Home > Identity and Branding, Messaging > The money comes from GM, the beneficiary is Lexus

The money comes from GM, the beneficiary is Lexus

Here’s a picture of a billboard advertising the new Buick Lacrosse, which sets Lexus in its sights.

Something else for Lexus to relentlessly pursue.This ad in on a billboard on my way to work and my kids’ school, so I see it approximately a jillion times a month. I have a HUUUGE problem with this ad on several levels.

1) It looks like a Lexus ad. People are driving past this ad and seeing it out of the corner of their eyes. I didn’t realize–until I was a passenger stuck in traffic in front of this billboard–that this was an ad for a Buick Lacrosse, not a Lexus. I had passed it at least 30 or 40 times. The design is tragically flawed: the word “Lexus” is placed prominently above the car’s photo. The car’s name, “Buick Lacrosse,” is at the bottom right, which is the last place the eye travels–and usually doesn’t get there when the billboard is zipping by at 65 miles per hour. The name placement is especially problematic because it’s so easy to be covered up by nearby signs and foliage. GM spent millions on a campaign that looks like a Lexus ad–and reinforces the Lexus message.

2) It requires the viewer to work too hard to get the point. First, one must have knowledge of Lexus’ marketing campaign. Unless you know that Lexus’ tagline is “the relentless pursuit of perfection,” the ad makes no sense. Secondly, one must fill in all the blanks: Lexus relentlessly pursues perfection; the “something” referred to in the ad copy is the Buick Lacrosse; therefore, the Buick Lacrosse is perfection, and Lexus is relentlessly pursuing it because Lexus wants to be as good as the Buick Lacrosse. Whew.

No one is going to work that hard driving by a billboard.

Not only that, but the viewer must think about Lexus’ tagline in order to understand the ad. From a branding perspective, you NEVER want to reinforce the competition’s message in your own advertising. Go where the competition isn’t — that’s why Pepsi is blue and Coke is red.

3) I was going to write that the message of the billboard is totally disingenuous. Really? Lexus relentlessly pursues the “perfection” of the Buick Lacrosse? But then I did some research, and it turns out that the Lacrosse is pretty competitive with the Lexus ES 350, and about $2,500 less. But when I (finally) understood the billboard, I thought that there was no way a Lacrosse could compete with the Lexus. Motor Trend even rates the Lacrosse a full star higher than the ES 350. (Really.)

So what could make this ad campaign more effective? If it were me designing the ad, I’d go for less cutesy and more straightforward. “Buick Lacrosse beats Lexus — for thousands less.” (I might even throw in a “Really.”) It’s not very sexy ad copy, but it might work flying by at 65.

  1. Orion
    January 2, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    All fine points Paul. And congratulations to GM for building a car that actually beats Lexus for thousands less. Really. But does Buick really think any Lexus buyer will be seduced away from a surefire status symbol to save a few thousand bucks? Didn’t my grandparents drive a Buick?

  2. amanda evans
    January 3, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    @ Orion- I don’t think they are aiming the ads @ people who can & always will be able to afford a Lexus- I think they are targeting the wannabe Lexus owners, or in this economy,the former Lexus owners who can no longer afford the Lexus. Tey can drive in their Buick shame-free quoting all the moter trend stats… It turns out that maybe they ARE on to something? That’s my take on it.

  3. Orion
    January 3, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I see your point, but if the Lacrosse is truly only a few thousand less, the wannabe Lexus owner will find a way to become a Lexus owner. If you can drop $28K for a Lacrosse, you can find the other $3K for the ES 350. Buick for some reason has set its sights on Lexus which is the same as entering the low-end luxury segment. If you’ve got the budget of a luxury car customer, are you really going to settle for that Buick-emblem key chain?

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