Saab, whose Swedish parent is half-owned by General Motors Corp., hasn't yet decided whether to dump its animated "Find your own road" campaign, which made its debut in April 1995 via Angotti, Thomas, Hedge, New York.
LOVE IT OR HATE IT
Joel Manby, named president of Saab USA in June, said the auto marketer's research revealed consumers either loved or hated the campaign.
"The ad campaign has done its job of portraying Saab's individuality, but what would be compelling for non-Saab buyers is maybe looking at the heritage of the company or the unconventional way we design the cars," he said. "We're going to market the company as well as the car from an individuality standpoint."
Marketing Director David Krysiek said Saab is happy with the work from Angotti, which will handle the new campaign. The marketer's 1997 ad budget will probably be about the same as 1996, when Saab raised its ad budget to an estimated $50 million. That compares to $35 million in 1995 and $29 million in 1994.
The new fall campaign will probably offer tidbits about the company's history and may tout benefits of the turbocharged engine. Some ads may mention the first Saab was built 50 years ago by Swedish Aircraft Co.
Mr. Manby said Saab's aircraft heritage "is a hook we have that our competitors don't."
The car importer's parent, Saab Automobile AB, lost money last year and doesn't expect to turn a profit until 1998. Saab Cars USA sold 28,439 cars in 1996, an 11% jump from 1995, and the third straight year of double-digit increases. It wants to sell 40,000 cars by 2000.
But auto experts aren't optimistic.
"It's not a realistic goal unless they're working somewhere on a fantastic new product to increase their base of traditional customers," said John Bulcroft, president of Advisory Group, an auto strategic marketing consultancy. Saab's new 640 sedan, coming this fall, and 640 wagon won't help attract enough non-Saab buyers to reach the sales goal, he added.
Mr. Manby, formerly central regional manager for GM's Saturn Corp., is bringing some of Saturn's practices to Saab.
Mirroring Saturn's 1994 owner event at its Spring Hill, Tenn., plant, Saab will celebrate its silver anniversary this summer with an owner jubilee in Waterville, N.H. Saab is also looking to duplicate Saturn's uniform dealership