Saab USA have an ad budget of around 55 million a year. I don’t know how much Saab Netherlands are spending on Margreet, but I’d wager the campaign would be costing in the tens of thousands. Various jurisdictions are spending money on promoting the brand and getting it exposure, which is a good thing.
It cost me around eight thousand or so to run this website in the last 12 months and I reached tens of thousands of people in doing so. I believe that I’ve also helped Saab sell a few cars along the way. I haven’t signed anyone up to the dotted line of course, but there isn’t a marketing exec at Lowe Worldwide who has.
Some of you regulars reading this may be surprised that I’d still love to work for Saab, doing what I do now on this blog. Actually, I’d love to work for Saab doing almost anything, but this is what I could probably do best (though I am a qualified CPA, but numbers bore that daylights out of me).
Would the honesty of this blog be compromised if it were an official Saab blog? Maybe. But in emerging blogospheric world, I don’t think it’d be necessary.
I’d probably have to tone down the anti-Cadillac rhetoric a little, but I believe that a corporate blog can be honest, open, forthcoming and a little more revealing without having to constantly toe the company line.
I read this entry on ESPN’s Truehoop blog with interest this morning. It’s a very interesting piece on corporate blogging involving an NBA player, Gilbert Arenas, and a conflict caused after an honest entry on his blog criticised his shoe sponsor, Adidas.
….if you want to know what Gilbert Arenas thinks about different brands of basketball shoes, are you going to believe him when he reads a professionally prepared script in an Adidas commercial? Or are you going to believe him when he says casually, on his blog, that he thinks some of the Adidas prototype designs he saw were icky, and some Nikes and Starburys are pretty cool looking?
I mean, the blog version is just 100% truer right? That’s just how people are. There is not a human who really believes, in his soul, that every good shoe comes from one brand. Give me a break.
As Henry Abbott states at TrueHoop, good blogs are gaining traction because in this modern internet age, news that’s well sourced and well prepared doesn’t have to be fully polished. It’s still well organised and prepared, but it’s down to earth and it can arrive unshaven and wearing shorts if need be. Good content is good content. The surroundings are smoke and mirrors. Blogs are grassroots affairs and offer an unparalleled chance for a company to interact with their customers.
GM know this and that’s why they’ve started blogs of their own, but they don’t really interact in order to gain any appreciation of what people are saying. Instead, they’ve got RSS feeds of blogs like this one (Hi guys!) and others that actually do give an idea of the pulse in the market place.
So currently I’m doing some of Saab’s work for them and I’m doing it at no cost to them (other than the occasional travel and accommodation they’ve extended to me and representatives of this site for media events; expenses that they also incur for the mainstream media). TS is promoting the cars, marketing the cars, providing grassroots stories about the cars, promoting pride in ownership, appreciation of the company’s values and goals, and most of all – appreciation of driving a Saab, which is what it’s all about.
I do it because I love the brand and honestly believe that they make the best value cars in the world when it comes to a combination of performance, utility, comfort and safety. I do it because I love the storied past of the brand. I love learning about it and sharing it as it comes to light.
In the past, the acute interest in Saabs was largely due to the fact that they were so different. Saab can only sell that as an historical fact now. Their current range, whilst retaining points of difference, is much more mainstream.
Saab, like few other car companies in the world, is the receipient of a lot of love and loyalty. I worry that they’re in danger of losing that, though, and I wonder what they’re doing about preserving it. I think sharing as much as you can within reasonable commercial limitations is in the interests of creating an atmosphere of inclusiveness that can foster that brand loyalty.
Take, for example, my early release of images of the Saab Turbo X.
I received those images from a source. I didn’t receive them officially from Saab. I released the images a couple of days before the embargo date for several reasons. One, to satisfy the interests of the readership here at TS. Two, to satisfy the wider interest of those who love Saabs or are interested in Saabs, but don’t normally hang out here at TS. And finally, to get the Turbo X some publicity in advance of the many other special cars that were being released at the Frankfurt show.
For a few days at motoring sites on the web, the Turbo X was noticed. It was written about, commented on and pondered. It was appreciated. XWD was read about. Saab’s history in turbocharging was read about. And all this happened without reader’s minds having to compete with 100 other press releases out there from bigger companies.
Did all that benefit Saab? I’m sure that it frustrated Saab’s PR people a bit, because they’re the PR people and Saab news is supposed to come from them. Which it did, just a little earlier than they’d planned.
I think it benefitted Saab for the reasons mentioned above. TS had incoming links (yes, it benefits TS, too) from all sorts of forums and sites that deal with other brands and it was notable that many of them were brand-specific, performance-oriented sites. Would this have happened otherwise – maybe? but probably not to the same extent.
I love Saabs. I love buying them, looking at them, reading about them, hauling stuff in them and most of all, I love driving them.
I love Saabs enough to be honest about them and sing their praises from the rooftops when it’s deserved and kick them in the pants when circustances warrant it.
What I’d really like to do is share even more about Saabs with the world out there. Whilst I sit 8 hours a day crunching numbers, I could be researching, driving and videoing the Saab freewheel from the 60s and 70s. I could be embarking on a campaign I like to think of as “aducation” – making some fun, short videos and other documents that share some basic info about who Saab is as a company and why the cars are so great. Communicating with people on a wider scale on why Saabs are so much better than they think. Engaging with owners old and new about why they drive the car that they drive.
Saab may eventually come up with a plan to do this themselves, but my guess is that it’ll be all white-teeth and no bite because it’ll be driven by the corporate body and not the enthusiast body.
Flash and dazzle is good for about 30 seconds. After that, you’ve got to have some substance and Saab can best do that by engaging the people that support their business. Provide something that’ll give people the idea that the company is real. That is has a personality, a history, a presence and a rationale for doing things the way it does them (of course, your product has to back this up, too).
What would the average Saab enthusiast think about taking a look around the back of the Saab museum? A ride with Bjorn Envall in the EV-1? How about retracing Carlsson’s steps in the Liege-Sofia-Liege in a Saab 96, visiting with other enthusiasts along the way and riding in convoy? Or riding with Kenneth Backlund in a Turbo X around the Nordschleife? They’re just a few ideas. All that combined with all the regular news, opinion and skullduggery that goes on around here.
All it’d take is a decision from Saab as a global body to make it happen. I can just about guarantee that over the next few years it’d draw a huge amount of interest, and that’ll be important.
Saab are about to embark on a growth phase. With a refreshed 9-3 out now with new technology and four all-new models coming in the next 3-4 years, it could actually be a time of unprecedented growth for the company.
The time for creating an honest and engaging customer infrastructure isn’t in three or four years time. It’s now.
Would I want to do it? Absolutely. I’ve got the runs on the board already and know a reasonable amount about the brand. I’ve also got a feel for the type of content people like to see and what works on the web. And I can write a little, too.
Does it have to be me that does it? Of course not.
But whatever happens, I hope Saab does something about this as it’s an important area to get into. Even more important is to get into it the right way, and a corporate person isn’t necessarily going to do that.