Generally speaking, I’m a fan of the Saab USA website. It’s been rated pretty highly in useability and feedback studies as well, so they’re obviously doing something right.
This post, therefore, comes from a two-fold source.
The first is my constant quest, at the risk of accusations of pedantry, to preserve the Saab identity where I see examples of it going astray. I’m really quite proud of Saab’s corporate image. It’s classy, relaxed and sophisticated. Why dumb it down?
The second is this blog article by Just-Auto’s David Leggit, where he makes an impromptu list of car makers that still have integrity (and those that don’t). Relax, Saab’s listed on the positive side of that particular ledger.
Folks that visit here or read reviews regularly would be aware that generally speaking, the Brits tend to rate Saabs higher than US journos. I don’t think it’s stretching things to suggest that the respective markets in those countries have similar opinions. Same cars, different driving conditions, values and perceptions.
Saab do still retain a great deal of their integrity and a vital cog in keeping it that way, aside from building the right cars (which is the most crucial step, of course) is presenting the brand the right way. I mentioned that I might be accused of pedantry here, but this cheesed me off right from the first moment I saw it and it’s only now, with the prompting of Leggit’s blog piece, that I’ve got around to writing on it.
(Just spit it out, you say – I’m getting to it).
I re-published some articles earlier this week on Saab’s identity. Much of the material for those articles was sourced from a publication by Saab themselves, which speaks of their corporate identity and how it should be presented. In short, this doesn’t seem to fit:
I was tempted to call this article “Born From Jets Must Die” but I re-thought it. BFJ is a legitimate campaign and Saab are one of the few car companies that can do it and legitimately link their history to something cool. Others can’t do that.
But Saab USA have to be careful that they don’t tip BFJ over into the realm of the cheesy. My problems with the image above:
- 1. Looks too much like an entire CGI.
2. The jets are cheesy
3. The text is all wrong.
But it’s all an ongoing contribution to a corporate image and whilst the Saab USA website is a quality publication, this graphic waters it down and I, for one, don’t want to see that continue into other representations made on behalf of the brand.
So, some tips for the IT grads doing web development for GM, or those admen raking it in from Saab whilst running its identity into the ground.
1) Saab photography is meant, quite deliberately, to be toned down. It uses cool colors and is generally desaturated. In this instance, I’m unsure if there’s any genuine photography being used at all, which is a bad move in itself. It looks too cartoonish and that’s not the demographic we’re trying to reach here.
2) The animated jets are too cheesy. Still images of jets say enough. They look cool and they state the heritage without going over the top. It’s bad enough that every jet image or reference has to be accompanied by a disclaimer already. But quit the moving jets, huh? Again, it just looks a bit too cartoonish.
3) The font is meant to be Gill Sans. If you don’t have it on your computer, I can email it to you. And what in the world led you to think that an all-caps headline in the wrong font would be OK for the front page of your coporate website? Prominent all-caps leads the mind to think of shouting, which might be American, but isn’t Saab.
This is the thin edge of the wedge as far as I’m concerned and someone’s got to say something about it lest Saab’s corporate presence be reduced to that of a dime store (ok, that’s a stretch, but the principle’s still the same). You develop your identity and if it’s good, you then preserve your identity or it dies on the waves of some flimsy attempt to engage a fickle public. This is not the Saab way.
The click through page looks a little better:
But once again when you look up on the corner, there’s a couple of little jets harassing you as you try to ignore those all-caps.
Look, the fact that Saab have retained their integrity in spite of many things that have chipped away at it speaks volumes for the character of the marque to start with. It’s annoying that anyone has to develop some sort of slick corporate ID in order to remain in people’s minds, but it’s a fact of modern business and consumer life.
I’d just appeal to Saab USA to remember where the brand comes from, and of the fact that the corporate imagery developed and nurtured worldwide is quite expressive and true to the company’s understated roots and philosophy.
When the ad company suggests something that’s out of line with that, it’s OK to disagree with them. And you should know the guidelines as the company wrote the book. I can send you my copy if you’ve lost your own.
Or you can have a look at just about any of the Saab microsites from around the world. They all manage to stick to the program and they look magnificent.