Saturn revamps strategy

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Saturn wants to expand its brand image beyond its stellar customer-service reputation.

"This brand doesn't have a sustaining strategy if it focuses on the retail experience," said Jill Lajdziak, VP-sales, service and marketing at the General Motors Corp. unit. "The retail experience will still be the pillar of our brand, but we have to make sure people love our product as much as the experience."

To accomplish that, all Saturn product communications, including advertising, will focus on safety, design and functionality, she said. The marketer will also continue to emphasize its customer-friendly, people-focused reputation in two or three different ads annually, like the current "brand anthem" TV commercial from its new agency Omnicom Group's Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.

Beyond those attributes, there will be variations in different Saturn model ads. The goal of Goodby's current national TV spots for the L-Series midsize sedan and wagon is to "let people know they can have elegance in a Saturn product," Ms. Lajdziak said, while regional TV commercials for Saturn's Vue sport utility show off features and benefits.

`great product benefit'

One L-Series spot portrays a father behind the wheel admiring his daughter as she returns a video. A Vue spot shows a guy bouncing off the polymer door of an SUV parked next to a lake when he fails to let go of a swinging rope over the water.

Industry consultant Jim Sanfilippo, exec VP of Omnicom's AMCI, praised the Vue spot because it touts "a great product benefit." But he said "I don't think Saturn has fully articulated their brand definition," in the L-Series spot, adding "I don't think we'll see the whole Saturn story unfold until the Ion launch."

He called the Ion, which replaces Saturn's longstanding S-Series, "kind of the family jewels" because the brand was built and sustained for nearly a decade on the small-car line.

While Ion is just starting to arrive in dealer showrooms, ads for the 2003 model won't break until the first quarter of 2003, said Ms. Lajdziak. Saturn will sponsor MTV programming, as it did earlier this year with "The Real World Road Rules Battle of the Seasons," which included ad buys, product placement and an Internet sweepstakes.

Meantime, Saturn is taking the youth-targeted Ion on the road. "We wanted to present the car in places with no pressure," said Matt Armstrong, marketing director for Ion. Saturn now has five mobile trailers stopping at more than 65 college campuses. One trailer is dedicated to 20 campuses in a partnership with Student Advantage, Boston, which created FanFest for the tour.

Visitors to Student Advantage's Web sites at and can learn more about the Ion or order the car's product brochure. On campus, visitors can play an interactive Ion driving game and participate in other activities, Mr. Armstrong said.

The interactive driving game was also featured at several stops for the Ion-sponsored Goo Goo Dolls' tour this summer-the concert was first for Saturn. The Ion name was advertised on the aerial blimp-like Lightship hovering over the concerts, as well as at the XGames in Philadelphia and during the World Series.

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