The typical Buick owner has reached retirement age. General Motors has charged Buick's new marketing director, Brian Bowden, with attracting younger buyers by offering more exciting vehicles.
Bowden, 48, joined GM in 1981. Before he moved to Buick in January, he was director of cross-vehicle marketing and commercial incentives for GM's Fleet and Commercial Lease Operations. Bowden discussed his plans for Buick with Special Correspondent Laura Clark Geist.
What are your goals for Buick marketing this year?
A lot of our opportunities lie in launching great new products - the Lucerne now and the Enclave next spring. We want to keep building momentum for the LaCrosse, which was introduced last year. We build great cars. Our new models are stylish and contemporary. We have very strong purchase loyalty, but we also have a lot of new customers we've never seen before. We have a lot to do in terms of telling our story and accentuating the positive.
There is a perception that Buick is for older people. How do you change that?
We continue to offer the things that have made Buick successful: outstanding quality, outstanding technology and features you wouldn't expect in an entry-level luxury car. Our quality is better than many high-volume imports and luxury cars.
Styling is starting to turn. People are trading in luxury imports for the Lucerne and raving about how much they love it. It's a great value. We want to focus on leveraging the great buzz we're getting around the Lucerne and carrying that into the other products we have coming.
As Buick goes after a younger audience, is there room for more performance in your vehicles?
Pontiac's direction is more youthful in its performance. Cadillac is more on the luxury side. You'll see us offer high-technology features and V-8 power. It's in the Rainier right now, it's in the Lucerne, and it will be available in future vehicles. We have a high-feature V-6 on the LaCrosse.
What is the average age of a Buick customer?
It's 65 years old. When we introduced trucks into the lineup a few years ago, we saw a significant drop - almost 10 to 15 years on average. We'll see the same thing happen as we introduce the Lucerne and Enclave.
Our target is a wide target. We align with the boomers, but we will introduce new cars that will appeal to a younger audience. It starts at 35 (years old) and goes all the way up.
How will that strategy affect your media mix?
Our customers line up with sophisticated living. So our marketing platform is golf, dining and travel. We will continue to use a wide array of media but focus on the publications that align with our target.
Are you increasing your spending on network TV advertising this year?
Probably about the same, but we will be a lot more targeted in our programming because we understand how to align with our customers.
Any special plans for Buick spokesman and golf superstar Tiger Woods?
We have a promotion called "Tiger Wins - You Could Win" for the new Lucerne. We offer customers a chance to go online and register for a sweepstakes. Every time Tiger wins, we give his tournament car, a Lucerne CXS, away. We've added some accessories to trick it up a little bit.
We had a 200 percent increase in Web activity the week we launched. We've had several hundred thousand people register for the promotion. And 60 percent of those take an online overview of the Lucerne. We have a great partnership with Tiger.
Are you looking for additional golf tournament sponsorships?
We have the Buick Invitational, the Buick Championship and the Buick Open. That's the right level of support for us. We want to focus on leveraging it.
We have a new promotion at our golf events. We have a studio where we film a little commercial, allowing fans to root Tiger on. We've got four of these "video letters" that we're going to use in our advertising. At the Buick Invitational, we recorded almost 250 (interviews).
You may e-mail Laura Clark Geist at [email protected]