automobile marketing

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charger strom trooper

UBER is doing a really neat promotion in NYC, tying in to the new Star Wars movie. It is making 8 Dodge Chargers, painted to look like Mattel Hot Wheels Star Wars Storm Trooper cars (white with distinctive black striping), available for free for the day, providing you use the appropriate promo code. It’s really cool for Dodge, whose cars become roving brand billboards, and it’s a nice way to get UBER some excellent pub.

The promo made me wonder though about UBER’s brand strategy. I’m not sure I know what it is at this point. And that’s often okay for a first-to-category company. Your Is-Does becomes the brand claim a la “Your Ride, On Demand.” But without a brand strategy (1 claim, 3 proof planks), it’s hard to decide if a promotion is making a deposit in the brand bank or a withdrawal.  So this seems to me a promotion for promotion’s sake, not for strategy’s sake. Though I don’t know the Dodge Charger brand strategy, I’m feeling a proximity to it with this promotion. Storm troopers charge, no?

Start-ups and category pioneers need brand strategies. VCs should encourage this. It helps everyone make decisions about product, experience and messaging. UBER should have one.

Peace.          

 

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Thanks to its car ignition problems, General Motors is recalling 29 million automobiles worldwide. If you’ve ever scanned the price of an auto repair you know the labor is what gets you, not the parts – so you can imagine how that number is going to hit the GM bottom line. Like a 29 million pound tank. GM’s most profitable cars are its huge SUVs. It is reported that a $60,000 Suburban provides $10k in profit while an energy efficient Chevy Cruz yields $1,500 in profit. We all know which car is better for mother earth, but GM, which has the power to move the market away from gas guzzling, likely won’t.  Too much to lose. GM’s share of the SUV market is now up to 70%. (Seen a picture of the smog in China lately?)

Ford’s new aluminum body F-150 pick-up truck is a step in the right direction. SUV loving Chrysler/Dodge/Fiat is bracketing its large car and truck sales with some much better looking Fiat 500s…very cool and efficient cars of the future. My Prius has over 165,000 miles on it, saving me about $9,000 in gas and cutting pounds of carbon into the atmosphere.

Here’s the point. GM, which is about as American and Apple you know what, continues to lose its way. The corporation needs a strategy and a leader. A leader with beyond the dashboard vision. The old gray mare is not too big to fail. Not anymore. American’s love our metal, but we love our amber waves of grain better. Peace.

 

 

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Would you like to be confused?  Click through to “Steer The Script” the new Lincoln Motor Company something or other. I’m not sure what it is, hence the something or other.  It’s is not a campaign so much as a weak federation of ads. Or not. The only thing I can say for sure is it has something to do with Twitter.  The ideas the drive the comms have been solicited from Twitter and conveyed by Twitter users. Then Lincoln’s agency started writing, directing and filming this Mishegas which I think we will see in :30 or :60 form on the Super Bowl.

I must admit, the new car (can’t remember its name…it has an M in it) is pretty cool looking. And it has a retractable roof – the whole roof, I think.

In an earlier post about Lincoln I made fun of a poorly constructed print ad introducing the New Lincoln Motor Company.  Next they did some advertising on TV with Abraham Lincoln, now this. I’m not sure who is running the show over at Lincoln, but their head must be on a swivel.

This is indeed a “new” Lincoln Motor Company.  And it does sell cars. Luxury cars that are designed for people. People? Other than that, mishegas (Yiddish). Peace in Syria.

  

 

 

 

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No back-patting here (okay maybe a little) but my prediction that the Chrysler/Fiat combination was a smart one has come true.  The car market grew 13% last year and Chrysler sales weighed in at 20%.  Chrysler outperformed the market by 7%.  GM and Ford at 3% and 4%, underperformed the market. Bringing a little European design and smaller car sensibility to America has, indeed, translated into sales and margin. The approach, tempered by some Jeep and Dodge DNA, put Chrysler back on firm ground.

A point of concern, however, is CEO Sergio Marchionne’s comment at the Detroit Auto show.  He feels a U.S. recovery will pave the way for growth of his more heavy metal cars and trucks, like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Dodge Ram truck. This is just the type of talk that got us into trouble in the first place.  I would expect to hear this from Ford and GM but not Chrysler (Fiat).  Twenty somethings and the emerging car buyer market (read future) will not be demanding guzzlers. And in 10 years a 30 MPG car will be a guzzler.

Don’t fall for this Mr. Marchionne. Keep your eyes on the big prize. Stop the supersizing.  Find beauty in the small. The efficient. Meep meep. This is way forward. Peace.

 

 

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I just read a print ad for the new Lincoln Motor Company (New?) and I’m perplexed. The first part of the message is a call to non-action. It reads “Does the world need another luxury car? Not really.” Okay, so that’s out of the way. (And, with global carbon dioxide levels up 41%, I must agree.)

The next message suggests that the Lincoln brand was created not to meet the need of consumers but rather to suit Edsel Ford. The word Edsel is synonymous with utter failure BTW, but maybe the ad will change all that. The first Lincoln was created by Edsel Ford as an intrepid vacation auto — to please his own personal sensibility.  

Then the copy moves on to share some historical firsts, e.g., a shifter not on the column, push button transmission (always good to talk about the past when positioning for the future) and then discusses “engineered humanity” that puts the driver first. Huh?    

Finally there is some buried discussion about the new MKZ and a strong finish about concierge service — as if our heads weren’t spinning enough.

The tidy little bow at the end is “Call it luxury. Call it engineering humanity. We’re calling it the Lincoln Motor Company. A completely reinvented wheel, with you at its center.”  

Wheel as the company metaphor…really?  Ah, the craft. Peace.

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Car sales were reported yesterday and they were quite good.  Year over year for the month of September there was a 13% increase.  The New York Times lead story in the business section announced “the best results in 4 years.”  I’ve been blogging about the automobile industry since the beginning of What’s the Idea? mostly because I’ve been so angered by what’s been happening.

People need cars.  People need money. People need to be more responsible to the planet.  These observations drive my points of view.

I have a suggestion for the auto industry, especially GM and Ford the two companies that performed most poorly. Spin off your truck divisions. Divest completely. They need their own leaders, R&D (design with a capital D), manufacturing and marketing. Most times when there is a divestiture it’s government encouraged.  But time it should be market driven.

My second suggestion relates to advertising. Volkswagen, Kia and Audi are doing good work. The brands themselves are strong enough (4Ps-wise) to allow for advertising to work. The marketing officers and executive teams of these companies are on board with investing and pushing ad boundaries. Using good ad shops. (So is Chrysler.)

During the bail-out meetings a couple of years ago, in the picture of with Ford and GM executives sitting around the table with president Obama, had not a smart phone was to be seen. The Q-Tips were running the show (insider car target reference).  We need to drop the leash here too. Peace.

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Full disclosure: I’m an ad-rat and therefore not your average Super Bowl commercial watcher. Also a liberal, I’m a fan of lifting up the bottom and tamping down the top.

Watching the ads during the game the NY Jets did not play on Sunday, I was taken aback by the black and white Chrysler ad.  Though the sound wasn’t great because of all the chatter in the room, I immediately knew it was part two of Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” campaign by Wieden +Kennedy.  Not sure if the music bed was similar to last year’s brilliant Eminem spot or what it was but I could tell it was a Chrysler spot way before the logo cameup.

I was ready to enjoy it, but sadly, didn’t.  It felt derivative.

Perhaps not the uber target for the ad, though certainly closer in age to Clint than Marshall, I felt the crusty, just-under-the-skin angry tone (a Clint specialty) lacked the energy and visceral side of last year’s heroic spot.  I’m sure the script was good, the film and editing certainly were, but it didn’t make me want to jump up and buy a Chrysler. Or move to Detroit. Or buy American everything the way the original ad did.

Karl Rove over the weekend said the ad was a big pay-back to president Obama for the government bail-out of Chrysler. I doubt there was any agenda, yet if there was  (even a hint) the best payback would have been to move some cars.  And though this year’s spot was probably better than 90% of the other pap, I’m not sure as many cars will be driving off the lots this month as were last February. Peace!

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When I first heard of Chrysler’s purchase by Fiat my mind was filled with all sorts of meep meep images of sporty small cars darting around American highways – fun to drive and helping the planet.  I loved it and it was just what the country needed.   A year and change later, the Fiat 500 was introduced.  Zoooop.  (The sound of disappointment.) Como se ugly?  Como se out-of-touch? Add to that, J-Lo doing a 2006 shimmy on a street in NY and I felt even more let down.

Then I saw an Owen Mack video of Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of Dodge, next to the amazing new Challenger and I was back on board. This muscle car, not what I had in mind for the combined company, reminded me that car design is still key.

Yesterday I got my first look at the new Dodge Dart. Reported to be around 40 MPG, this baby is fine. It’s a mid-size car with style, selling for around $16,000.  My daughter bought a used Honda Civic a year ago for the same price.

The jury is still out on quality, but the jury is back on design and mileage.  It’s the American way to fail a little bit before you hit big — and the Fiat 500 misstep will teach Chrysler/Fiat how we roll. And now Chrysler/Fiat is about to America how it rolls.  I smell am Harvard Business Review business case. Peace!

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Not one to throw darts at people I don’t know, I have been known to ding their actions. That’s the fun of blogging.  One marketing person who is a bit of a lightning rod, especially to those in the advertising business is Joel Ewanich, chief marketing officer of General Motors.  Forbes called him “Marketer of the Year” in 2009 and he has done some great marketing putting Hyundai on the map. I’ve written about Hyundai’s smart marketing for years.

But lately, Mr. Ewanich who is nothing of not decisive, has been spending his time shaking up the ad agency roster and tossing grenades. Google “Goodby Silvertein+Ewanich.” While Mr. Ewanich was spending much media time energizing and de-energizing agencies his defining product launch, the Chevy Volt, was going long on glamour and short on engineering. It was reported today that the Volt’s lithium ion battery pack has been found to spark and fire in simulated crashes. 

Marketers, lest we forget, are responsible for product as well as promotion and it seems that the Volt was not adequately tested prior to launch. In all the news about loaner cars and driver safety being job one, I haven’t seen Mr. Ewanich’s name anywhere. Dart time.  Combustion engines go on fire after crashes. Hell, they are filled with gas.  Lithium ion batteries overheat — can you say Dell?  Mr. Ewanich did not design the battery pack or it’s housing, but he is responsible for product readiness.  

A lesson to all marketers: Get the product right first. I understand multi-tasking and readiness, but marketing starts with the product. And ends with the product. Now there’s a marketing trend – product quality. Peace.   

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Greed in marketing is nothing new.  Being different. Acting different. Selling differently…all support creating a competitive advantage and making more money. But greed is not a good thing.  It has ruined the economy (mortgage-backed securities), kept the U.S. beholden to terrorist oil states, and no doubt played a role in many hatreds around the world.  Sometimes greed needs to reach a breaking point before it succumbs.

Yesterday’s announcement between Ford and Toyota, to work on a hybrid engine for pick-up trucks may be a good sign for the planet and for marketing. The U.S. gov’t smartly threw down the gauntlet in terms of miles per gallon goals for vehicles recently and this new rear wheel drive engine is a massive step toward meeting those goals. (Anyone home GM?) Normally, greed would have kept a deal like this from happening, but Ford and Toyota are showing good judgment and forward thinking and they woman-ed up.  Oh, and the only reason it is happening is because Alan R. Mulally and  Akio Toyoda (company CEOs) ran into each other in the airport and probably actually liked one another.

As we marketers put our plans together, fill in our charts and goals and KPIs, how about we ask ourselves a simple tough question “If I wasn’t going to be greedy, what new company strategy might I employ?” As my Norwegian aunt might have said “Tink about it.”  Peace!  

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