Toyota mined the vein of green and sustainability with its Prius TV ad campaign, but I can’t remember a car company leveraging, well, mortality to recast itself.
A new Buick TV commercial called “What Matters” does just that. It isn’t focused on automotive speed, comfort or price. It doesn’t spend time spouting superlatives. Or cite independent sources to validate car quality.
Instead, it frames around the inevitability of dying and living the best possible life. Heady stuff in an industry still largely dominated by flash, sex appeal and performance.
“How will the value of your days be measured?”
“What will matter is not what you have, but what you gave. What will matter is not your success, but your significance. What will matter is how long you will be remembered by whom and for what.”
“A life of meaning and purpose and happiness… that’s the greatest luxury of all.”
During the voice-over, we see images that are largely people-action-centered:
- A man and woman run for their car in the rain; he shields her with a newspaper and opens the car door for her.
- A dad and son shoot hoops in the driveway at night.
- A father and daughter play in the beach sand. Then he gently brushes sand from her little legs as they spill out from the rear seat.
- A man pauses to savor a beautiful landscape, then captures the moment with his camera.
- One driver happily yields for another.
While Buicks are visible throughout, they’re in the background quietly supporting the spirit of “what matters.”
Then Buick transitions more directly to its own brand and makes the consumer connection.
“What if there was a car company that felt the same way? That car company is Buick, a brand that’s growing faster than any other major car company in America. By making vehicles of substance and quality, with a look and feel that says, ‘come as you are.’”
“This isn’t luxury the way you’ve always known it; it’s luxury the way it should be. Your kind of luxury.”
Turns out this clever emotional alignment was based on a longer poem written in 2003 by Michael Josephson. Buick gives credit at the end of the spot, but the tiny type is easily missed.
By aligning its brand with the highest level of human desire (remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the ultimate level of self-actualization?) – instead of wooing base desires – Buick is leveraging a high-level branding platform that spans multiple demographics in one swoop.
Caring. Kindness. Helping. Is it magical positioning? Authentic brand reinvention? Or clever salespersonship? I’m not sure, but I do know Buick hopes to sell more cars by embracing the best in all of us and hoping we, in turn, align with their brand because it represents what we cherish (or hope for) most in ourselves.
I don’t think this kind of appeal will hurt Buick, and it may spur even higher revenues. After all, Buick was the fastest-growing major automotive brand in the United States in 2010 with 40 percent of its sales coming from other manufacturers’ customer bases.
At the very least, we’re seeing a formerly stodgy brand intelligently re-aligning itself toward a new level of success…and Relevance.