Some of you might not even know what they are. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, station wagons were the transportation of choice for families with kids and busy lifestyles. Typically configured to carry five to eight people if necessary, this is how many families travelled across the country on their summer vacations. Every manufacturer had one or more station wagon models and they sold very well. Sales people were happy.
Then in 1984, Plymouth rolled out it’s new Voyager Minivan and that began the rapid decline of the station wagon. Minivans provide the same basic function, moving five to eight people from spot to spot, becoming very popular almost immediately. Sales of these minivan’s boomed for over a decade, with most manufacturer’s offering several lines to choose from. Sales people were very happy.
Minivan’s became the vehicle of choice for busy families and some say the term “soccer mom” was coined when the parking lots at soccer practice were filled with mom’s dropping off the neighborhood kids to practice.
Eventually, this popular choice went out of style as well, becoming the antithesis of “cool”. It was to be replaced by what became known as the SUV, or sports utility vehicle. Generally serving the same basic functions of moving between five to eight people from point A to point B. Some of these had 4-wheel drive but other than that, offered pretty much the same capabilities and utility. Sales of minivan’s dropped like a rock, and everyone clamored to get themselves a SUV. Sales people were very happy selling lots and lots of SUV’s.
Then gas prices started climbing, and the environment became much more of a focus for mainstream American vehicle buyers. Big, gas-guzzling, off-roading monster trucks were now ridiculously expensive to operate, and were even becoming the target for graffiti and environmental protesters.
In response to these market realities, SUV sales dropped way off, and several manufacturers stopped production entirely. In it’s place now sits the Crossover. Not as tall or big in outward size as an SUV, yet still designed to move between five and eight people from destination to destination. Manufacturers are adding new models at a record pace, and many models are available only by adding your name to a lengthy waiting list. Sales people are very happy selling these crossovers. Take a look at the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser at the top of the post and then each of the vehicles that replaced it in succession. Each served almost the exact same function, became very popular in it’s time and looks fairly similar. Yet a station wagon is not a station wagon in the customers’ eyes
It’s all in the name!
Are you still selling station wagons? Have your products kept up with the changing preferences and terminology favored by the public? Your solution might still be capable of delivering five to eight people from point A to point B, but that is not enough on it’s own. Words matter in the real world. Which ones we use to convey our offerings can make the difference between falling sales and a waiting list. Are you paying attention to the names of your products and services?
One of the free tools to help you gain an understanding of what is “hot” or not with your prospective customers is Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool. This two-minute video shows how to use this tool to find out how your product name (station wagon) compares to other names that the public is searching for on Google. (View full screen for best results)
I hope I have stimulated your thoughts a bit and hope I was able to get you thinking about what you call your products and services and if a name change might be able to give your sales effort a fresh boost. It is sure helping those selling Crossovers.
Just for the fun of it, guess what is one of the hottest sellers in the new model year? Cadillac’s new CTS Sports Wagon – yes, a Station Wagon is once again hot.
I adore the analogy utilized here Miles!
It is one of the best examples I’ve seen on how sales is evolving — from customers seeking out a product … to developing or naming a product based on what consumers may want. I enjoy reading a ton about Steve Jobs and his success with Apple and it matches what you are saying here, you just said it better.
My husband loves the UK version of “Top Gear” and the Subaru Legacy (I think it’s called) has stayed popular because it can carry a group of passengers, highly functional, while taking eco into consideration.
If I were a car manufacturer, or in car sales, I would take the time to understand that SUVs have negative associations as “gas guzzlers” which is the new uncool.
As always, enjoy what you put forth Miles,