Can Yoga and a 24-Hour Test Drive Convince Young People to Buy Buicks?

Where wellness meets the road

If a dealership let you take a new car home for a whole day and night, would it increase the chances that you'd buy it?

Buick hopes so.

As the name suggests, Buick's "24 Hours of Happiness Test Drive," a magic bag of marketing unveiled Wednesday, promises shoppers the chance to borrow a Buick overnight. The package also includes a curious batch of wellness activities—including a Buick-themed yoga workout, a mix-at-home Buick fragrance and something called a "Buick meditation map"—all of which are designed to "help encourage well-being and happiness on the road," according to a company statement.

Why is a 112-year-old Detroit nameplate known for sensible sedans in the 1950s and muscle cars in the 1970s toying with all this existential feel-good stuff? Simple. Buick's best years are clearly in the rearview mirror, and "they have to find a way to attract the young, hip, affluent buyer," said Paul Eisenstein, publisher of TheDetroitBureau. "What they're doing may seem like a grab bag of things to find new buyers, but in some sense, they almost have no choice."

Setting meditation and yoga aside for a moment, the central enticement of the new package is the chance to extend the test-drive experience to an entire calendar day. It's a tactic GM has tried before, and also one that raises a big question: If a would-be buyer doesn't like the car during the standard, 20-minute test drive, will an entire day and night with the car really make a difference?

"To a lot of people it won't make a difference," Buick vp Duncan Aldred told Adweek, "but it can make a difference."

Aldred explained that the usual test drive most buyers make doesn't give them the chance to "experience the vehicle in your everyday life" the same way an owner would—say, by backing it into that tight spot in the garage or fitting all the kids into the back seat.

But the larger marketing value is clearly about creating impressions. "It's a statement of confidence in consumers," Aldred said. In other words, if Buick trusts you with a car for a day, you'll probably think more highly of Buick. "We find that some people will bring the car back after five or six hours," he added, "so it's more about the importance of the offer than its utilization."

Eisenstein said a prolonged test drive is also a subtle cue to the would-be buyer that the automaker stands behind its product, that it's willing to let you get acquainted with a car without a salesman rattling on about all the options. "Whether it's subliminally understood or not," he said, "you've got to believe that Buick is telling customers, 'We're confident enough about this vehicle that, if you spend a little more time with it, we think you'll be pleasantly surprised.'"

Meanwhile, customers will surely be surprised at the host of online activities included in the overnight package—including a self-administered massage developed by Dr. Dot ("masseuse to the stars"); an easy-to-create "Buick atmosphere" fragrance redolent of those nice leather interiors, and a yoga routine taught by Maroon 5's yoga instructor Chad Dennis that includes—surprise!—an actual Buick. The modules were based on the revelations of a Harris Poll commissioned by Buick that found 57 percent of Americans are interested in lowering their stress levels behind the wheel.

Buick doesn't know what percentage of would-be buyers are actually going to take the time to do all of this stress-reducing stuff, but that's probably not the point. "We've started to attract a far younger buyer, and a lot of them haven't driven Buicks before," Aldred said. "The concept of wellness is very fashionable right now, so this will appeal to a younger demographic and help get the Buick message to them."

And, they'll have a whole 24 hours to soak it in.