How Navistar brand became a movie star

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Chicago—Speaking at the Business Marketing Association’s annual conference Thursday, Al Saltiel, VP-marketing at truck manufacturer Navistar International Corp., described how the company’s branding moves over the past several years have helped boost its market share from 15% in 2007 to 22% this year.

Saltiel said that when he arrived at the company five years ago, initial brand research on Navistar indicated that “what we owned in the business was dull and boring.” Taking top management’s cue, he set a course to be “bold” and to “challenge conventional thinking” in remaking the Navistar brand, which had grown out of the iconic Chicago brand of International Harvester.

Saltiel didn’t set his sights low, picking Apple and Harley-Davidson as two brands to emulate. “We wanted to create fans [of the brand],” he said. He said he also used the Dove soap “real beauty” campaign as an inspiration.

Specifically, Navistar embraced the image truckers have of themselves as the backbone of the economy. Saltiel commissioned filmmaker Brett Morgen to make a documentary starring drivers of the Navistar LoneStar truck, a vehicle that the company designed to be a cross between a hot rod and big rig. Called “Drive and Deliver,” the film premiered at an industry trade show and received coverage in such media as Fleet Owner and The New York Times.

“It was like a one-hour commercial,” Saltiel said. He dodged questions from conference attendees about how much the project cost. “I really don’t know how much it cost,” he said, adding, “At the end of the day, it’s all about results.”

After research showed that 70% of truckers were motorcycle enthusiasts, Navistar also created a special Harley-Davidson edition of the LoneStar.

Saltiel said he sees evidence that brand loyalty is building at Navistar. The brand is even getting under the skin of drivers. “We’ve got people inking their bodies with our logos,” Saltiel said. “Anybody see anyone with the Google brand tattooed on their shoulder?”

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