Sunday, October 4, 2009

Saab Seeks New Perspective but Misses Defining It


One of the things I love about following the automotive marketing industry is all of the odd things that end up on automotive websites. The latest unusual creative execution comes from Saab who launched the “Change Your Perspective” brand site that incorporates a lonely moose on the side of road where you can alternate the seasons. The best part is that the moose just stands there and wiggles its ears. I wish I had thought of incorporating a wiggling ear moose into one of my projects; though it’s still nowhere near as weird as Kia’s Turtlecock creative execution.

I found this site through the design site The FWA: Favourite Website Awards. The site features all kinds of interesting, creative sites that may or may not be the best way to communicate a product or company; rather, sites are recognized for being the best in “cutting edge web site design.”

The Saab site is an interesting one in that it isn’t selling a car; it is selling a brand. Brand marketing is all about communicating the feeling a brand is supposed to encapsulate when people think about the brand,. Think of it as defining a brand. Often this is done in a few memorable words. Think “The Pursuit of Perfection” for Lexus, “The Ulitmate Driving Machine” for BMW, or even “Zoom Zoom” for Mazda.

So how is Saab defining its emotional connection to customers with this brand site?

Change Perspective is the key message here. It’s sort of a variation on Apple’s “Think Different” and designed to get people to think of Saab as unique. Since Saab is undergoing a separation from General Motors and is returning to its Swedish roots, with the brand’s acquisition by Koenigsegg, perhaps the concept is to get people to think of Saab again as the quirky Swedish automobile maker the brand was before GM came in and started sharing platforms and taking away some of the oddness of Saab’s products. This is just a guess on my part, but it seems likely that Saab wants to be seen again as an unusual alternative in a crowded automotive marketplace and their history has some brand equity to do such a thing.

So how is the site communicating the uniqueness of Saab? I already mentioned the incorporation of a wiggling ear moose, isn’t that enough? Seriously, the site focuses on a few messages: Driving, Safety, Fuel, Heritage and Power and then talks to each message as Past, Present and Future.

Let’s look at the Driving section. There is some mention of the racing heritage and Saab’s declaration that they improve the how of getting to point A to B in the Past messaging. Present mentions the addition of the all-wheel drive system that was recently added to the 9-3 (9-3x was released in March 2008) and 9-5 models, while the Future talks about a new 3D-graphics display that brings all of the information to driver in a better method.

Feedback is presented under each Future page’s descriptive text asking, “What do you think?” Clicking on the link brings the visitor to various quizzes asking what you want Saab to focus on or what kind of technology you find most useful in a car. Results are returned with quantity of those who voted and how they voted.

None of the information communicates any sort of “changed perspective” and falls flat on effectively communicating the uniqueness and special ness Saab--the brand--brings to its products. In fact, the fun of owning a Saab has more to do with the ignition switch in the center console, the turbo engine, and the rarity of them producing a 5-door hatchback in the luxury segment. Unfortunately, the only unique thing that remains now is the ignition switch in the center console. A lot of companies now produce turbo engines and GM Saab recently ditched the hatchback design.

Unfortunately, none of the content areas of the site show anything you wouldn’t expect General Motors, Volkswagen, or Toyota to be talking about. There is no Think Different or originality probably because the products are still from the General Motors days and the impact of Koenigsegg is years away.

Still Beautiful

Meanwhile the site is quite beautiful with some amazing graphics and gorgeous animations. The text though is a bit difficult to read in its grey color and small type. Navigation is simple, yet some elements seem out of place.

For example the site isn’t about low-funnel shopping (see purchase funnel image at right), yet somehow expects its visitors to jump from upper-funnel brand communications to “Book a Test Drive”, the highest priority link in the global navigation.

You can also “Tell a Friend” about the site but there is nothing that establishes a relationship with you and the brand. The absence of a Stay Connected/Get Updates or something similar is missing. Seems a brand would want to reconnect with people who experience this site, even if they are not in-market for a car. Plus why not build your CRM database to communicate the new Saab when the Koenigsegg impact is felt in the products?


I do like the look of the site a lot. I think it is warm and quite beautiful. Unfortunately, the warmth isn’t enough to get people to change their perspective about Saab. In fact, it’s unclear what feeling is being changed and what it is supposed to change to. So while the graphics are nicely done, the messaging and upper-funnel awareness behaviors are lacking and leave this to be another FWA site that is a showcase for the creatives, but not much else.

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