Have you seen those annoying new Saturn commercials yet? I’m talking about the ones where everyone marvels about the new look and says, “That’s a Saturn?!” If not, here’s a link to one on YouTube.
What’s wrong with this picture? I’m no branding expert, but if your promotional message is all about how no one recognizes the look of your new product, aren’t you faced with a more fundamental problem? After all, when Saturn first arrived on the scene, the answer to “What’s a Saturn?” was “it’s a small, economical no frills vehicle.” That’s a message I understand and it worked quite well those first few years. Now the answer is “it’s a small (Ion), larger (Aura), SUV (Vue), larger SUV (Relay), sports car (Sky).” The new message doesn’t seem as simple as the original one, so no wonder everyone’s asking if “that’s a Saturn?!”
This reminds me of the ill-fated Cadillac Catera (“Caddy that zigs”) and Oldsmobile (“not your father’s Oldsmobile”) campaigns. The problems with those were (a) Cadillacs are for old rich people, not someone who wants to “zig” and (b) every Oldsmobile really was just like your father’s car.
Regardless of how this new family of Saturn cars performs, they seem to be launching the lineup with a very confusing branding message. Then again, getting bloggers to talk about it might just be the type of PR they’re looking for!