Buick?

Excuse me for having a hard time with this one: BUICK?

Over the years, Toyota and Honda have developed a reputation for cars that “just work” — as opposed to domestic manufacturers, whose reputation has gone in the opposite direction.  This is what makes this year’s J.D. Power results so surprising.  Buick moved up from 6th place to a tie for first, although Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus remain in the top 5.  Even though this news is out, I am skeptical that it will immediately improve Buick’s reputation.

Looking at recent sales numbers, Buick’s sales in February were down 50% year-over-year, while Toyota’s were only down 40%.  Their market is apparently more elastic, but perhaps in a bad economy, people want to buy cars they perceive as reliable.  Perhaps it’s Buick’s “old fogy” reputation?

From a brand marketing perspective, what has to happen–and over how much time–to move the consumer perception of the product known as “a Buick” into a favorable light?  Is it public relations, as in making sure this news gets out and gets into marketing materials?  Is it the marketing collateral itself, such that a fresher graphic design and improved messaging might help?  Or, as I suspect, will it simply require improved quality over a sustained period of time?  Many marketing specialists believe that the market perception of a brand is related to their own efforts…but I think a very interesting angle on this story is the idea that the brand’s reputation is really best manipulated by changes in the value of the product itself.

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~ by John Peltier on March 21, 2009.

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