Born From Jets – the case study

Big thanks to Turbin for digging this one up.

The Born From Jets ad campaign won a Silver Effie for 2007. Bear in mind that nominations for 2008 Effies closed in October 07 – so the 2007 Effie is largely for work done in 2006. For those of you that aren’t in the know (this included me until about 10 minutes ago) an Effie is a marketing award, described by the Effie people themselves as follows:

Effie awards Ideas that Work – the great ideas that achieve real results and the strategy that goes into creating them.

Effie winners represent client and agency teams who tackled a marketplace challenge with a big idea and knew exactly how to communicate their message to their customer.

The following is the Effie case study that details the BFJ campaign and the success that Saab have had with it during the time period covered by the award. Interesting reading, though I’d love to see those stats now that the campaign is a year older.


Strategic Challenge

In a growing and highly competitive premium-import automotive segment, Saab struggled to generate top-of-mind awareness and a relevant point-of-difference. Saab drivers seek acknowledgement of their success in life, and consistently reject materialistic and common status symbols. They are modern, non-conformists among premium car buyers and look for unique and innovative brands that express their independent spirit.

After a history of positioning the Saab brand as “intelligent cars for intelligent people”, the business had been flat for some time. Essentially, there were 6 professors, 2 college students, and 3 yuppie rejecters very proud of their Saab cars, but the business was not growing and the franchise was in danger of being pulled from the US market.

To grow volume, Saab realized they had to stop being niche and start being a challenger. In the spring of 2005, they hired a new general manager with a big task: he had to elevate the brand to support the largest portfolio expansion in Saab’s history. The new client witnessed other brands’ success through high energy advertising and thought Saab’s current “State of Independence” campaign was “too quiet”. Furthermore, the dealer network was dissatisfied with the campaign; they longed for a creative refresh to give them a boost. In order to compete in the mass-market, expand to a larger audience and increase brand awareness, Saab needed to own a claim to performance.

Despite years of a consistent positioning, research indicated consumers didn’t know what Saab stood for versus the competition because they knew very little about the brand. In order to expand our footprint and retain the core business, we identified a sweet spot between our client’s vision of a mass-market success and what enthusiasts cherished about the brand.


• Create a Saab-ownable performance story
• Increase brand awareness and consideration
• Increase sales

The Big Idea

Our strategic direction had to trump the client’s expectations on delivering a performance message without compromising the independent soul of the brand. In order to understand performance and what it meant to our consumer, we conducted qualitative and quantitative research among drivers and aspirers of Saab and competitive premium imports.

The Saab Performance Deficit:

Saab suffered from a perceived performance deficit. The notion of performance is understood by consumers as acceleration, speed, handling, ride, security and safety. Examples of performance claims within the premium import category are: BMW is the “Ultimate Driving Machine”, Audi is “German design and engineering” and Volvo is “Safety”. Despite impressive performance credentials, consumers weren’t aware that Saab had a performance story to tell that rivaled the competition.

Looking Within: Jet-Inspired Performance

We returned to Saab’s roots of aircraft design for insight. Saab is an acronym that stands for Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget and the brand’s independence can be traced to Sweden’s post-war aviation industry. The first Saab car was designed and inspired by their high-performance aircraft evidenced by a wrap around windscreen, cockpit interior, and sporty, aerodynamic features. The notion of “Jet inspired” was rich territory. It not only stated a claim to performance and was broad enough to incorporate other messages, but upheld the spirit of the brand.

“Jet inspired” clearly rose to the top of a spectrum of 5 Saab performance positioning concepts, though it meant a lot more to consumers than just performance. They mentioned the rational associations of an automobile built like a jet such as ergonomics, intuitive design, superior safety systems, high-technology, precision engineering and advanced materials. However, more important were the strong emotions that the “feeling of flight” evoked, like freedom, liberation, individuality, exhilaration and excitement. The idea of “jet-inspired performance” was exciting news to our consumer, and communicated both a credible and own-able performance message. The Big Idea: Saab is Born from Jets

Bringing the Idea to Life.

The dynamic “Born from Jets” campaign highlights the inspiration that designing aircraft had on developing vehicles that combine great performance, superior engineering, innovative and efficient design, and safety.

The essence of the “Born from Jets” campaign is:

Saab was founded by 16 aircraft engineers. Their spirit lives on. Once you’ve built jets, you just don’t build just another vehicle.

    • “Born from Jets” hit the market in October 2005 with a blitz of media including TV, radio, print, outdoor, direct, online and POS
    •; Tells the full story of the brand’s jet heritage
    • Direct mail to consumers themed around the Born From Jets campaign.
    • A mobile marketing tour in the form of an aircraft hanger
    • Exposure at air shows.
    • To build on our aircraft heritage theme, Saab partnered with a charity called “Angel Flight America”, a nonprofit that offers free medical air transportation for patients in need.


Saab saw a rise in performance credentials:


Saab is now on the “shopping list”.

Pre- to Post- “Born from Jets” campaign launch:

    • Brand linkage to advertising up 96%.
    • TV advertising made respondents “feel differently about the Saab brand”, 94% increase.
    • “Transformer 9-7X” TV advertising “increased interest in vehicle” by 52%.
    • TV advertising made respondents “want to drive this brand of car” with an 82% increase.
    • Aided TV ad awareness rose 11% from pre to post “Born from jets” campaign launch.
    • Total Brand Communication aided advertising awareness rose 6%.
    • “Transformer 9-7X” TV advertising “stood out from other vehicle advertising” with a 44% increase.

Despite limited share of voice and a brand new campaign, tagline recognition is through the roof:


• Saab’s ‘Born from Jets’ tagline was the 6th most recognized and correctly attributed automotive slogan. (out of 35 tested)
Source: MITS Q2 ’06 Advertising Review & Brand Health Summary (Millward Brown tracking
study, slogan recognition and Linkage)

• “Talk about an advertising slogan resonant with engineering prowess. “Born from Jets” has to
be one of automotive history’s greatest marketing taglines.” Source:, 11/7/05

Sales are up:

• Best January in recent history with year-over-year sales gains of 34%+
• Exceeded Q3 2006 sales objectives: Target= 9255 and Actual = 9648
Source: Saab Automobile USA Sales Reports

Budget: $20 million and over
Campaign Reach: National
Media Channels: TV, Radio, Newspaper, Trade/Professional, Consumer Magazine, Direct Mail, OOH, P-O-P, PR Interactive/Online

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  1. It is obvious the campaign was successful. Everything in that article is true. Saab needed something bold, even a little offensive (and it has been, looking at a lot of teh responses).

    I must say, though, the new 9-3 ad is flimsy. It does not hold up to the standard of the previous BFJ ads.

  2. If BFJ had “matured” in the manner you would expect a strong concept to develop, it would still be a good campaign … however, neglecting it by going cheap really hurt the concept. The fact that the 2007 9-3 and 9-7x spot are the same spot except for a couple of seconds of car shots was a cop-out, the 2008 9-3 ad seems to be special-effects for the sake of special-effects … it seems that the focus has been misplaced on the jets, rather than the real value of the tagline (which is the less spoken message, but the real value: Once you’ve built jets, you just don’t build just another vehicle.)

    If the campaign migrates back to showing how the cars are different because of the heritage, then BFJ can be saved … if it continues down the quasi-video game approach of “add another CG jet here” then BFJ has certainly “jumped the shark.”

  3. Also, the lines “More jet inpired than ever” and “you’re closer to owning a jet than you think” are both terrible applications of the concept. Again, they focus on the wrong thing (the jets) rather than the original reason that BFJ worked … the story, the heritage, the products, the difference.

  4. still the truth remains that it’s not as much the campaign as such, as the fact that there are 2 models to choose from. One dates from 1997, the other from early 2003.

    methinks self’s calender approaching “early 2008” is a problem in this regard 😉

  5. OK – we get it. Saab has performance in their DNA. But safety and efficiency are also key aspects that make a Saab automobile attractive to potential buyers, and those aren’t attributes I associate with jets (maybe it’s just me?). Like chaalie, I think SaabUSA’s BFJ hyperbole goes too far when they say things like “schedule a test flight today”.

    Plus the campaign perpetuates the fallacy that expertise in one enterprise automatically crosses over into other endeavors. It’s like saying “I need a new alarm clock – I’m going to buy one from General Electric because they know how to make nuclear power plants.” 😛

  6. who can tell me what ‘Rise in Performance Credentials’ means?
    Are they saying that BFJ gave an increased perception to the audience about the handling of the car??? wow.
    I’ve listened to (ok, read about) all of your criticism regarding BFJ, and I have mostly been swayed that BFJ probably really is old and tired…..but….I still like it!
    AND I like the guy’s voice (which is often criticized).

    AND I’m not an 18 year old who isn’t realistically in the market.

    Maybe it’s because it points me back to TOP GUN, my all-time favorite movie, which still inspires me today the way it did back in the early ’80s, when I first saw it.
    I like to think I am exactly in Saab’s target market. No, BFJ doesn’t teach me anything about the car, but it does make me want to find out more about Saab – which Swade artfully enables me to do.
    (ok, many times a day….) 🙂

  7. I like the Born From Jets slogan. They need something and it works for me.

    This statement worries me though, “To grow volume, Saab realized they had to stop being niche and start being a challenger.”.

    For some reason Saab seems to be infatuated with BMW and Audi. Saab can’t touch BMW and Audi. BMW is BMW and now apparently when you buy an Audi or VW you can say you are actually getting a Porsche.

    Saab is trying to court buyers who won’t really consider buying a Saab and is ignoring buyers who should consider buying a Saab.

    During the 07 clearance you could buy a 9-3 for a little more than a Ford Fusion. A Ford Fusion. When I was looking at cars I was considering an Accord, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, and a VW. Audi’s and BMW’s aren’t in this picture.

  8. Thats a problem for Saab Rod, BMW and Audi is their target competition and their buyers are the target market. Not Ford Fusion shoppers.

  9. The problem with focus groups and stats is they tell you abut the past. The problem with BFJ is this. “The Ulitimate Driving Machine” is a mission statement. (Wether they are or not is open to debate). “Born from Jets” is not. It tells you what Saab did years ago. Now “An aircraft for the highway” or “Aerospace Technology for the Road” gives a sense of direction, going forward striving for a goal.

    Where the ad company is right is to say that Saab need to find an image and stick to it and to build upon it.

    An example would be a picture of the car with the tag line “Safety as Standard” with a nice stat about how safe it is. Or “Quality you can rely on” and that German survey quoted below. drop the obvious pictures of jets and have a good tag line (mine are not very good but I am sure the ad men can do better)

  10. Another problem with BFJ is it has provided so little material that has made it into the TV and print ads. Q is Job 1, the Heartbeat of America, Ultimate Driving machine, Nothing else even comes close, There is no substitute, Zoom, zoom…. These all provide a MUCH BROADER pallet from which to paint. I think they can keep the slogan, but how about some less predictable less hyperbole filled commercials? For the last 2 years, we’ve pretty much have seen 1 commercial done the same way with 3 different cars. Jets on a flyover with a Saab driving though a dusty stretch of dirt. This leads to “I hope the cars aren’t as boring (for new drivers) or embarrassing (for us current owners) as their ads are…”.

    The connection that I still don’t see is are the people who come in to buy Saabs the ones who were listed in the report as having a positive response to the ads? Admittingly, I did not read the whole thing…

    Lastly, who can tell us WHAT a Saab has that Jets have that somehow separate Saabs from other cars? The Night Panel switch? A GREAT feature no doubt, but is that IT?!?!

    Check out this link

  11. Each idea has its time and purpose. Born From Jets has been very recognized, and I don’t doubt it has helped the brand grow. To that end I like the slogan.

    What we’re looking at now is people are starting to get bored of the same point “Saabs are born from jets.” Go ahead and keep that slogan since it’s been popular, but make it a secondary point, not THE point. The issue is what you do with BFJ now that it’s widely recognized. Here’s an example:

    “___ years ago, Saab was the first car company to introduce ________ from the aircraft industry (example: turbochargers in everyday use). Their knowledge about jets helped them build a better car. Today their spirit lives on as they ______ (pioneer turbocharging with the benefits of ethanol). Saabs truly are ‘Born From Jets.'”

    This makes plenty of sense. Like Jon said, it points to the future and looks forward, not backward. Make use of BFJ and inform the viewers why they have a solid reason to get off their butts and go down to the dealership.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I picture some people saying: “Born From Jets? So what? That’s great but I’m not interested in History. I want a car that has/does _____. Does the car you make have/do this??”

    There’s also a group of people who don’t think much about the commercials they see- but still, if it doesn’t strike a chord with them (hey- that car’s got ____ – that’s what I’m looking for), then they won’t really put it on their list. How will you consider a car that’s not even on the radar?? Born From Jets is good for brand awareness but not necessarily 9-3 or 9-5 awareness.

    And that’s why I don’t like the implications of the newest BFJ ads. They look great graphics-wise and mention the 2008 9-3 specifically, but say nothing about the redesign other than “it’s more jet-inspired than ever.” Well tell me how!! I don’t mind the CG, but to bring bodies into the dealership there needs to be more 9-3 or 9-5 SUBSTANCE. This car does THIS. That car features such and such (and not just horsepower!!). Otherwise they won’t have a reason to think “hey wait, this car has what I’m looking for.”

    Tell me, us, them, and everyone, WHY “their spirit lives on” not THAT “their spirit lives on.” We already get that part.

    Rant over. 🙂

  12. I liked this part of the report:

    “Essentially, there were 6 professors, 2 college students, and 3 yuppie rejecters very proud of their Saab cars, but the business was not growing and the franchise was in danger of being pulled from the US market.”

    It may not be true, but it makes a point.

  13. BFJ has not grown or developed, despite its initial effectiveness. And it was better in the long version, the short BFJ ads have so much context cut out of them that they’re hard to watch.

    The ultimate problem is that SaabUSA does not have enough marketing dollars to deal with all the marketing needs the brand has at the moment.

    Of course the time to do a big marketing push is when there are new and exciting products to brag about.

    For this and many other reasons, it cannot be overstated how much is hanging on the success of the next 9-5.

  14. I’m sorry, but there’s a saying in the U.S.: “scoreboard”. It’s used when fans of opposing teams are arguing the merits of their own team. The winner is the one who can say “scoreboard” while pointing at the scoreboard. What matters is the result.

    Has the Born From Jets campaign significantly increased sales of Saab vehicles in the U.S.? I would say “no”. Look at U.S. sales from when the campaign started in 2005 until now, late in 2007. Sales are neither up in a significant manner nor are the cars selling for any more per unit than they were before the campaign, after incentives.

    While the team which came up with BFJ are patting themselves on the back, didn’t Saab USA pull the account and give it to Buick’s old advertising firm? Seems Saab USA isn’t really happy with the results either.

    While the campaign might garner more attention and give Saab something to be known for, I’d have to say as an advertising medium it hasn’t translated directly into increased sales. I could be wrong, but I thought that was the whole purpose of advertising.

    chaaalie: nicely put. I concur. 🙂

    TimJ: wow, also well put. We have a LOT of great minds here at TS. We all think alike! 😉

    Rod H: “For some reason Saab seems to be infatuated with BMW and Audi” I don’t really think it’s Saab who’s infatuated with them. I think it’s GM. Saab would rather make Saab cars, but GM is dictating that they make “entry luxury” and “premium” cars to compete with BMW and Audi. In Sweden Saabs are like Chevys are in the States. GM desperately wants in to the luxury marketplace. When Saab wasn’t successful at taking some of that market share is when GM started to try and push Cadillac global.

    One of the comments above got me thinking about how to link Saab’s safety to jets. How about an ad showing a jet pilot ejecting (preferably stock film from an old Draken or Viggen, as I doubt there’s much ejection film from the newer Gripen) from the plane with a voice-over explaining that when a Saab fighter pilot gets into trouble he can eject. Then show what safety features there are in a Saab car to protect the driver and passengers should they run into trouble. I know safety is a difficult thing to advertise because most people don’t want to think about it as it’s perceived as “negative”, but you need to start linking how Saabs relate to jets as people have mentioned in comments above.

    Steven: wow, those comments at that link you provided were particularly harsh. I would expect that kind of reception for Saab at “The Truth About Cars” website, but not at Left Lane News. Not that commenters are pro-Saab there, but that they’re less anti-GM than at TTAC.

  15. Grip –

    The safety link to Jets is actually pretty easy to make … many racing interests here in the US routinely look to the aerospace industry to make their vehicles safer — racing boats use jet canopies (or entire “pilot pods”), race cars also borrowed from this technology to protect their driver “compartments.”

    Another great safety point, when you are travelling at 30,000 feet and hundreds of miles an hour, an engine failure is often FATAL … you don’t have the luxury of “just pulling over.” Reliability is a HUGE safety feature … it keeps you in the car where the other safety features can do their jobs!

    Even promote that while they “pioneered” turbocharging, they had to make it dependable enough to be used in flight … so putting it in cars was relatively easy! (Obviously that sentiment needs to be polished before it appears in a commercial.)

    Finally, there’s the seat. Really, it is the most important of the safety features. Not because of the whiplash-reducing headrests, not because of the seat-mounted airbags (at least in the ‘verts), but because it keeps you comfortable, alert, in control and in place!

  16. Yep, Born from Jets.

    1. It has increased brand awareness, whether or not the brand has something to sell.

    2. It has people talking about the brand for better or for worse.

    3. It might not be a “mission statement” but in a time of uncertainty it shows the company has roots.

    4. Saab has had an amazingly consistent and coherent history it should be proud of, not bury. BMW, Audi and others have much to be embarassed about in their past, so best focus on the future.

    5. Saab needs to rebuild image from square one. This is a long path. For those that cite lack of sales growth, this has everything to do with old product. New product is here and more on the way.

    6. The latest 9-3 ad very simply shows, in an eye-catching way, that something has changed. Euro Saab adverts are very ‘nice’ but are like wallpapers, they are background.

    7. Car companies do not lay all the cards on the table. Expect that there is more to this strategy. Step one achieved, Saab is on the radar, and they have something fresh. Now people are paying attention we can show them more of what Saab has to offer. For us as Saab fans, it is old. For average Joe, they are just starting to take notice.

    8. Jets are cool. Despite our intellectualisation of the Saab brand, we like jets. Cars are machines, jets are super machines. Who here doesn’t like jets?

  17. I’m sorry that this comment is only slightly-related to the issue being discussed (how the BFJ campaign has not translated into increased sales), but the Saab USA sales numbers are in at GM and things don’t look good.

    I’ve sent Swade an e-mail on the subject, but I’m sure with being tied-up at the Melbourne Auto Show (that’s where he is, right?) he can’t post the numbers until he gets back. So as a teaser, you can see for yourself. I feel bad for the neglected 9⁵, but maybe this will translate into some even deeper discounting to move product and I can pick one up on the cheap! 🙂

  18. I guess looking at comments that we are all on the same wavelength. But – what about move your mind ? To me Saab should be marketing consistently across all countries and I dont think MYM is the best solution either.

    I think we need to keep the Aerospace link and talk about why Saab is different AND WHY DIFFERENT IS BETTER. Why are Saabs FWD? Why are they turbocharged? Why are the engines 4 cylinder? Clever marketing is not telling people what they know, its convincing them that your USP is better than the alternative, like BMW did with RWD in Europe or Audi did with AWD.

    How do we get across safety, reliabilty enjoyment and versatilty

    How about “Designed for Life”.

  19. @Jon: Yeah!!! I rode in my first Saab in 1992. It was DIFFERENT and THAT is what turned me on. It was a read 900 Turbo. The dash alone was so cool I had to have one. That and you could get 2 full sized mountain bikes in the back. yeah, I know Saab made jets back then too, but I still can’t find a link. If you still ask me today, why do we have 2 Saab wagons, different is the biggest reason. Saab are DIFFERENT and so are Saab owners.

  20. I think if we compate BFJ to “State of Independence,” Saab definitely moved up. I have friends who aren’t interested in cars, but knows a BMW is supposed to be an “ultimate driving machine” (and disagrees with hers), and that Saabs are “Born from Jets.” It says something about the brand, and isn’t apolgetic. The passivity of “State of Independance” was horrible. Saabs are independent. So what?

    If the goal of the ad campaign was to increase Saab visibility, it was a success. That that increase in brand awareness has not translated into sales may or may not be entirely due to the campaign; certainley Saabs weaker line up has something to do with that.

    Saab competes with Audi, BMW, Acura, Lexus, MB, and Volvo hear in the states. That is tough competition. I’d imagine all of those in 2004 had a much stronger brand identity than Saab.

    Personally I like Saabs because I’ve found them fun to drive; good power, and good steering feel. But to compete against “status” cars, Saab needed to increase the value of its identity. Having a car no one else has is cool. Being asked “what’s a saab?” isn’t. BFJ was a good campaign to give the brand identity and awareness. It featured distinct ads.

    Honestly, most car commercials are awful. A car swoops down a mountain roads. It stops quickly. Trendy you people talk in a car as city lights reflect on the windows.

    Personally, I think VW should use saab’s tag line

    VW: born from…

  21. Couldn´t agree more the BFJ started of good but the last year hasn´t been good.

    The should focus on the car more. I personaly would like a spot where the show all their credentials for safety. Saab has massive of that to pour from.

    BFJ and move your mind can always be a bi-line in the end you don´t have to shove it down peoples throat.

    Saab has made awsome ads and microsites on the net before. The problem probably is that only core Saab-fan gets them…

    Because we recognice the feel…

  22. BFS…. Whilst are advertising and marketing strategies are important, have a poor product and poor customer relations then you may not be doomed but you will not achieve full potential and you will lose customers new and old.Before i go on on any further i am a saab owner have been all my days, i`m not just someone who is going to knock saabs, or rant on about they don`t build them like they used to.But the truth is the quality has been poor of recent years the customer service even poorer.I have recommended saabs for years on the merit of the car itself,but not lately and i am going to give the brand up altogether.I will continue to follow the fortunes of saab and i do truly hope they succeed.But in my opinion they have a mountain to climb.So whether the BFS ads are good or bad is irrelevant to me.You can spend millions on ads branding seeking your market place but in the end give them something they are not happy with then they won`t come back and they will tell others of there experiences.

  23. “…wrapped around wind shield…”?
    The first Saab had a to-part wind shield. None until the 99 had a wrapped one.
    It seems to be, that it is not important to tell the “truth” anymore. Itis only important to tell something you want to tell.
    How about lack of credibility?

    But why Saabs? Because of striking ex/in-design (96 and 900 cc), the auto division as part of an aerospace company, the operating efficiency of the cars (quality) and performance and driving pleasure only found in the mentioned cars.

    But what is left? Saab Auto has nothing to do with aerospace industry anymore. Design rather bland (until the My08 9-3). Performance and fun of driving? If you do not test drive different cars as an test driver, you hardly can tell any differences between diff. brands anymore.

    In short, it´s a pity, that Toyota already occupies a were good slogan.

    Saab needs an ambitious slogan to catch ambitious people. An oversized rear view mirror, which reflects only a distorted image of the company´s past is not enough in a marketing campain!

    And, the BfJ campian would only made sense, if Saab had introduced a Head Up Display (HUD) in there cars at the same time! Thus an proof!
    But now, it not clear who the father´s baby is.

  24. The new 9-3 design is absolutely fantastic. Strikes fear into the heart of BMWs everywhere. BFJ is a unique, believable, relevant and meaningful tagline. Excellent positioning and well executed. Truly breakthrough positioning for this unique, fun to drive, fun to own car.

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