Buick, the oldest automotive brand in the U.S., was facing a midlife crisis. In 2010, the average age of the Buick owner was 72. While respected for durability and dependability, the brand needed an injection of youthfulness; when it came to Buick, the word on the street was not “sporty.”
Enter the 2011 Buick Regal, a sleek, sexy turbocharged sedan and the freshest face in the brand’s revamped line. As a symbolic and literal focal point, this compelling new ride could pave the way for attention from the younger consumer, that potential buyer who was more rocking out than rocking chair.
Our answer was to align the brand with experiences and attitudes that spoke to our target audience – men and women, age 25–45. We hit them where they lived and played, online and in-person, with a story mixing the things they love – food, music, technology and entertainment – with the car and brand they thought they knew.
• Get younger: Help lower the average age of the Buick owner
• Foster brand engagement: Put younger consumers in front of our new cars to experience a refreshed brand
• Drive buzz: Secure substantial social and “non-traditional” coverage to increase purchase consideration
• Spur sales: Help drive sales of the 2011 Buick Regal (with halo effect on brand)
Using proprietary tools such as BrandZ and Brand Asset Valuation (BAV), we took a serious look at our 25-45 year-old Regal sweet spot, including brand perception and media usage. Research confirmed Buick lacked the energy and relevance of its competitors. Our target knew Buick, and was fairly certain the brand was not for them. Media usage data indicated the Internet was the predominant channel for information gathering and sharing, as well as personal automotive research. Simmons, Yankelovich and BAV information dictated that the communications tone needed to be both “intelligent” and “imaginative,” mixing creativity and innovation with practical benefits to break through. Our simple translation: deliver Buick on their terms.
Understanding the lifestyle context of the challenge, Cohn & Wolfe decided that a remix was in order. We created “Regal Remix” and “Tweet to Drive” as anchors of a digitally-driven communications program that focused on youthful experience. Our approach was not to lead with zero-to-sixty times or Buick’s Interactive Driver Control System, but, instead, align the brand with hot bands, renowned chefs and restaurants, must-see cultural events and destination venues.
“Regal Remix” was the anti-car show. No boring speakers. No company babble. No crummy hours-old sandwiches. We brought the showroom to life…and took it on the road. The 2011 Buick Regal was unveiled at six exclusive events hosted across the country. The venues were trendy and counterintuitive – art centers, classic bars, and swanky nightclubs. Each Regal Remix featured food from renowned chefs and top local caterers, specialty cocktails from local distilleries and spirits companies and new music from bands with local roots, national prominence and a rep for mixing artistic styles in a manner that defied convention. The feel was very hip and very new-Buick. The “now” tone was set with special invitations distributed via an online property (Thrillist.com) renowned for being in the know. Part private concert, part happy hour, part not-your-father’s car show – and a 100% good time for exactly the audience Buick wanted to reach.
“Tweet to Drive” reengineered the dull, traditional test drive, taking it for a modern spin around the social Web. Orchestrated entirely through Twitter, the program launched in Chicago and Austin with hand-selected ambassadors picked as much for their automotive passion as their social media acumen and digital footprint. The concept was simple. Simply tweet to drive and our ambassadors picked you up – anywhere within a 20-mile radius of city center – for a cruise down the highway, a drive home from the airport or an afternoon taco run. Daily prizes
from Lollapalooza passes to Texas Longhorns tickets were incentives to drive. Our message: Who needs to worry about getting to the dealership when a hip 20-something can pick you up in your driveway, office parking lot or corner deli and brief you on the hottest happenings while you take the wheel?
• The Remix: Orchestrated and designed must-attend events in San Antonio, Dallas, Chicago, Boston, Miami and New York taking each element – from food to artist to venue – to communicate a new twist on a classic
• Turning it to 11: Secured top-name bands with rampant local followings, and national recognition, including the Plain White T’s, Ben Kweller, Bob Schneider, RaRa Riot, Eli Paperboy Reed and Augustana, to drive attendance and excitement
• On the List?: Designed an integrated partnership with Thrillist.com featuring editorial content, interactive ads and select, targeted invitation distribution to ensure the right consumer experienced the new Buick
• You Like Seeing You: Built a dedicated microsite featuring photos and video from every stop on the Regal Remix tour and promoted in Thrillist’s “Best of Month” posts in their respective local editions
Tweet to Drive
• Calling All Connectors: Created unique Tweet to Drive ambassador position, soliciting resumes via leading digital channels like Mashable.com, to hire young, energetic 20-something ambassadors that gave the brand a new and authentic voice
• Twitter Me This: Designed and launched two Twitter channels @drivebuickchi and @drivebuickatx, along with an ongoing editorial calendar of tweets, ambassador profiles and rules of engagement to foster dialogue
• Drive for the Prize: Carefully selected nearly 200 coveted incentives – from tickets to rivalry games to dinner at the toughest table in town – to spur participation
• Share the Love: Collaborated with other local influencers to spread the Tweet to Drive message, resulting in pizza deliveries by Domino’s Chicago social media guru, turkey runs for the homeless in Austin and shuttles to Wrigley; captured TwitPics of every drive to attract new followers and drivers
Evaluation of Success/Measurement
Public relations efforts have helped drive a marked shift in Buick brand perception; Buick now sits #8 on the list of auto brands’ “likeability”*, up from #17. Our remixed content was hot on Buick’s broader social media channels and thousands of 20-, 30- and 40-somethings are now saying something new: “I’d think about buying a Buick.” Throughout 2010, 114,000 did buy one, making Buick the fastest-growing car brand in America.
• Get younger: Since January, the average age of the Buick consumer has dropped from 72 to 61
• Create brand engagement in target markets:
o Approximately 3,000 consumers had their eyes opened at one of our six Regal Remix parties; 25,000+ unique visitors checked out photos and videos at Thrillist.com/RegalRemix
o 2,560 @replies were sent to @drivebuick fostering Buick buzz on Twitter
o 224 25-45 year old drivers experience personalized “Tweet to Drives”
o 626,000 followers heard about Tweet to Drive from those who participated directly with a drive
• Drive buzz:
o 1,463 placements and 171,503,514 impressions highlighted the new Buick, placing the brand in a new lifestyle light including stories in: BusinessWeek (2), Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Globe, Miami Herald, Dallas Morning News, Automotive News, Cars.com, BRANDWEEK, WardsAuto.com, AutoWeek.com, Autropolis.com, InsideLine.com and Advertising Age
• Spur sales:
o Austin driver purchased a 2011 Buick Regal based on his tweet to drive experience
o 2011 Buick LaCrosse sold “off the floor” at Regal Remix Dallas
o Buick is the fastest-growing major U.S. automotive brand with sales up 57% in 2010
*Zeta Interactive, July 2010