9 Things: Becoming a promoter

I recently posted here about an Australian report that unveiled Saab as the most poorly promoted carmaker (i.e. by owners) here in the Australian market. The theory being that if you rate your experience with your vehicle highly, you’re more likely to promote that vehicle to friends, acquaintences etc.

So that got me thinking about how I am as a promoter of the brand. Given that I eat, sleep and breathe Saab (and in between I produce this weblog), I don’t really have a problem with seeing myself as a promoter. But what sort of things can someone do to enhance their motoring experience to the point where they’re more likely to be a promoter?

It doesn’t cost anything (much) and I find I enjoy more car/driving time more as a result. Here’s a few suggestions:

1. Buy the Saab you always wanted

For a lot of us that’s quite possibly an older Saab, a 900 Aero or something similar and if so, then it needen’t be overly expensive. Whatever it is, go out and find one that you can afford or one that you’ll be happy with in the meantime. My philosophy about cars has always been “If I’m going to spend X-thousand dollars on something it better be a lot more than just adequate transport”. Getting the car you’re really happy with goes a long way towards your natural willingness and tendency to promote it.

2. Delve into the culture

One of the great things about Saab is that it has a rich history; unusual design, innovation, a bond with it’s end user and their environment, not to mention motorsports. Saab, through the years, truly have punched above their weight in the contributions they’ve made to the development of autmotive technology and safety.

3. Join a car club

I can’t put enough emphasis on this one – if there’s a Saab Car Club in your vicinity, then go along and check out what’s happening. Every group of people has it’s loonies and car clubs are no exception, but overall you’ll get some great exposure to some magnificent people and some great vehicles. There’s a hell of a lot of experience and inspiration out there in car-club-land.

4. Take it to the track

This one’s usually made easier when you join a car club (see point 3). A little bit of track work can go a long, long way in you understanding your own limitations as well as your Saab’s outer boundaries. They’re awesome track cars as well as great daily drivers and you’ll learn a hell of a lot and be buzzed for weeks afterwards.

5. Get some literature

This sort of ties into the ‘culture’ point at no.2. There’s not as much Saab literature out there as there is for the more famous makes, but there’s still some very good reading to be had. Reading about historical models and how advanced they were was one of the primary motivators that got me interested in owning them. Imagine owning a slew of 1980’s cars (like I did) only to read about a 1972 Saab that was more advanced than all of them in many areas. If you’ve been amongst the Saab community for a little while then some of this might have already filtered through as head knowledge, but to read it in total and see the full gamut of Saab technology is an eye-opening experience (I’m a big advocate of reading in all areas of life).

6. Wash and detail your car

Put this in the same category as “why do soldiers shave when they’re at war?” It’s a morale thing, a pride thing. I’m as big a sinner as anyone else in this regard. But boy, my Viggen looks 200% better following an afternoon with the lambswool mit and I feel a lot better driving it too.

7. Road Trips

Whether it be a long holiday or a bunch of Sunday drives, doing something different with your car can give you a better appreciation of its capabilities. It’s not just about driving either – a decent trip can be a good reminder about the Saab’s humungous load carrying capacity as well. Re-reading this one, it sounds like I’m a relationship counsellor or something, but you get what I mean.

8. Support your local

File this loosely with joining a car club. It’s not always possible to buy a new Saab from your local Saab dealer. I’ll probably never buy a brand new one in my lifetime as the cost here in Australia is prohibitive, especially given my late start to working life and current mortgage circumstances. But I’m pleased to have developed a good relationship with my local dealer, and I know that if I’ve got any queries etc I can go to him and get a straight answer. The same with my local repairer, who’s a vast recepticle of Saab knowledge. These relationships have given me a much greater appreciation for the marque and make me much more comfortable recommending them to any friends looking for a new ride…..which leads me to the last point:

9. Talk about them!

The previous 8 points were all about fleshing out your experience and the way you feel about owning and driving a Saab. If you’re to become a natural promoter of the brand they’re all pretty valid, but they’re all quite moot in this discussion if you don’t actually promote. It doesn’t take too much and we’re not talking about a Mormon mission here – just as and when circumstances present then be happy to share your experiences (car club, track runs), share some facts (that you’ve read about) or talk turkey about why your car (the one you’re so happy to have bought) looks so good (after your detailing session).

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It’s just a few thoughts, an incomplete list, but one that you could lambaste or add to as you see fit. I’m reminded of Olav from Norway, who always signs off his emails with “from Olav, who always takes the long road home”. There’s a promoter.

I’m a steadfast believer that Saab made/make vehicles that are amongst the best in terms of all-round, practical and performance driving. It shocked me to see that Australian experiences were so negative in recent times. I’m not talking about being blind to the truth if it’s negative, but being honest and enthused about the car you enjoy if that is indeed the case.

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5 Comments

  1. Your #1 (Buy the Saab you always wanted) hit the nail on the head with me. I’ve been buying “adequate transport” because new Saabs were too expensive. I know now I would have been much much happier driving used Saabs. Nothing but Saabs from here on out…

  2. It’s been a longstanding philosophy, Ted. Formed as a youngster and confirmed by having to live around my ex-mother-in-law, who mocked my Saab fetish and drove a series of Camrys and Corollas.

    Boy, am I glad I’m out of that particular family.

  3. From driving rear-wheel drive Alfa Romeo 119 series of cars with the De Dion rear-axle and the phenomenal roadholding apart from being temperamental, I progressed from driving Audi (500 nee pre-A6) to Honda (Civic VTEC) and Renault (Clio II).

    Then as I was trying to figure out who I am and what I wanted out of life – I discovered what described me and epitomized the spirit and individuality of my persona including the need not to conform – the known unknowns Donald Rumsfeld talked about and I fell in love with Saab. Not just any Saab, no, the 9-5 Aero MY01, and I ended having two of them. Do I need to say more? In this part of the world, I am referred to as the chap who owns that funny car, but a good one at that from Sweden. You need to see the reaction from high traffic patrol cars (cops) when they stop you just to have a look at your car and motion you to proceed. You know what that says: It is a Saab! Period

  4. something worthy to add, maybe as part of #9 or as a point on its own, is:

    GET PEOPLE BEHIND THE WHEEL!

    this is probably just a function of lacklustre marketing over the past years, but Saabs don’t appear to sell themselves very well.

    BMWs and Mercs have always been no brainers as such, the luxury, the quality, the road prowess – the only time anyone questions your choice there is when they think you’re a pretentious twat!

    On the flip side, we’re more likely to hear “why’d you get a Saab?” We no doubt wax lyrical about economical turbo power, intelligent ergonomics and elegant, minimalist Swedish design in reply.

    Problem is, to most people, it means bugger all; they can equate “turbo” with “power” but have no idea how it works and why it is better than the 5L V8 they think they need. They take a look at the dash and key in the centre console and think “hmmm… that’s different” but have no grasp of why…

    … until they drive the car for an hour. This is because, I believe, much of Saabs’ appeal isn’t specs or numbers, but FEEL. Turbos might not make sense to someone, but having the car take off and charge past a line of traffic as you overtake them does. The weirdo curved dash might look weird in photos or even in the flesh at the showroom, but when you’re on the road being able to control just about everything while maintaining the road in your peripheral vision makes perfect sense. As does having the keys in the centre console, where the other keys don’t bang into your knee constantly. Electric seats seem daft when you read about them, but when your arse is toasty warm in 5 seconds on a chilly winter morning they become the best idea in the world. Ever.

    Case in point: my first attempted conversion “failed” because I couldn’t get my friend to go for a test drive in a 9-5 Aero. He was interested, absolutely… his recently acquired $150K Merc S-class hadn’t exactly left him as ecstatic as he’d hoped. Yet no matter how much I tried to explain how a 2.3L turbo 4 could perform with all the vigor his his 4.2L V8 and use half the fuel in the process, he couldn’t be convinced car could happily make it up the rather steep hill he lived on. I knew that if my ageing C900 could do it adequately then a fresh 9-5 Aero would practically whoosh to the top.

    Maybe the idea of a ‘mere’ $70K car seemed odd to him, maybe years of V8 and RWD had made him immovable to anything else, or maybe his wife was too much of a brand snob to ditch the 3 pointed star… ultimately, he didn’t make that appointment.

    Fast forward to the present; another friend of mine and his wife have just bought their first Saabs. Note the plural. Some time back I managed to stoke the interest in him; he’d taken a C900 Aero for a test drive and suddenly, everything I’d ranted on about made sense. He was excited. He wanted his own Saab.

    He was all set to buy a 9-3 Monte Carlo, until his wife – who, up until this point, was planning to upgrade her Excel to a Tiida and didn’t understand this sudden Saab malarky in her husband – took it for a drive.

    Next thing I know, she’s bought the 9-3MC for herself and he’s gone and purchased a 9-5 Aero! Not only have they gone from nought to a 2 Saab family in a matter of days, but they’ve also gone from mere car users to car enthusiasts. Instead of only mentioning his old Mazda6 when it was ‘having problems’, he now raves about how addictive the car’s power is, and how he finds himself in – and winning – drag races at the lights. And rather than just running the car through an automatic wash, we now have long discussions about the best way to handwash, which products to use and whether or not detailing clag is worth the effort. They’re keen to join the local Saab club, they’re keen to bring the cars to Tasmania simply for “a bit of a drive”… I mean, the change in them is amazing for two people who 6 months ago really couldn’t be considered car buffs.

    The really interesting thing – getting back to the main point of the original story – is how the brand advocasy as continued. Just yesterday (as my mate sent me pics of the two cars – hehe proud parents) I learned that his sister, having seen and driven the 9-3 and quickly converted, had bought a 9-3 Convertible too.

    What do they say about word-of-mouth advertising?

    Bottom line: you can read the brochure but to understand and appreciate a Saab, you need to drive it. Here’s an idea for Saab dealers; a half hour test drive isn’t enough. They need enough time to live with the car, to appreciate all the minute details, to the point where they, hopefully, get addicted and couldn’t live without it. Get some demo cars and make them bookable for a whole weekend. Let them – nay, ENCOURAGE them – to take the family and go for a long drive/trip somewhere. Hell, maybe even strike a deal with a B&B or hotel chain so they get a very good discount! That in itself would be a pretty amazing PR move… “take the family to XX for 50% off and get a free Saab for the weekend”… etc.

    Ok, so it wouldn’t be the cheapest thing for Saab to do, but I can’t see anything else other than completely new models significantly adding to sales figures (at least here in Australia, which is without diesel or BioPower versions) in the near term.

    In a way, Saabs are like heroin. You don’t ‘get it’ until you take that first hit – and then you’re hooked. Perhaps Saab should take a hint from drug dealers and start handing out those first hits for free? 😉

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