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Don't Drape the Buick Enclave in Velvet

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At a recent New York City Buick luncheon, we chatted with Buick general manager Steve Shannon about his brand and where it's going. Shannon, like other GM executives, feel they are on the right track now with product--the Lucerne, LaCrosse, and the coming Enclave.

The thing Buick is working on these days with its advertising, says Shannon, is "social acceptability." We all know that small town bankers and attorneys, realtors and insurance adjusters have long bought Buicks. But the average age buyer for Buick is around 68. Ouch. No wonder septuagenarian GM product boss Bob Lutz thinks GM is making progress with Buick.

"We need to make Buick more socially acceptable for buyers in their 40s and early 50s," says Shannon. There's that phrase again. It makes me think of the episode of Seinfeld in which George Costanza says..."You know...if it were socially acceptable, I'd drape myself in velvet." He later dates a woman who says "looks don't matter," so he, indeed, strolls into Monk's coffee shop wearing a velvet warm-up suit.

One tactic GM may want to try is putting a new ad agency on Buick. McCann Erickson has worked on Buick since Moses drove a Regal down from Mt. Sinai, and the results have been spotty in the best of times. Leave the bulk of the business at McCann, but bring in a truly creative, outside, resource to come up with a campaign for the Enclave launch. Modernista!, HUMMER’s agency, just picked up half the Cadillac business. And New York's Deutsch is working on some Chevy business nowadays. Give Deutsch a crack at the Enclave. Or bring in a new agency all together. You can leave everything but the creation of national ads at McCann.

There are some positive signs at Buick. The Lucerne and LaCrosse are pretty damn good sedans. They are struggling to earn credibility and cachet. But some better overall creative communications around the brand will help.

We'd hate to see Buick go the way of Olds.—Jim Burt
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Comments (2)
  1. Quote of the day thanks to Buick Gm Steve Shannon: “We need to make Buick more socially acceptable for buyers in their 40s and early 50s...”

    If this is an example of the thinking that GM reckons will back to the road of profit and dominant market share then I feel bad for GM.

    GM needs cars that are desired by folks in their 20's and 30's, and bought en-masse by consumers in their 40's and 50's. BMW, Lexus, Mercedes come to mind as examples of that strategy. With the exception of Tiger Woods, I haven't seen or met any 30somethings running down to their local Buick dealer to see the latest Lucerne or LaCrosse - regardless of how damn good Marty Padgett says they are.

    GM needs "must have" and future thinking products right now. New Camaros and V16 Caddy show cars are not the answer. Three dollar a gallon gas for the summer means the Enclave is a step backwards. Here in Southern California I still can't buy a new Mini off the lot at sticker price, and the Prius is a fixture in the HOV lanes of the 10 and 405 freeways.

    I hate to bet against a fellow Marine, but Bob Lutz seems to be out of his element in the rapidly changing automobile world. Good luck GM, you really need it.

  2. I wonder if much of the negative press comes from folks from the Midwest. I live on the west coast and knew very little about Buick since the vast majority of 'older' folks in my area are driving either Bimmers, MBs, Toyotas and Hondas.

    I like the Lacrosse, finding its vague Jaguar lights attractive. But when I mention it to my 30-something peers, it's usually folks from the midwest or, especially from Michigan, that badmouth domestics. For us who grew up primarily here, we just think it's a different car.

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