John P. Larson - Former President and CEO, Escort Inc.
B.S. Finance 1984
NIU alumnus John Larson visited campus on Friday, March 7 to participate in the College of Business Executive in Residence program and interact with students and faculty. As a guest of Dr. Tim Aurand, he presented in UBUS 310 on the unique marketing launch of the Pontiac Solstice.
In 2005, when Larson was at General Motors, he wanted to launch their new car, the Pontiac Solstice, in a distinctive way. The company partnered with reality TV show, The Apprentice, as a way of promoting the car before it was ready for production. By securing a spot on the most popular TV show at the time, the millions who watched saw contestants fawn over the design of this new roadster coupe with curved panels. As the show progressed, contestants created marketing plans which included a sleek brochure highlighting the many benefits of this car - one appealing aspect was the price: $19,995. At the season finale, a commercial ran that informed customers that 1,000 cars would be manufactured with personalized VINs and pre-orders would be taken the next day at 2:00 p.m. The incredible success of the TV show and the stylish design of the car created such a buzz that the website crashed.
When the first car rolled out of the factory several months later, Larson invited the customer who purchased the first one to a launch party in Michigan. What he didn't realize was the incredible interest from the other customers who wanted to attend as well. Larson invited several more buyers to attend and even had several more prototypes available so that customers were able to touch and test drive similar cars to the ones they purchased over the internet.
This effective and unique marketing plan helped make the Solstice a great success. It was nominated for the North American Car of the Year award and Design of the Year award from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) for 2006.
About the Executive in Residence Program
Successful alumni give back to NIU by getting involved in the "Executive in Residence" (EIR) Program. The purpose of the program is to encourage successful alumni and friends to share their experiences in the business environment with College of Business students, re-enforcing our positioning statement, "Where the Classroom Meets the Business World." Enthusiastic and talented alumni tell real-life stories and give an insider's perspective of life outside the NIU campus. These EIR sessions equip our students with practical tools and mentorship to prepare them for life after graduation.