get similar treatment and will be sold only by Olds-
mobile dealers who complete intensive customer-relations courses. An Aurora ad campaign from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, will break in mid-September.
"This is a marketing approach that has been used successfully in package-goods areas," said John Bissell, managing partner with Gundersen Partners, a Bloomfield Hills, Mich., marketing consultancy. "You can see the hand of John Smale somewhere in the background."
Mr. Smale, GM's chairman since a boardroom revolt in late 1992, is a former chairman of Procter & Gamble Co. noted for his marketing expertise. He's said to be actively involved behind the scenes in developing GM's broad marketing strategy.
It remains to be seen how far GM will carry the move to bolster the identity of individual models. The automaker has about 50 car and truck model names split among six divisions and subsidiary Saturn Corp. Creating a distinctive identity for each model could be too costly for GM and too confusing for consumers.
The Riviera is the kind of high-image vehicle that could benefit from a separate marketing effort like the one crafted by McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Troy, Mich. The car's competitors include luxury models like the Lincoln Mark VIII, Chrysler LHS, Acura Legend, Lexus SC300 and BMW 535.
Centerpiece of the effort is a 60-second spot that will run on ABC, CBS and NBC during prime time on Sept. 8 and 11.
The spot positions the Riviera as a stylish concept car come to life. It uses a "Mission: Impossible"-like plot, with two men breaking into a design studio to steal a Riviera and then leading a high-speed chase involving a helicopter and a roadblock.
The campaign also includes three 30-second spots on network and cable; gatefolds, four-page inserts and spreads in a variety of newsweeklies, business publications and upscale lifestyle magazines; and radio, outdoor and direct marketing components.
McCann developed an 8-minute video that has already been mailed to 60,000 people who requested more information after seeing the car at auto shows or in teaser advertising that broke in July. Future Riviera print ads will also carry an 800-number or a business response card to get the video.