This week Best Buy outlets around the country began selling in-box versions of OnStar, General Motors' telematics product that until now, has only been available in GM vehicles. As in GM cars and trucks, the new product, OnStar FMV (For My Vehicle), comes as technology integrated into a rear-view mirror assembly.
To support the retail rollout, the company launches a national campaign on Aug. 1 with a theme that OnStar is now in a box, explains Greg Ross, the VP of business extensions for GM, who was in New York on Monday at Best Buy's flagship in Union Square. He tells Marketing Daily that the new effort "explains that all of the features, the technology, the engineering are packaged in a way that lets you easily put it in your car." He adds that Best Buy will be central to the message. "It will show people coming into a Best Buy and picking up OnStar."
The effort, on prime time, cable and network, comprises a range of ads, an Internet presence and social media on its Facebook page -- which, per Ross, has 280,000 fans. "We have been using that quite a lot to get the word out about this," he says. "For example, we have a promotion running right now giving away [an OnStar] mirror every day to Facebook fans."
Ross adds that Best Buy held a private sale [Sunday night] to Best Buy Reward Zone members in several hundred stores around the country. "The challenge, strategically, is we know a lot about how to do OnStar services, but what we don't know how to do is retail. So a partner like Best Buy helps a lot in things we might not have even thought about, like how to present OnStar at retail, and even what the box itself should look like."
Ross says the new ads really aren't so much about what OnStar is, since awareness of the brand is already very high, although the ads do touch on key services surrounding safety and security. "The heroes in it are the box -- but also live-advisor support and service providers, whether it's emergency responders, fire, or police, because we spent a lot of time building strong relationships with those communities," he says.
The company has been seeding the market in various ways for several months to get the word out, starting at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, where it was nominated for Best In Show. And then on "Celebrity Apprentice," part of which was actually shot in the Union Square Best Buy, the final challenge had contestants trying to communicate that OnStar is available in a box.
"We knew we wanted to get that across, so it couldn't have been more perfect," says Ross, adding that the show brought in a lot of online opt-ins and queries about when the product would be available. "We are sending emails responses today," says Ross. "The great thing for us with these campaigns is that we already have a set of hand raisers. But we also have relationships already with six million [General Motors] customers, and a lot of them don't have exclusively GM cars in their households. Now they don't have to wait until they are in market for a new car to put in their existing vehicles."
Ross says the first sale of the OnStar FMV was to an owner of a 2003 Ford Explorer, a reflection of where the opportunity is for OnStar as a stand-alone brand. "There's 230 million cars on the road, and people are keeping their vehicles six, eight, ten years," he says.