Flashback Friday: How Saturn Built a Brand

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Saturn launched its lineup of compact sedans and coupes in the fall of 1990 as an relatively unknown and untested manufacturer of "a different kind of car." The Saturn team did the impossible by implementing a set of strategies that included building quality vehicles and crafting an intriguing message that attracted car buyers who had written off domestic cars long ago. That was no small feat. In his book, "Building Strong Brands," author David Aaker set out to "not only to describe what was done but also to suggest the logic behind the strategies: why they were pursued, and how they were intended to contribute to the brand." He concluded that "although certainly some elements of the Saturn strategy may have been critical, it was the synergy of the total program rather than the power of any single element - that led to its success."

Follow the link below to read Aaker's 1996 case study on how Saturn built its brand image.

GM's basic premise was that a world-class compact car and a strong quality culture could not be created within the confines of an existing General Motors division. A new company was therefore formed and given the freedom to create not only a product but a whole new organization free from the restrictive UAW contract and the historically confrontational relationship between labor and GM management, free from the constraints caused by an existing brand family, and free from the inhibitions of an existing way of doing business. People who joined Saturn broke ties with their prior GM unit and often moved to Spring Hill, Tennessee, where a "green field" manufacturing facility was built. This new organization was integral not only to creating the product but also to the broader challenge of creating a brand and communicating its identity.

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Flashback Friday: First Saturn Sold Today in 1990

On this date in 1990, Saturn sold its first car. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the first Saturn - the blue SL2 sedan shown above - was sold just after midnight to Elaine Terry at Saturn of Clearwater. "I wanted an American-made car and decided to give it a try," Mrs. Terry told the newspaper. It was a 25th wedding anniversary present. USA Today and CNN were reportedly at the retail facility to document the event. "I kept it for 10 months and put over 5,000 miles on it. People all over the country wanted to buy the car from me. One man in Las Vegas was talking up to $100,000 for it."