My 2009 Pontiac G8 GT (or should I say Holden VE Commodore now) needed work done. So, I soldiered it up to my local Buick GMC dealer and, after diagnosing the problem, I was told it would take a week for parts to arrive and have them installed.
The dealer provided me with a complimentary loaner vehicle for the time being: a shiny-new 2015 Buick LaCrosse. Fully loaded, and packed to the gills with the latest from Buick, including OnStar 4G LTE wireless.
Was I thrilled to be driving a 2015 Lacrosse for a week? Not particularly. It’s practically the antithesis from the car I own. But I learned a lot.
Normally this is where we would begin going over specifications and sprinkling our opinion in about the Lacrosse, but what I learned after driving the 2015 Lacrosse wasn’t about the car itself, but Buick’s latest branding strategy.
Everyone has seen Buick’s “That’s Not A Buick” advertisements, normally featuring protagonists who are shocked when they learn the car in front of them is indeed a Buick. There’s no hiding from these ads no matter the television or YouTube channel you’re perusing. To the tune of peppy Matt & Kim music, they become lost in the back of your mind somewhere, but the marketing message has been decoded loud and clear.
Everywhere I went in the 2015 LaCrosse, there was somebody referencing the ad campaign. “That’s not a Buick!” Immediately, and seemingly the only proper response, I would shout back, “That’s what I told them!”
On paper, this seems meaningless. But think about it: there are some brands that would kill for that kind of brand recognition. And with an industry as large as the automotive world, it’s good to stand out. Marketing and advertising is an effort to create awareness for a product, and what better measure of success than real-life reactions?
Immediately after that brief exchange of mimicking the same ads many poke fun at, whoever I happened to be with wanted a look at the 2015 LaCrosse. Mind you, some of these people weren’t auto enthusiasts like you and I, so they enthused over the “sharp” exterior styling, the “eerily” quiet cabin and the “awesome” infotainment system. I felt as if the cameras should have been rolling on me.
Those silly ads evoked a whole new set of eyes to view Buick in, and it ranged from younger, to middle-aged adults.
Granted, this didn’t make them run out and buy a Buick LaCrosse the next day, but it’s the perception. Changing Buick’s perception is key for the brand to be successful as it continues to shake off the years of, let’s be blunt, the “Grandma’s car” stereotype.
When I sat down with Molly Peck, Buick’s head of marketing, at the 2015 NAIAS she described where Buick is headed as “affordable luxury.” That’s a far cry from “Grandma’s car,” it seems to moving in the right direction.
As Buick continues to parade its white space theme, wherever General Motors sees a niche to be filled, the tri-shield is there. Buick marketing has had their work cut out for them, and they still do. Proclaiming these new products are Buicks may be the simplest idea yet for the brand.
But, as far as I can tell, it’s working.