Buick Swag Gives Away Brand on ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’

Buick SwagAs a marketing enthusiast, I enjoy watching the advertising and promotional related projects on ‘The Apprentice’ (or these days, ‘The Celebrity Apprentice‘). This week, the teams were assigned a task to create a “consumer focus event” for the Buick Verano (spoiler ahead). The guys’ team, lead by Adam Corolla, lost largely because the sketch they put together (where some of the guys pretended to be hecklers) was too hilarious for Buick.

Adam’s teammates tried to warn him, since the Buick executives explicitly cautioned them about the use of humor. Specifically, that they didn’t want much of it. When Steve from Leo Burnett said with a serious face “We like a sense of humor, but it’s not beer advertising”, that was a pretty clear message to keep the jokes to a minimum. (Side note: If someone has to tell you they have a sense of humor, they don’t have a sense of humor.) Aresenio made the call: “These guys are reserved, in-the-box executives”. However, the first clue that gave away their image was the Buick Swag they left for the teams: standard stainless steel tumblers and Ogio jackets. While they are good quality items, these staple promotional products scream “Traditional”. I don’t know if it was their intent to convey their brand through the logoed products; maybe they were simply hoping they would get some exposure from the celebrities using the free stuff displaying their name.

The point here is that you should care what you put your name on, because it says something about you. There are literally a million products you can customize with your logo or message. Whether your brand personality is “inventive”, “friendly”, “fun”, or “prestigious”, there are products that will help you communicate that. If Buick was going for “conservative” or “reliable”, then they probably picked the right items. But if they wanted to communicate something else such as “innovative” or “contemporary” then there might have been better choices. At the beginning of the episode, Craig from Buick said “At Buick, we’re all about changing consumer perceptions of this brand.” If I was working on a project for them, I would have wanted to hear more about that. What do they feel the perception is now, and what do they want it to be? My personal perception of Buick is that it’s my grandfather’s car. This could be what they are trying to change. They seem to be making progress in terms of their new vehicles, but they have to look beyond their product development and understand that everything that they say and do (and connect their name to) shapes the perception of their brand.

Adam and his team put together a creative, funny, and informative presentation, but it was not consistent with the image that Craig and Steve wanted to display (they said it didn’t reflect their “voice”). The last thing they wanted was comedy, and with a team containing Adam Corolla, Arsenio Hall, and Penn Jillette, I don’t think you could expect anything else. The ladies’ presentation on the other hand, while it had a few laughs, was mostly serious and emotional. So, with or without Michael Andretti (who, for some strange reason, took the fall for it), I’m not sure the guys stood a chance.


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