Magazine article Marketing

Loyalty beyond the Marketer's Wildest Dreams

Magazine article Marketing

Loyalty beyond the Marketer's Wildest Dreams

Article excerpt

On June 24 and 25 this year 30,000 people went to the little US town of Spring Hill, Tennessee, to visit the factory, and meet the people who made a product they had all bought.

They came at their own expense, travelling hundreds, even thousands of miles, some from as far away as Taiwan, and on top of that paid $34 each for the right to attend. "We're all just a bunch of walking ads," said one customer. The invitations went out by direct mail to 650,000 customers, clearly pulling a very healthy response.

What product produced this amazing demonstration of loyalty? Not a cult item, but a pretty ordinary car -- the Saturn. I wouldn't be surprised if you've never heard of the Saturn. It has been barely mentioned in the UK marketing press, which I find extraordinary, because it is in many ways the most surprising success story of the past decade.

It was conceived during the torpid reign of Roger Smith, last chief executive of General Motors, when GM was floundering under the assault of the Japanese and its long-time rival Ford. A new factory was built, and a new approach was adopted to the manufacture and the marketing. These were featured heavily in the launch advertising, created by Hal Riney & Partners. The line was: "A new kind of car. A new kind of company".

If you go to Spring Hill, you will see the workers are called Team Members, not employees. If you visit a Saturn Dealer, as I did earlier this year, you are astonished at the lack of hard sell -- and impressed at how they get you to sign the Visitor's Book before they offer you a coffee. …

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