Saturn is set to launch an interesting new promotion this Summer.
Saturn to Park Competition On Dealership Lots
by Karl Greenberg
Friday, Jun 1, 2007 5:01 AM ET
SATURN MAY BE ROLLING OUT a fresh line-up of vehicles this year, but consumers visiting Saturn dealers this summer will be surprised by the pair of cars parked next to Saturn’s Aura sedan: Toyota’s Camry and Honda’s Accord.
The effort, a retail version of the overtly competitive “Ford Challenge” campaign by its cross-town rival, lets consumers shopping Saturn’s Aura test-drive the Camry and Accord, as well, when they visit Saturn.
The effort, called “Side by Side by Side,” launches June 11, runs through July, and will be supported by national TV, print, direct mail, and point of purchase materials. Chevrolet is mulling a similar effort in support of its redesigned 2008 Malibu, on sale this fall. (Story.)
Not surprisingly, I like the concept here, and for a couple of reasons. First, if your product is better, you want the comparison front and center where your customers can’t possibly miss it. Second, the approach projects a strong brand confidence, and in a point-of-sale environment, that attitude counts for a great deal – maybe even enough to overcome some material advantages of the competitor product.
Even better, it establishes a “faux level playing field” that gives the marketer an unfair advanatge. Sure, all the cars are side by side, fair as can be, but only one is being advocated for. If your people are properly trained (big “if” there, I know) this looks like a level playing field when it really isn’t. Great psychological landscape for selling, that.
There are a couple things that bother me about the campaign, though. For one thing, it looks like it’s being staged as a gimmick. Dealers will have to round up their own comparison cars, which signals a lack of genuine conviction from GM. And it’s a 1½ month campaign – if you believe Side by Side by Side is a legit competitive advantage, why wouldn’t you make it part of your ongoing operational assumption? As a customer, what if I know that I can walk on any Saturn lot at any time and the dealer will put me behind the wheel of a competitor vehicle, and that confidence is part of the Saturn brand year-round?
As it’s structured here, it looks like a hot shot that’s nine parts dog & pony show to one part serious commitment.
Finally, I see “TV, print, direct mail, and point of purchase materials.” I don’t see mobility – which would be a natural for a campaign like this – or any apparent awareness of our new media landscape. This looks like an old media bonanza put together by people who think it’s still 1960.
On the whole, it looks like somebody had a great idea, but that idea then fell into the hands of the old guard. It’s a shame – this is a campaign that could be a lot more than I suspect it’s going to be.