Thursday, June 28, 2007

Young, Hip…And Driving a Buick??

For the last few years, GM has been paying Tiger Woods a gazillion dollars to appear in ads promoting Buick. The idea, I suppose, is that people will think “Hey, Tiger is cool and suave and hip and successful, and if he’s saying I ought to buy a Buick, that’s good enough for me.” Apparently, it's not happening. The brand remains stagnant, and the average age of Buick drivers is mired at 63, which is more than double Tiger’s age. Why aren't all those promo dollars working? I can think of two reasons: One, despite the obvious appeal of high profile stars like Tiger, LeBron James, 50 Cent, and Elle Macpherson, the reality is, to quote advertising guru Marian Salzman, “People are becoming far less susceptible to the power of celebrities who are seen as shills for a brand.” Two, there’s the old “putting lipstick on the pig” problem. Glittery marketing lipstick won’t change a sow into an eagle any more than it will change an unexciting drab product into a killer “gotta have it” product. That’s the problem with Buick, and apparently, even Tiger can’t change that perception. And that’s pretty remarkable when you think about how he’s managed to change the general perception of golf. A Buick owner’s average age is 63? Heck, when I was growing up, we looked at golf as a game played only by people who were 63, or maybe 163. Tiger’s made golf cooler and younger. If even he can’t make the languishing-for-years Buick cooler and younger, perhaps GM ought to dump the entire Buick brand and focus on something new rather than on trying to dress it up. Remember that old Dakota Indian saying--If you find yourself riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.There’s always a place for innovative marketing (with or without celebrities). Good marketing will definitely help boost the revenues of a great product, like a Toyota Prius or an Apple iPod (or iPhone). But regardless of any supposed celebrity sex appeal, pouring money into star power marketing won’t compensate for an uninteresting or commodity product for long. GM, I suggest you put Tiger on some cool products. That’s how you’ll get your best returns.


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