I do this personal stuff from time to time…..
It’s Saturday evening here in Trollhattan and it’s been a wonderful day. I spent the afternoon with the family of one of my Saab colleagues in Vanersborg, where there is a festival on this weekend. The sky was bright blue, the sun shining. Their kids were having fun and laughing, we had good food and good conversation. What more could you want?
Well, this morning, hours before that wonderful afternoon, I had a special moment that started my day off just perfectly. It all happened during a Skype call with my wife back in Australia.
I should preface this story by stating that I love my wife very much and the fact that this little highlight from the morning involves my dog rather than her, shouldn’t cast any shadows across our relationship in any way whatsoever 🙂
It was evening back at home and I could hear our cocker spaniel (Charli, a girl) barking at the back door. She’d just eaten her dinner and wanted to come inside. I asked Trish if she could let her in so that I could say ‘Hi’ to her on Skype. I know what many of you are thinking, but the pet owners out there know that I’m not crazy.
Trish set the computer down on the sofa and went to the door. I sat waiting with no small amount of anticipation because the camera on the computer was pointing right at the spot where Charli always runs to when she first comes inside. Sure enough, 20 seconds later there’s a blurry black fluffball with a wagging tail at the other end of the sofa.
Whenever I’ve said hello to Charli on Skype in the past, she has recognised my voice without understanding where it’s coming from. More often than not, she immediately runs to the front door to see where I am. My boundless belief that I have the most intelligent dog in the world is dented momentarily, though it tends to return soon after – a process that I’m sure anyone with either pets or children is familiar with.
This time, however, whilst she looked towards the door, she didn’t run. I said hello again and she actually looked at the computer. Excited by this progress, I began some of that stupid talk that pet owners (and in a slightly different way, the parents of infants) tend to do and she kept on looking at the laptop at the other end of the sofa. Eventually, she even walked towards the computer and to my delight, a giant dog-nose filled my Skype video panel as she sniffed at it.
The penny had finally dropped!! My dog had just grown in intelligence once again!
It caused me some small amount of disappointment when she proceeded to walk around the back of the computer to see if I was hiding behind it. My hopes of her being the first canine Rhodes Scholar were dashed once more.
But the penny had indeed dropped. She had recognised me, even though all that was there in the room was a synthesized voice and a blurry small video image that she couldn’t really see. Somewhere in that tiny head of hers, some puppy-synapses had flashed and she’d finally recognised something that she knew all along.
Right now, though you’re mildly entertained, you’re probably wondering to yourself what the heck has all this got to do with Saab?
Saab has overcome some big obstacles in the past few years, especially in the last few months. It’s an unfortunate situation to be in, but we recognise that we’ve dropped off the radar for some people. The sale process from GM, whilst a positive story in itself, brought about 12 months or more of negative headlines in the automotive press that lumped us in with Pontiac, Hummer and Saturn (which were all closed down) as brands that GM had rid itself of. The fact that we were still alive was rarely mentioned.
It’s not up to the press to do our publicity, however. That’s our job.
We might have an incredibly loyal owner and enthusiast group, but we need to win people over from both inside and outside of the Saab community. A few nights ago, Saab’s new head in the United States mentioned that everyone’s got a fond story about Saab. He said Sometimes when people talk about Saab as a great brand, they’re talking about what a great brand it *was*. We need to change that.
And so we do.
We need to communicate more. We need to communicate clearly. We need to talk about who we are, what we stand for, and more than anything else, we need to talk about and demonstrate a belief in our products.
Saab has had two major ownership changes in the last 11 years and whilst our parent company might have come from somewhere else in that time, the home base has always been in Sweden. The cars are still designed and built according to the same Swedish philosophy of safety, environmental responsibility and driver-focused engagement and design.
Those attributes have won over many people in the past and they can do so again, as long as people can see our products and hear our voice.
If we can talk clearly enough and get our new range of vehicles out there into the public arena, the penny will eventually drop for those looking for a quality product that offers a point of difference. They might be former Saab owners who are already familiar with our DNA. They might be searchers. We have to be focused and persistent, fighting for each and every customer. We have to continue talking to them until they recognise our voice and see where we’re coming from.
We don’t need to reach every car buyer in the world. But we DO have to make sure we reach all the potential Saab buyers.