What does the Saab brand mean to you?

At the recommendation of Curvin O’Rielly, I’ve just watched this video – the Ries Report – produced by an advertising and marketing guru named Al Ries. It’s around 7 minutes long, so it won’t take much of your time, but it’s a good look at why the strength of a brand is important and the fact that better products don’t always win.

The video was made in 2009.

VIDEO NOW REMOVED – CLICK HERE TO VIEW

No way does Pepsi taste better than Coke! But anyway…..

I disagree a little with Mr Ries’ emphasis on branding over product. I’m a firm believer that the car industry will always emphasise the quality of product and that products found to be lacking will suffer for it (the fall of Toyota since this video was made is a case in point).

But the importance of a strong brand alongside a strong product can’t be denied.

In the car business, the strength of a brand tends to flow on from its sales strength and the consistency of its presence. Audi have cemented themselves as a premium brand based on technology and the tactile and visual quality of their product (perceived quality). Their brand presence reflects this and their rising sales attest to it. Volvo, on the other hand, are trying to reinvent themselves from being a safe, family-oriented company to being ‘naughty’ and I wonder how long that transition will last.

All of this leads me to the question in the headline – What does the Saab brand mean to you?

Saab has quite a strong ownership culture surrounding it, but how strong (or weak) is the Saab brand? What are the attributes that you think of first when you think of Saab? Does Saab still radiate the same brand attributes now that they did when you first encountered the company? Are those attributes communicated clearly in Saab’s advertising, websites, publications, products?

On an official level, Saab’s core brand pillars are

  • progressive design,
  • responsible performance, and
  • sporty driver focus

Personally speaking, Saab means a number of things – driving fun, practicality, design, turbocharging and Scandinavian. I guess some of those relate to the official brand pillars, but I wonder how closely.

For me, picking one thing above all others, what resonates strongest is Scandinavian. Because I’ve visited Sweden (and loved the place) and because I like Swedish design and simplicity, the experience I’ve had with Saab cars really reflects their Scandinavian origin. They’re different.

Maybe different is the attribute that resonates with me the most and Scandinavian is a part of that? And maybe the fact that I can’t separate the two is indicative of some brand confusion?

——

Again – what does the Saab brand mean to you?

PIck the strongest single attribute that stands out for you, and a little bit about why.

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Darryl - New Salem Saab
Guest

Decidedly, whether this is accurate or not, I have touched on this issue before in the previous US sales posts. Americans seem to more so gravitate toward emotional purchases in regards to cars rather than sensible purchases. On occasion we may change what we think (purchase reasoning) due to some affect which overpowers our emotional decisions. Like What? During the recent gas pricing issues about a year ago, there was a trend to buy small cars here in the US like the SMART car…Large SUV and trucks also were being traded in droves because of the fuel pricing, Hybrid sales… Read more »

ivo 71
Guest
ivo 71

Downsizing…downsizing….

Most cars are either practical or fun to drive. To me, Saab is one of the very few that is both.

Ivo

Esone
Guest
Esone

We can talk about design, safety and power. Branding Saab: The heritage from plane.

eadams
Guest
eadams

Two days ago I drove seven hours in the dark on undulating snow and ice packed roads. Unfortunately it was not in a Saab (the floundering economy has put the brakes on my desire to purchase my first Saab) but rather in my wife’s Hyundai Sonata V6 (with very worn all season tires). My sweaty palms have never more wished for a Swedish engineered, Nokian equipped vehicle. So from the viewpoint of someone that has never owned a Saab I can say it is the whole Swedish/safety/reserved/all weather/all round capabilities/forget 0-60 because 40-100 is what really matters thing that most… Read more »

T.M.
Guest
T.M.

They say men like blondes but they fall in love with brunettes, not sure about that one but that`s what Saab is, a brand you fall in love with if you get there…not many do because the germans are more flashy and people tend to get “stuck” at that….and run around from one flashy brand to the other that`s why brand loyalty is just not there…..Saab on the other hand is different ,it makes you love it for a very looooong time…problem is how do we get more people to see our lovely “brunette”….well better ads, a lot more confidence(… Read more »

GerritN
Guest
GerritN

OK, so maybe this comment will sound a bit patronizing and elitist, but …… I’m not sure if I would like just everyone to buy a Saab. In my experience Saab drivers are usually a bit more intelligent and also better drivers than the big unwashed masses. That’s an image to maintain. Maybe a good example is BMW and Audi drivers in The Netherlands (I’m an expatriate spending about a month per year there). A couple of years ago I would have chosen Audi over BMW, simply because most BMW drivers were behaving like idiots and Audi drivers seemed to… Read more »

GWC
Guest
GWC

Too many words …

Safety in a useful and fun to drive wrapper.

GerritN
Guest
GerritN

A good Saab ‘FITS’ like a good suit.

A good Saab feels like an extension of your body, this is especially important in split second dangerous situations. All the Saabs that I’ve owned had that planted feeling which makes a Saab so reassuring to drive. Ergonomics used to be excellent. Not only were controls logically organized (except for the stupid cruise control) you could also operate them with gloves on. Inside and outside looked luxurious but with a minimalistic Scandanavian touch to it.
The past tense is intentional.

Our Saabs are family.

spikeieos
Guest
spikeieos

For me Saab means home. From the first time I sat in one, they have always just fit me like a glove and did everything I needed in the best way. Like the way you slowly make a house a home over time, Saab has done that for you already. Just get in one, put as much stuff in as you want because it will fit, drive all day, get there having had a blast driving sporty and be refreshed for whatever else awaits! I have driven many other cars and none of them had the same heart. I don’t… Read more »

Steve C.
Guest
Steve C.

We’ve talked about Saab as a brand recently when we discussed US Sales and advertizing. I’ve been keeping notes of the things that I resonate with and I’m in the camp that says Saab has a lot of things going for it but what makes it special is how it combines all the elements. I’ll provide more specifics below based on what some others on SU have said so well in the past but here’s my summary. The Saab brand is greater than the sum of its core values and brand pillars. For example, safety, performance, comfort and utility might… Read more »

AGTMADCAT
Guest
AGTMADCAT

For me, the single biggest thing I think of when I think of Saab is this: Brilliant Engineering Design. It’s all of the little things that really make a car possible to live with. One of the biggest examples for me is that the center vents blow cold when the heater is on. I could never buy a car that didn’t have that as at *least* an option. The idea is that a cool breeze will help keep a driver alert and awake in an otherwise toasty car – and for me at least, it works. The only way I… Read more »

James from Seattle
Guest
James from Seattle

I can’t possibly ready all the comments, so forgive me if I end up re-stating a previous comment. I like the Reis clip. Makes sense, and much of it applies to me as a consumer (although I would never eat a fast-food burger). The Saab brand had been seeded into my mind with the 99 when I was a school kid. When I was old enough to own a car, I first went to a budget Japanese car (Nissan), and then went berzerk on a motorcycle, then settled with a nice c900t. I just got tired of the look-alikes and… Read more »

BJ
Guest
BJ

http://www.tv2underholdning.no/broom/slik-skal-audi-ta-over-verden-3366004.html

Norwegian car show Broom is having a poll of “broom car of the year”. The new 9-5 is one contender, could we win this too?

Muppen
Guest
Muppen

Done!

And my answer is:

Saab is all above….or more simple.
A car and brand with soul!

Tomas TL1000R
Guest
Tomas TL1000R

Done!

Kikaluka
Guest
Kikaluka

+50. The translate trick works beatifully…

BellaAsil
Guest

Its as if Saab was reading my mind with what I want – different, innovative, sporty, fun to drive, affordable. I have never been one to “follow the pack” and I cannot express how much pleasure my Saab brings me. All my friends whether Saab owners or not, all know that I am forever hooked on this brand. Every morning, I don’t dread the morning commute but actually wish is was longer! I can have my practibility and elegance at the same time without “Do you have one? So do I…” that is not for me. Saab is literally a… Read more »

TTAero
Guest
TTAero

Oups! After 100+ comments, what gan possible be new? SAAB means a lotto me, but what exactly?!? * Safety * performance * comfort * fun * different But all those things mean nothing at all if one or two of them is present. What is important is all this factors. Saab often is comfy, safe and different.And the combination is the unique part. Just beeing different will not qualify as a saab. That is just quirky, and is often used by journos as a way of pointing out “strange”. To me the saabway is solutions to a common problem or… Read more »

Steve C.
Guest
Steve C.

Sounds like we are in the same camp! The actual reason for the reply comment is to pick up on what you said about design. In the auto industry, design is usually associated with the look and style of the exterior and interior but with Saab, “design” is the broader aspect of making conscious choices to provide a solution, often an integrated one, in the way you described above.

Tim O'Brien
Guest
Tim O'Brien

Understated European Quality

tmjr
Guest
tmjr

to me-
the intersection between heart and mind is SAAB.

Mark
Guest
Mark

Ooh, I like that! Good one, tmjr…

andyb
Guest
andyb

scandinavian values and just different without being elitist.

Jim
Guest
Jim

Someone said Volvo naughty thing is upsetting and I agree. But the Saab “smarty pants” / mind / your own thing also strikes me as kind of apologetic. The Saab is desirable because of how it works and looks… Understated quality and class. That is what the 9-5 has in spades. It doesn’t need a “brains” identity because frankly Saab drivers get called nerds enough as it is in their lives. At least speaking for myself. What Saab can be is desirable and elegant in terms of simplicity, in an age when mid-size cars are monstrous behemoths. Saab needs to… Read more »

Joe
Guest
Joe
Sven van Dijkman
Guest
Sven van Dijkman

Having read most comments I must leave one too. The brand (Saab) is a car brand but also something different. (Saab is a large defense group in Sweden). Also in that name there are elements hidden that relate to the car. One of the keys there is “design and engineering excellence” Now, over to the cars. What Swade ask for is what the Saab brand means to me. In this context I am inclined to (again) write “design and engineering excellence”. But I have to add that that is too simple. Design and engineering also needs a purpose. And that… Read more »

Steve C.
Guest
Steve C.

Taking that down to a tag line and reflecting others comments about the lifestyle impact…

SAAB
Designed and Engineered for Life’s Journeys(TM)

Tomas TL1000R
Guest
Tomas TL1000R

Well spoken!

Kikaluka
Guest
Kikaluka

Outstanding Design

Independent minds

Börjesson
Guest
Börjesson

In passing above, I mentioned “a car for all seasons”. Now that I think of it, maybe that’s a good catchphrase? But it’s so obvious, it’s probably already been used by some brand or other.

When thinking in Swedish, I came up with the word mångsidighet. I had to use a dictionary, but apparently the English word for that is versatility. Maybe that’s a useful word? “Versatility on wheels”, how does that sound?

benrp
Guest
benrp
Me
Guest
Me

Danish, Dutch, who cares 😉

….after General Motors Corp. sold it to Spyker, a Danish sportscar maker.

Rick C
Guest
Rick C

36 years of SAABs have left me with too many thoughts to even begin to comment but, after reading all the others, it’s readily apparent that SAAB HAS a very strong “brand” already. Almost anyone you ask has SOME kind of fairly strong impression on SAABs products and it’s up to them to capitalize on this. Mr. Reis has a valid point when he talks about percieved value. Product is very important, but you can have the best product available and if it doesn’t stand apart in the customer’s eyes it won’t be successful…. You can hand them a diamond,… Read more »

saabdog
Guest
saabdog

To me, Saabs are simply COOL.

How does one describe Steve McQueen or James Dean? They simply are what they are. This is how I think of Saab automobiles.

WM
Guest
WM

Yeah, it’s that certain something. Saab cars have aura. And great seats.

100%Saab
Guest
100%Saab

I think Swade defines the Saab brand, if I am an accurate observer.

Saab is the car you want to own for ever. And when you don’t, you want another Saab.

I think that pretty well sums up my attitude.

Just a thought.

Marc
Guest
Marc

What does the Saab Brand mean to me?

We are a two Saab family with my bride driving an ’09 9-5, and I am driving a ’04 9-3.

The Saab brand means …
-Fun to drive
-Lots of room for a smaller car.
-Reliable
-Economical to Operate
-Distinctive / Different / Exclusive … some might say Quirky
-Prestige without being austentatious.
-A car that inspires compassion in it’s owners … witness the Saab rallys around the world last winter … there were no such rallys for Pontiac, Hummer or Saturn!

SAABBob
Guest
SAABBob

Safe. Different. Cool.

Markac
Guest
Markac

Saab for me has always represented something a little different. Something that isn’t run of the mill. Although this decade GM tried pretty hard to make Saab run of the mill. Mostly I like Saab because of it’s exclusivity. It makes you feel a little special driving a Saab because not everyone drives one.

BTW, Pepsi might taste better in the US because the US gets a hyper sweetened version of Coke that we don’t get here in Oz. I think ours is the same as Coca Cola classic.

Zed
Guest
Zed

Design. Unique Scandinavian design! The initial draw to the eye. Plus 3 spoke wheels…simply amazing!

Iiari
Guest
Iiari

With so many comments, I can’t believe anyone is really following the thread anymore, but with the hope folks from Saab are watching, I’ll endorse the following uttered by someone about 120 posts ago: “Swedishly Different” I think that says it all. Saab’s (and all automakers’) problem is that there’s tremendous parity in the luxury market right now. Everyone offers astoundingly competent product. Top level safety, top level performance, top level comfort, and top level versatility. Each of those traits alone used to define entire brands (Volvo, Saab, BMW, Mercedes, etc) but they’ve all got each other’s characteristics now across… Read more »

Quijote
Guest
Quijote

I’ve always enjoyed Saab’s “Find your own road” tag line. Indeed, it correlates well with what Saab means to me: Premium Independence.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

I like that a lot too Quijote. The idea that Saab is the independent choice, that it’s all about choosing your own identity and being proud of it. Saab marketing should be clever, make you think, and be Scandinavian and simple. Not too many words if any, based on a visceral emotion of that idea- that you are unique and your car reflects it. I think your two sentence comment actually wins the whole thread- Premium Independence. I like it.

Quijote
Guest
Quijote

Agreed.

Victor, you listening to this?

ignacio
Guest
ignacio

Although your comments are well respected throughout this blog I have to agree with Ries that branding image and what it stands for is everything. Once upon a time (20+ years ago) if you asked someone on the street to give a brief description about SAAB they would tell you SAAB is a “quirky,” “safe,” “different,” “Swedish,” “turbo,” “for liberal professors,” automobile company. Unfortunately to a layperson SAAB’s current model line-up falls into the same “what is it” product abyss that GM is trapped in. The current model line-up does nothing to distinguish SAAB from any other automobile manufacturer. The… Read more »

Quijote
Guest
Quijote

Go buy a vanilla corolla.

till72
Guest
till72

Soul.

I’ve driven a lot of different cars, many were not bad at all but the soul is what makes a Saab different.

Every single Saab I’ve owned fit me like a glove, enjoyed driving with me, took me wherever I wanted to go whenever I wanted to, they took care for me many times… Is it strange that I sometimes pat my car after a long ride on snowy roads and say thank you? 😉

saabluster
Guest
saabluster

Form follows function This is the basic unit of a SAAB. The one thing that stands as a pillar. The one thing that all other decisions are dictated by. The car must work first and be beautiful second. It is seen in the myriad of details that other cars seem to miss. The driver oriented dash. The uncompromisingly comfortable seats. The dash lighting color. The suspension that is tuned not just for the race track but also does not remove all semblance of handling to chase a puffy cloud ride. It is just right and works marvelously. The AC vents… Read more »

Chris
Guest
Chris

Be part of the Saab family
Satisfy your urge for being different
Distinguish yourself with a car that stands out from the crowd
Drive a Saab

Beautifully engineered cars for the inspired driver

Paden Kosoff
Guest
Paden Kosoff

I agree 90% to the report. This is my first post on this website, even though I read it every day. I was touched by the aero x. I have been following the GM ownership and sale of SAAB since then. There are many things about the design, meaning and presentation about SAAB products and its advertisement, such as that areo x music, the visual effects of the snow/ice block theme, the teal color light display, aero and XWD. These things made me believe in the power of SAAB. However, there have been many things about the marketing that take… Read more »

x
Guest
x

It’s simple:
With a good brand your cars are perceived better than they are –
With a bad brand your cars are perceived worse than they are.

BUT – bad cars will eventually drag down the brand. SAAB brand was for a long time perceived better than the cars (and the cars were not bad). But the GM neglect and the near death experience gave the SAAB brand a big blow. Now the cars are great but the brand is not. This results in low pricing power and that small faults are blown out of proportion in the press and consumer mind.

Yerrun
Guest
Yerrun

Saab is for me a brand that competes with the German premium when it comes to quality and technology, but using an aerodynamic, different and jet-inspired Scandinavian design. Saab is the only proof that a group of individuals can form a fantastic community. Saab is a passion.

Jan
Guest
Jan

what does it mean to me? unfortunately nothing anymore

Vector-SS
Guest
Vector-SS

Is there a way to disable this video from starting up every time I load saabsunited?

I’m quite sick of hearing “the ries report, with Al & Laura Ries” until i scroll down, find the video and stop it? 🙂

Manlius
Guest
Manlius

For me SAAB means, first and foremost, independent Scandanavian design.

Dan
Guest

Great video. Lots of lessons there. I really like defining the brand as “Alternative Luxury”. To me, this is Saab. Not excessive, not too flashy, not wasteful. Quality, safe, practical and luxurious enough to not rub it in the face of a guy at the traffic light asking for spare coins…

Maybe an ad with a Spyker parked off to the side. ‘People that could drive any car, drive a Saab. Saab – Alternative Luxury.’

Mart L.
Guest
Mart L.

What does Saab brand mean to me? > swedish quality – steel solid, well built, well thought-off solutions > swedish design – timeless elegance (in it’s own way), understated (= more substance inside then is showing outside), straight forward, practical > “responsible” performance (as they state in their ad’s) – enormous and smooth power where needed (= when overtaking, not when getting away from a traffic light) – it’s about turbo-engines and motor-management, and I think the new Haldex XWD is a strong contribution in the same direction > it’s “away from the crowd” – I don’t mean this in… Read more »

Joachim
Guest
Joachim

I agree with turbokralle Saab is not unique enough A Lot of people knows Saab As with an swedish Design, simple but practically, enough Power (Turbo) and comfortable (for Long courneys). But AT the Moment Saab will Be a sportive Brand. Sportive like man others, BMW, Alfa, Audi now Volvo with the New S60 But i Thing Saab builds AT the Moment Car like a profileless Middle. I loved my old 9-3 S with the luxury velours seats more than the Sports Leather Seats of my actually 9-3 sportscombi Vector. And the Fokus of the turbopower during a Car takeover… Read more »

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