Saab CD Touts Convertible Redesign

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Saab Cars USA Inc. is using an interactive, Web-linked CD "e-Booklet" and an online version to attract new customers to the 2004 Saab 9-3 Convertible, a model that marks a redesign for the vehicle.


Distributed via mail, e-mail and at www.saabusa.com, the 50MB file is like a paper brochure with sound, motion and online interactivity. This is the first such brochure for Saab, Norcross, GA.


"The convertible is entirely new, so Saab wanted to promote it in an entirely different way," said Sheri Kaufmann, vice president and creative director at Saab interactive agency Digitas, Boston. "The e-Booklet was the perfect opportunity to create a splash for the new car, to get people to start interacting with the vehicle before it hits dealerships."


Marketing's mandate is clear: Catch the eye of Saab enthusiasts and others in the market for an entry-level luxury convertible with the look of a coupe.


At $39,995 for the Arc luxury version and $42,500 for the Aero high-performance variant, the Saab 9-3 Convertible competes with the Audi A4, BMW 3 series and Volvo C70. Each of Saab's rivals boasts fancy online and offline literature to conjure the wind in the hair, sun on the shoulders and freedom an accelerator's press away.


"On the Web, the automotive space is highly cluttered," Kaufmann said. "Every brand has a Web site, has new model launch microsites, are beginning to mail out CDs with microsite experiences. It's hard to stand out amongst the crowd. It's hard to get people engaged in these online initiatives."


At 12 pages, the Saab e-Booklet narrates the convertible's story from design, performance and safety to specifications and pricing. It includes details that make the car unique.


The file opens with music designed to lift the spirits, accompanied by images of blue skies, palm fronds, seagulls, treetops, fall foliage and a hot air balloon. The copy reads, "Here is a place where the world opens up around you."


A similar theme that ties visuals with words runs through the interactive document. A shot of the convertible driving through lush countryside is headlined, "There is a place where attraction is instant, and desire lasting."


For those who cannot abide a country setting, they can click on a thumbnail for the car in a city setting or gently in throttle on the highway. There is the option of the convertible in the desert, with audio of the rustling wind.


Other lines aim to seduce as well. The reader is persuaded that "your second car can be your only car," an obvious attempt to highlight the two-door, four-seat convertible's fitness for all seasons.


Other pages in the booklet let the user click and spin the 9-3 Convertible's image, peer closer to the dashboard or change colors. The demonstrations and animation are now typical of automotive ads, however.


"Most consumers would admit emotions play a large role in an automotive purchase," said Tom Boland, senior marketing associate at Digitas. "Convertible shoppers, in particular, have been known to listen to their heart when it comes time to choose a car. The e-Booklet was designed to help highlight the hidden delights associated with owning a Saab convertible."


At the end, the e-Booklet offers many options. Recipients can request a paper brochure or forward the booklet with e-mail addresses and names for three friends. Also, recipients can configure the car at saabusa.com and, most important in terms of dealer leads, schedule a test drive.


"Our challenge is because we're a small brand in the car world, we have to break through the clutter and get noticed and do it cost-effectively," said Colin Price, product communications manager at Saab Cars USA.


Saab intends to announce the convertible in a mailing that reaches 700,000 consumers during the week of Sept. 22. The drop combines names on Saab's database and those rented from outside. Regions targeted include Florida, California, Texas, the Northeast and other relevant areas.


Self-qualifying respondents to the self-mailer will get the CD in a larger package that drops in October.


"About 25,000 [requests for the e-Booklet] is what we're expecting from the 700,000 mailers," said Robert Henry, manager of e-commerce and CRM solutions at Saab's U.S. arm. "We've also produced 15,000 for auto shows and other events."


An e-mail to 150,000 Saab hand raisers will drive traffic to the e-Booklet landing page on saabusa.com. And, of course, all advertising will tie in with Saab's current branding campaign themed "Welcome to the State of Independence."


"It's a fulfillment piece for leads already collected," Kaufmann said, "but will also help us to capture new leads which will be measured. We'll also do a sales match against those who viewed the e-Booklet to see how it impacts sales."


Digitas, which has had the Saab interactive account for four years, handles online marketing. Brann Baltimore is in charge of the mail effort.


Saab, a General Motors Corp. company, sells about 40,000 cars yearly in the United States. Convertibles account for 30 percent of its sales. Customers typically are ages 35-55 with an annual household income of $100,000-plus. Research shows they are Web-sophisticated.


Digitas may create another e-Booklet in the spring to target spring convertible buyers.


Kaufmann is confident the tactic will generate buzz and create consumer interest. But she knows the challenge for automakers is to get people engaged enough with the brand to take a test drive.


"Getting them into the car is half the battle," she said.


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