Saab BioPower US opportunities

I recently wrote up the opportunity that’s currently popping up in Europe’s professional cycling tour for Saab to take up sponsorship of a team there. Whether it’d ever be a realistic opportunity or shot down in flames is another matter, but it was fun exploring the idea and I really do think it has some merit.

So having dipped my toe in one controversial marketing niche already, let’s try another. There’s two ideas here – let’s get the easier one out of the way first.

SaabUSA have indicated that BioPower is a likely starter for the 2009 model year, which means it’s probably about a year away given that most new models come out in around September of the year preceeding. A year out isn’t that far away in motoring terms and I’m sure they’re already strategising.

One idea that Gripen’s suggested to me, given the importance of the Californian market, is teaming up with Conserv Fuel, the fuel company looking most likely to open up the first public E85 pumps in Los Angeles. GM have teamed up with other fuel companies before to open up pumps in new areas, mostly in the northeastern US. California is a huge market and while opening up E85 access there will be a slow process, getting in on the ground floor and associating your brand with the new fuel could be a great strategy.

Saab BioPower – coming soon! Have a few cars there with the big BioPower writing down the side and get a few celebs at the opening. Offer a few BioPower convertibles for people to arrive in at those awards ceremonies etc. Much more interesting than a Prius.

That’s idea one. Now for the more controversial one…..

Idea two is one that’ll take a little longer to understand, but shouldn’t be disregarded. It taps an existing E85 market, an underdeveloped Saab market and one of Saab’s existing niche markets all at once.

The existing E85 market and underdeveloped Saab market – Minnesota. The existing niche market – the GLBT clientele.

OK. Hear me out. I know this can be a controversial topic for some, but you can bet your behind that marketers and companies are very aware of this market niche and it’s potential. It’s happening, regardless of your (or my) individual thoughts, and Saab would be foolish to ignore it, especially in consideration of any BioPower launch in the future.

Purely from a business point a view, consider the following:

Minneapolis-St Paul have the 2nd and 5th highest literacy rates in the US. There’s a multitude of newsprint there and a literate audience that consumes it. This includes not only your big newspapers but a lot of niche publications for various sectors of the community, including the GLBT community.

Minneapolis also has the third highest number of gay couples in the US, and the second highest number of gay people in the US. Niche groups like this, and especially in this number, can be targeted in marketing through niche publications and other strategies. As I’ve covered here before, the Saab 9-3 is consistently rated highly in the GLBT community and has been the second-most researched vehicle on GLBT motoring websites for some time now. There’s an inbuilt acceptance of Saab in this market.

Finally, Minnesota has, by far, the largest number of E85 filling stations in the United States. There’s an awareness about E85 already in that region.

If Saab want to introduce BioPower into the US and educate the consumer about the way Saabs use ethanol then doing so with a consumer base that’s 1) educated and literate, 2) accepting of the brand, and 3) able to access the fuel, seems to be a no-brainer to me.

The vast majority of Saab sales are in the north-east US and California. If Saab want to expand a little into a market that may become an emerging one for them, BioPower seems like a good opportunity and the GLBT community should be a focused part of that strategy IMHO.

Niche marketing isn’t new to Saab. They trialled a text-messaging marketing exercise at a wine festival in Boston over the US summer.

I don’t know how that one went, but if it was considered successful then they may want to look at it doing a similar thing again in the future. If there’s a similar opportunity in ‘Sota in the next 12 months or so, I think they’d be wise to take a good, long, hard look at it.

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  1. Swade, I’m telling you, you need to move to Canada and get GM to hire you as a marketing guy. I like how you think! However, if you worked for GM you’d likely have to shutter TS as it would no longer be able to function un-biased, so on second thought stay right where you are! 🙂

  2. I like the moving to Canada idea, Gripen – a lot. Six months ago I’d have said there was a high likelihood that we might do it. Now? Hmmmmm.

  3. Swade,
    Something to consider if Canada is on your radar: if you like the idea of being able to drive your Saab 5000 km in one direction (east/west or west/east) without having to do a u-turn to go back, Canada’s roads just might be for you!

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