Clarke: Buyers don't know Saturn brand

Troy Clarke: Saturn has "a basic awareness problem." Photo credit: JOE WILSSENS
DETROIT — Saturn's problem with potential buyers? It's worse than a lack of consideration. Buyers are barely aware of Saturn.

That means that Saturn has to revamp its marketing to build awareness of the brand and its new vehicle lineup, says Troy Clarke, president of General Motors North America.

Over the past 15 months, Saturn has launched a complete line of vehicles including the Aura sedan, which won 2006 North American Car of the Year. Yet Saturn sales are down 15.4 percent through April.

“If you look at the purchase funnel, you ask, "Do we have a consideration problem on Saturn or a conversion problem?'” Clarke told Automotive News. “The fact of the matter is we have a basic awareness problem.”

In GM research of coastal markets, consumers who saw pictures of Saturn vehicles could not identify them, Clarke said. So Saturn's advertising must start over with something “a little more basic” than the current “Rethink” theme, he said. Saturn will emphasize traditional mass media and social media.

“Just as if you're introducing a new brand,” Clarke said. “We'll probably spend about the same amount of money, but we'll repurpose it so that it's more focused on awareness than consideration.”

You can reach Jamie LaReau at jlareau@crain.com

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