In defence of: Saab marketing

Swade warned me this could be a tough row to hoe. After all, isn’t a company going into bankruptcy a pretty clear sign that their marketing has failed?  It’s certainly not the most positive demonstration of engagement with their customers. However, putting all that aside (even if you can’t, humour me…) I still think that Saab marketing got some things incredibly, timelessly right.

Let’s set aside the merciless taunting by the Top Gear chaps throughout their recent Saab piece about Saabs apparent fixation with jets – even ones they didn’t make.  Yes, it’s arguable that in many ways Saab marketing missed their mark and I too struggle with any of the marketing that tried to trade off the aircraft business. However, I believe that there is a also a case for Saab being one of the best marketed marques in the world.  How so? 

Bear with me while I take a mild digression to a comment made by a Swedish colleague of mine a few years ago.  Knowing my affection for Saab, this fellow loved to rib me about the company’s trials and tribulations as they unfolded.  On one particular occasion, he said something that more or less went like this:

“What is Saab, really? I mean, come on, try to define it for me. Volvo is a car company that is very easy to understand, one that make cars. A lot of cars. But Saab…. Saab is really just a very, very appealing idea.”

The fact he is from Gothenburg can perhaps account for something…… but nevertheless, it has remained as a telling comment in my mind. A very appealing idea. Perhaps that is part of the Saab magic after all?  

If you consider that Saab’s market share in any market except Sweden was never more than marginal in comparison to its competitors, the iconic nature of the brand is quite amazing.  Even now with the business completely removed from the market, I would bet that anyone you ask (literally, anyone) can offer a few words of recognition if you showed them a Saab logo.  It might be that they recognise a Swedish car company. Or perhaps more. This is how I propose, that Saab is in fact, a true success of branding and positioning – admittedly only a part of the whole marketing spectrum – far beyond the commercial value of its business.  

All this aside, how do I see Saab marketing doing this? Well, we could look at the Saab vs. advertising campaign, one of my favourites.  I’ve add three random images from this extensive campaign here to add some colour but perhaps you can see where I’m coming from.  This campaign seemed to take a direction that was original, bold and confident.  It captured performance but also looked into comfort, design, safety, lifestyle…and so much more. It seemed to say that Saab was about many, many aspects of life. Moreover, it cut to the quick of all of these aspects.  In comfort, who do you want to avoid? The chiropractor. In design, what do we mostly desire? Simplicity.  It goes on and in my view, it’s wonderful.

Nevertheless, if it’s not clear already, I’m not an advertsing guru or marketing academic and this is a not a comprehensive analysis of the Saab marketing campaigns.  I’m simply an enthusiastic bystander who sees beyond the current failure of the Saab business and finds a timeless element to the Saab brand that is irressistable.

Pete

Semi-pro svengali, Saab owner, cyclist and surfer. Drummer for the Rolling Stones when they're not actually playing anything.

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36 Responses

  1. Mallthus says:

    I’ll take up the gauntlet here Pete. As a career marketing executive, I’ll throw out the idea that Saab’s marketing was as schizophrenic as the efforts of either the planning or product sides of the business.

    The problem was that the advertising itself, was very good.

    Let me explain. To the average bloke on the street, advertising and marketing are pees in a pod. The truth is, advertising is to marketing as tires are to cars. A good car can be let down by bad tires, but good tires won’t save a doomed car.

    It’s the job of the marketing department to have a plan and to execute against that plan. Advertising tells the story of that plan to the consumer. The problem I saw, again and again, in Saab advertising was much the same as I saw in the product side. The advertising and the product side told a story of difference. Of engineering prowess. Of function over form. That’s all well and good. Heck, it’s what brought many of us (myself included) into the Saab fold.

    BUT, the marketing team was going after BMW and Audi. They wanted conquest. They wanted to deliver customer experience. They wanted the market that their corporate masters, GM, bought the brand to go after. That meant sponsoring golf tournaments, advertising on TV and generally ignoring the customer that brought them to the dance.

    I’ve worked on brand that suffered through exactly this issue. In the late 1990′s I worked for Taco Bell, in the marketing department. We had launched an incredible ad campaign centered around a funny little Chihuahua with a Spanish accent. Focus groups loved the dog and the ads. The newsmedia picked up the story and ran with it. There were toys and more. The advertising was huge. Brand awareness was way up. All good, right?

    No. See, the dog had its biggest impact amongst women 25-50. If you’re not familiar with Taco Bell, it sells low priced Americanized Mexican fast food, like tacos and burritos. Just the thing you want when you’re really hungry and don’t have much money (like when you’re drunk). Taco Bell’s food is most popular among men 16-25. You see where I’m going with this. Great advertising, but no one minding the shop to say “Wait. It’s not on target.”

    In a nutshell, this is what Saab has had for the last 20 years. Advertising creative targeting the stereotypical historical Saab consumer while the placement of the ads and the overall brand strategy were focused elsewhere.

    If the marketing team had asked for the ads that met their goals, we might not like what Saab had become, but it would, I believe, still be making cars today.

    • Thyl Engelhardt says:

      Spot on, imho, except for the time frame. When I researched into my new car in 1998, the advertising (and broschures etc.) for the 9000 and the 9-3 still properly reflected Saab’s values and advantages. With the introduction of the 9-5, the design of the broschures changed massivly, from information to ad-speak, from substance to style. I recognised this as am major, dramatic breach in continuity that I remember to this day, maybe because I spent some time in investigating car models around that time.

    • Rune says:

      Interesting story about Taco Bell there. In the late 90s I paid several visits to the US and went on a road-trip with a buddy of mine.

      Even I, a Norwegian white dude (in my early 20s at the time), had heard about the Taco Bell dog. I do not care much for small dogs, and am especially wary of those that speak. My friend poked fun of the ad IIRC, but we still made several stops at Taco Bell around California.

      So that makes me curious why you consider the campaign a failure? Isn’t the point to get people talking about it?

      • Mallthus says:

        Rune- that’s the falicy that Taco Bell leadership bought into. Overall brand awareness isn’t nearly as important as awareness and appeal amongst most likely consumers.

        In Taco Bell’s case, the core user represented 80% of total visits/spend. Their typical use was more than 4 visits a week. The general market consumer used the brand 2-3 times a month.

        • Rune says:

          I see.

          The concept of eating at a fast-food joint four times per week is foreign to me and indeed, no amount of marketing will change my pattern.

          So point taken, it is thus meaningless to pitch such marketing efforts towards a consumer like me, because I would not generate repeat business.

          But how did you reach the intended demographics in the end?

          • Mallthus says:

            In the end, that was left to other folks. I had the good fortune to move on to a brand that truly understood their consumer. You’ve probably never heard of Carl’s Jr., the hamburger brand I’m talking about. But you might have seen some of the advertising we commissioned, such as Paris Hilton eating one of our burgers, while clad in a swimsuit and washing a Bentley.

            If you were a woman, you might have called our ads sexist. If you were older, you might have thought our ads were disgusting. If you were a man between 16 and 35, you probably said “yeah, that’s cool”. My paycheck was thanks to the last group.

            As I said to my Dad, when, in disgust with our ads, said he’d no longer be a patron…”Gosh Dad. We’re really going to miss your two visits a year.”

  2. Pete says:

    Thanks for the response, I was hoping for this kind of insight. Perhaps I should have titled it: in defence of Saab advertising? I take your point with the neat Taco Bell illustration completely. There were similar examples here in Australia where the target market was honestly quite hard to fathom.

    I suppose, the point I’m trying to make is that I think that the overall strategy behind the marque and particularly the cars that it brought to market was too much an afterthought by a large company with its mind elsewhere and was the seed of Saabs doom, not the advertising itself. As a counter to your last point, what if the reverse were true and the marketing/manufacturing had targetted existing customers more? Would that have worked too?

  3. maanders says:

    While I agree that the marketing was unfocused, that ad “Saab vs. the Chiropractor” is the reason I hope I will always own a Saab of some kind. Apart from all the other wonderful features of these cars….the seats. Best seats I have ever sat in for long drives. (At least in any car I could ever afford.)

  4. MarcB says:

    Pete / Mallthus:

    Interesting dialogue … as another Marketing guy (Gillette & Sharpie Markers … and I’ve got some war stories too …), let’s go back to the Marketing 101 textbook of the “4 Ps” … product, price, promotion and place.

    Product … I’ll say is and not was … fantastic. My bride and I drive a ’09 9-5 and ’04 9-3. Fun to drive, reliable, utility galore … but GM walked away from one of the defining aspects of the car … the hatchback. I was really looking forward to the new 9-3 that we peeked at with the Phoenix. When the hatch was abandoned by GM, Saab lost some of it’s iconic value and the car became less distinctive. With the “… good tires wont save a doomed car …” reality, with the hatch gone, the brand was in effect being undefined, not redefined.

    Price … Trying to sell a $50K new 9-5 was insanity in my view, as was the whole idea of thinking that we could go head to head a little below BMW, Merc and Audi. The world knew that Saab was in trouble, and most in the states thought it was just another jettisoned GM division like Saturn, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Hummer. The price needed to be hot, even at a loss for a while just to get new cars on the road and demonstrate that the company was going to survive. I saw only two new 9-5s in the year the car was made here in Chicago. Saab had to re earn the public’s trust before it could go premium, and the price strategy may have been right after a successful re launch demonstrating confidence in a bright future.

    Promotion … with no real advertising funds available, it was up to the dealers and the automotive press to announce Saab’s rebirth, and the effort was woefully underfunded.

    Place … The dealers were being bled dry, struggling to survive … especially the Saab only guys, but it is amazing how many stuck it out, making it on service and used cars as GM moved through its process and Victor took over.

    The primary failure was that the effort was woefully underfunded, and the plan depended on unrealistic volume projections, certainly at the price points and in a still soft economy, to begin to build cash flow. The new owners will require deep pockets and the ability to operate in the red for at least five years after the beginning of production.

    When we get an owner and the planning begins to restart Saab, a thorough evaluation needs to be made on the history of damaged automobile brands successfully brought back to life.

    The first example is Audi which in the 1980′s was on it’s deathbed with serious and well publicized acceleration problems. The Audi resurrection should serve as a how to do it manual in all aspects of the business.

    The second example is an iconic brand that was out of business for many years … probably in excess of 30 … but iconic, distinctive, and the reincarnation well executed, and that is Mini.

    Thoughts?

    • Mallthus says:

      MarcB, you are on the dime regarding the hatch. I can tell you that the only reason a 9-3 or new 9-5 isn’t in my driveway right now is the lack of a hatch. I’d do the wagon, but the 9-3 are too scarce around here for me to find one I want and, well, we know the sad story of the new 9-5 wagon.

      This all reminds me of an interview I read with the CEO of Victory Motorcycles. When asked about his brand’s polarizing styling, he said something to effect of “We don’t have the resources to go head to head with HD. Our styling is polarizing, but that’s OK, because we don’t need to appeal to everyone. If 1 in 10 motorcycle shoppers loves what we’ve done and the other 9 hate it, we’ll take 10% market share to the bank.”

      The Saab I know and love ought to be hated by 90% of car shoppers, as I’ll gladly pay to be in this minority.

      • CraigSu says:

        Agreed re: the lack of a hatch. It’s the reason I don’t look for Saabs newer than 2002. It’s also why I still have my ’99 9-3 SE.

        • Thyl Engelhardt says:

          Me too. Though after 304000 km, I start considering buying a wagon until Saab gets their stuff sorted out, hopefully with a spacious 9-3 hatchback.

    • Thyl Engelhardt says:

      Regarding Audi, I would disagree. Saab has a global problem, while the image problems that Audi had were only in the USA. There was no technical issue, but apparently, quite a number of bad drivers that had confused accelerator and brake. Nowhere else in the world did drivers confuse those. So, Audi could take their time, prospered everywhere else, and had enough money to re-establish their image in the US.

      • MarcB says:

        I was not aware that the Audi issue was only in the US.

        The fact remains that with the size of this market and the devastating results of the problem, whether perceived or real … and perception is always reality in marketing … how Audi recovered in the US should still serve as a valuable template for Saab.

        • Thyl Engelhardt says:

          Well, if one room of the house is burning, but you got lots of taps in the other rooms, you might extinguish the fire. If the whole house is burning, where do you get the water from?

          India or China?

  5. Mallthus says:

    “what if the reverse were true and the marketing/manufacturing had targetted existing customers more? Would that have worked too?”

    I think it might have. For all the grief the Saaburu 9-2 got, it was, I think, on the right track for the brand. Its biggest problem was that it was half-assed in its execution and, frankly, too late to recapture that which had already been lost.

    To be fair to GM, as much as I admire and liked Bob Sinclair, the 900 convertible took the brand somewhere that it probably would not have gone naturally. Yes, it was wildly successful and it probably gave the company both the resources and will to fight another day, but it was the first of a host of products that took the brand upscale into areas its natural and historic customers couldn’t follow it.

    Had a product like the 9-2 been launched instead of, say, the 9-5, and done so properly, would we be reading obits today? My guess is that even when GM came on the scene in 90, the 900 was already too upmarket to be a good entry vehicle and the 9000, as we can probably all agree, was neither fish nor fowl, being both too upmarket and too downmarket at the same time.

    Even with all that baggage, the traditional audience might not have been wholly lost. But instead of pursuing that customer where they might be likely to be found (say, on the internet, for example), Saab squandered their meager resources doing newspaper, radio and TV advertising. If you’re targeting people that are out of the mainstream, why use mainstream media to reach them? It’s like hunting elephants in Argentina. Even with a big gun, you’re going to fail.

  6. Pete says:

    Perhaps one of the natural endpoints of this discussion is:

    is the Saab brand worth anything/ worth re-launching? If so – what exactly is it and what is it worth? Does a new owner of a factory in Trollhattan need to make Saabs? Which is more important; the factory or the brand?

  7. Swade says:

    Marc, Mallthus – great discussion.

    Regarding Mini and Audi, I think there are two lessons to be learned. First, execute the product flawlessly (or at least, maintain the appearance of flawlessness very effectively). Second, and a very close second only because the product is always #1 in this industry, we can learn that it’s clearly important to have a backer with pockets as deep as those at BMW and VW.

    I hold no reservations about the first thing. I’m sure Saab can execute if given the right platform to do so. I just hope they get the second one, because they’ll need it.

  8. RS says:

    Could not agree more about the product being number one.
    All Saab troubles can be lead to the fact that very few people outside the fan base (until they actually owned a 9-3 or 9-5) knew that THN was still producing a high quality product under the surface compared to any of its competitors for the past 20 years.
    The GM effect was just so devastating, ESPECIALLY when they put Opel parts where everyone could see them and some low budget materials that were subjected to wear and tear in place -again- where everyone could see it.
    There is a lesson to be learned here how not to do it in the automotive industry.

    I believe the print ads did what they could to remind the existing customers of details why we still buy Saabs but there was however nothing marketing could do to overcome the owners mismanagement of the brand itself. If anything ‘Born from Jets’ put a joke label on SAAB especially when the owner didn’t allow the brand to have any jet like power under the hood.

    Our family for instance looked numerous times into buying a 9-3 SC as the 9-5′s facelift, price premium and interior downgrades turned us completely cold, but the cargo space was just inadequate compared to good old c900 for example.
    I’m quite sure hundreds of thousands Saab owners of the past came to the same conclusion over the years. Detroit never understood Europeans don’t own 3 cars for different purposes. Convertibles is not something SAAB was about by a mile.

  9. pete says:

    One other element I could add (to my own perspective) is that much of my perception of strength of the Saab brand and indeed, my theory about the advertising being good, comes from Saab 1.0. Saab 2.0 did some great things too but they did seem to struggle with the basics – not that they were playing on a level field to begin with and I certainly concur with the MarcB and Mallthus above. Perhaps its rose-tinted glasses on my part but the strength to me comes from an earlier time.

  10. Andrew Robertson says:

    Isn’t it odd that the advertising style from over 10 years ago still ‘speaks’ now to current owners, and quite deeply actually. Correct me on this one, but wasn’t the font the same on the most recent ads too? There’s continuity for you.

    A decent slogan (Born form Jets, etc -just saw the TG episode on telly again tonight-) has real punch for the potential client, and if it sticks enough emotionally to get them to walk into a show room, and even consider sitting in the car, it is as good as sold. So said a showroom guy to me just recently. Get them in the door, which is the main point of an advert.

    Emotion then takes over.

    So, the next-gen cars MUST have bucket loads of emotion designed into them, and soul. And the adverts MUST tap into that response all over again. I still have an emotional response to my 02 Aero everyday, when it catches my eye in the car park.

    ‘Emotion’ is key, people.

    • Rune says:

      Very interesting discussion this, and my observations are merely that of a strange consumer.

      That said, I too enjoyed the BFJ slogan. But… Someone pointed out that women are key in every car-buying decision. Who needs a fighter jet to ferry groceries home from the market? The convenience of the 9000 hatchback message was surely lost in all that BFJ marketing hype?

      And fighter jets aren’t safe, are they? Another message lost?

      Buying a Saab requires some research IMO. It is interesting that Top Gear chose now to compare a 900 to a same-period beamer (so solidly squashed just because they dropped it from a height of a few meters).

      Related issue: Tim and I discussed last week the importance of those customer magazines that Saab used to send out. We disagreed on what effect they had. So… Money completely wasted by the marketing department, or a helpful nudge to secure a sale in the future? (and was the content good? I felt frustrated that half the magazine was just generic filler stuff that I’m sure shows up in hundreds of other magazines, whereas the good Saab-related stuff was almost in minority)

      • Thyl Engelhardt says:

        Heard a story that some time after NeXT took over Apple (yep), Apple’s marketing suggested that a slogan “We’re back” (evidently, from their crisis) be used in ads. Steve Jobs got quite furious about this and told the marketing department “No, we are not!”. Of course he was right. And the rational behind his refusal was that advertising must be honest and true. Saab cars, at the time the campaign was started, were not “Born from Jets” (if they ever were). Anybody who knows just a bit about how aircraft are constructed knows that there is little relation between the technologies involved. I am pretty sure that most people who read that message either thought “nonsense” or just ignored it as the typical ad-blabla.

        Even more stupid: “move your mind”. Pardon me?

        • Swade says:

          One day we’ll have to get the ‘Move Your Mind’ debate going. I loved it. I think Pete did, too.

          • Thyl Engelhardt says:

            :-)
            Well, first, I do not want to be told what I should do, since that is up to me. Second, I take it as a personal insult that someone assumes that I need an “invitation” to keep my mind moving. And I am pretty sure, that most Saab owners are independent thinkers, with strongly moving minds anyway.

        • 100%Saab says:

          I liked the Saab marketing, but it has had zero influence on my Saab purchases.

        • RS says:

          Thyl, I agree. ‘Move Your Mind’ or probably MYM according to some people ;) would have been an excellent slogan for SAAB in the 70s. Not the last decade.
          I never understood why the customers were told to do so when it was the management in the U.S. that should have done most of the mind moving to understand why not more people are not buying their products.
          Saab got just about everything right in a car before GM came along. All the company ever needed was an owner with deep pockets and production tech so THN could expand the model and engine range to create sales volume big enough to be nicely profitable.

          • Pete says:

            As Swade said, I’m a fan too. Whether you percieve it as a challenge or a smug self-congratulation, I just like it. Best slogan Saab had. Sure, the cars didn’t necessarily deliver but as pure advertising it worked for me.

  11. Noseman says:

    Thanks, Pete!

    Intresting witth the vs. campaign is that it to my knowledge, was not used in Sweden. First time I sat eyes on it, they had it posted on one of the walls to the “staircase” of our technical centre.

    Some information did not automatically travel to my “grasroot engineer” level.
    (But I do leave a little door open here that it might have been told about in our internal paper “SaabIdag”).

    The campaign is remarkable though in trying to educate about Saab in a quite verbose way. Not exactly a one line slogan, so to speak. I do not see why it should not have worked here at home ….

    And if product is number one, which is hard to deny, then why should we have a marketing department that consumes equal money with our technical development department?

    Having a similar discussion on Linkedin, I as an engineer get a feeling that sales people are saying “Just do your thing, and we will sell it!”

    I am not buying into that, I am much too experienced not to do that mistake again.

    In the states, very many people wants to become the president. Fortunately, not everyone can.
    In the industrialized world almost everyone wants to design a car ….. especially if it is iconic …..

    Today I moved my garden lawn and set eyes on my Briggs&Stratton motor.
    They have a one word identity : Reliability

    It has about the same carburettor as Maybach once invented, and it may not be the most environmentally frindly or quiet on the market, but it starts 99 times of 100. And anyone who has been in England knows how good the English are with grass lawns.

    I have no problem in saying goodbye to the Saab car brand if neccesary,
    not even to automotive engineering.
    But in marketing I think we need to go back to how we did it prior to GM.
    Not only did we sell quite a substatial number of cars, but also a car company.

    //Ingvar N

  12. saabdude says:

    A very dear friend, who sadly succumbed to cancer at a way too young age, owned a media company which was SAABs US advertising agency back in the 1980′s & ’90′s. Bill’s agency made a huge impact on SAAB sales in the US for many years, and arguably the BEST years SAAB had.

    After his death, his wife sold the company, she had three young kids to raise, and running a large New York City based media company wasn’t something she wanted to do. It was never the same.

    When SAAB was “rescued” by Spyker, there was almost no media exposure for SAAB in the US for a really long time. His wife and I joked that SAAB was the best kept secret in town…only we weren’t laughing.

    The adverts did eventually start to appear, but by the time they did…SAAB was on life support…and rapidly heading towards where it is today. I STILL meet people who have no idea that SAAB are no longer producing cars. They think it is still in business.

    I told the following on SU several times before, and I think it disserves telling again.

    I was a SAAB sales manager back in the late ’80′s &early ’90′s.
    One of the stores I worked at was a part of a Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealership on the east end of Long Island, New York. When I say that the owners could have cared less about SAAB, I am making a gross understatement.

    When I started there, they had NEW cars on the lot that were TWO model years old! They were spending somewhere north of USD$15,000.00 per month on advertising for the Chevy/Olds store, which was fine, yet screamed bloody murder when I spent USD$1,000.00 one month. They had been spending next to nothing on SAAB. However, my $1k was reaching people in a six state area, over 10 MILLION readers, whereas theirs was used only in the local area, maybe touched 1 million readers, if they were lucky. As a result, I was able to sell the ALL of the old stock in a matter of months. Did I get any thanks for that? Well you all know the answer to that one. I was told in no uncertain terms to stop spend that money.

    I had customers come into the store who said they had been driving past the place for YEARS, and never even knew it existed, until they had seen my two line add in the Sunday New York Times. Truly tragic.

    Their interest in the SAAB store was so bad, I told the area SAAB rep, after about eighteen months of frustration, that SAAB should pull the franchise from these clowns, as they had absolutely no interest in the brand. I quit the job, and within six months, SAAB did just that! A very rare occurrence when a manufacturer pulls a franchise.

    Yes…advertising/marketing…done correctly…DOES indeed work.

  13. Turbs says:

    Still on the defensive PT?

    Get your hands on the aluminium fronted book, The Saab Brand. Shows that there was an understanding of what Saab should be. Just no wherewithal to execute, GM was just to larger obstacle to itself let alone Saab.

    • Pete says:

      Thanks Turbin, I’ll put that on my long-term wishlist.

      Always playing defence its seems (except in football where I was a striker) but perhaps its a natural instinct.

  14. Nasman says:

    Ok. Hate to be on a commercial site like this, but here goes. ;)

    I now had time to read and understand also your comments here.

    I started motorbike riding at age 15 which must have been 1974.
    I rode a 125 cc Honda K3. That was were my motoring started.
    Norton was still alive but crumbling. Triumph was icononic but not very good. Laverda was there, Moto Guzzi still. BMW still only did their WW2 model. The American market was a disaster for HD. I remember laughing at its effort to launch a 125 cc. Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki were moving the lawn with other manufacturers. And surely also Japanese cars were the emerging market at the time. It was still the first big chrisis for the car industry.

    I today ride a 2001 BMW K1200 RS and hope to do so for the rest of my hopefully long life. Why is that then, you might ask?

    Because they did it their way. It was in the end 4-cylinder, but still had four cylinders working sideways. I honor that even if I do not like the most of the Germans I worked with within GM. But Opel became a part of GM long before ww2, so I will not scrutinize on who is to blame there, as we easily might slip into a very much wider subject.

    But now we are in 2012.
    Who survived from 1974? The iconic brands did exept maybe for Norton who later was known as a computer software.

    Beginning at Saab in 1985, the brand new 9000 basically recruited me, from my home at the time, in Stockholm. But also a professor with a Saab history, inactively though I might say. The product got me to Trollhättan.

    Here I directly got the honor of making the frist ever drawing of a interior “hat shelf “residing on sheet metal for the 1988 9000 CD. But my art was more computer since than mechanical design, so I came to implement the CAD/CAM technique here instead, always driving my BMW 3 and 5 series. To me the Saab was a better in those days, but I could not afford to switch until 1995 … remembering a “Förenade bil” salesman from Stockholm Tyring to talk me into buying a 7-series instead for next.

    1992 I switched to be a interior designer and I left the company in 1996. Before that, I was called to a meeting with the late Owe Pärson, head of interior design.

    He at some point asked me: What kind of car do you think, Saab should make in the future? He had ideas of a van, which I rejected because of crash impact issues. I instead replied: “Since Volvo now is going FWD, why not make a station wagon (herrgårdsvagn).” . That was launched after I left the company volountarily!

    And right there, at the time, (we) looked to much at our competitor, downstream on the land across the river. The always “big brother” in the car business in Sweden. They are now alone, and because of that, also their clock is ticking, as I see it.
    //I

  15. Nasman says:

    Oops, a couple of typos there as science is one of the most depriving. My iPad obviously did not understand …. ;)

  16. Pete says:

    Thanks guys, really enjoying level and breadth of discourse. If I could boldly attempt to capture some thoughts in very brief notes (must be brief – am underwater in my day job….) how about this:

    Product: mostly good/very good
    Market Segmentation: mixed to good
    Customer Targeting: mixed
    Positioning: mixed
    Message: mixed to good
    Advertising execution: mixed to very good
    Other marketing execution: poor to mixed
    Sales execution: mixed
    Customer Retention: good to exceptional (thats us guys)

    Thoughts?

  17. Snowmobile says:

    I agree substantially with MarcB’s commentary, and that product is key. The recent collapse imho was more about financing + business plan failure (overly optimistic that a large luxury sedan would bridge the financing gap, when that was never a significant traditional market for Saab). I wonder if things would be different had a 9-3 hatch been the new product instead?

    But, aside from that, I wanted to post a link back to the full (or “fuller” anyway) Saab vs. campaign. I do think the campaign was largely successful in targeting existing Saab owners + like minded individuals who might be persuaded to take the leap. I love some of the older ads (eg right vs. left side of the brain from the ’80′s), but Saab has consistently had good advertising… until the “born from jets” stuff. The last 5 or so years with GM were a bit of a downward spiral, probably due to bean counting… though some gems did come out of that time also:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFqt7xw9i_E

    anyway, here’s the full vs. link:

    http://www.saabsunited.com/2009/01/saab-vs-poster-advertising.html

    I think the Saab vs. Revolution ad says a lot… maybe ironic even?