automobile marketing

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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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Here’s the thing about “consideration.” It’s a great marketing metric if your audience is not shopping.  If they are shopping, it’s not nearly as important as “preference.” The gap between consideration and preference can be a broad one indeed.  Brand building that accelerates the move from one to the other is what earns marketers and their agents the big bucks.  But not every seller of goods moves the dial up the ladder; some actually move it backwards.  If a consumer once preferred brand X, but now prefers brand Y, that’s a customer relationship management (CRM) problem.

Kia Motors, #8 in car sales in the US, has been brand building with vigor for about 4 or 5 years now.  Though far behind in overall sales, they led the pack with +54% sales jump in April. Kia has done this by building preference. Market factors have contributed certainly: price and car size have earned them a seat at the table. But David & Goliath, a very smart Los Angeles ad shop is building something for Kia.  Kia’s reputation in the market, not dissimilar from that of Hyundai a couple of years ago and Samsung a couple of decades ago, was that or a Korean company with questionable quality. Close to Japan, but not close. Considered but not preferred.

D&G has used advertising to target the younger side of the car buying market – an impressionable target – in a fun tongue-in-cheek, unexpected way. And it’s clearly working.  Their use of music, entertainment and parody allows them to stand out and showcase the nicely designed cars. David & Goliath is making the brand hip. And when a car brand is seen as relevant and hip, it accelerates towards preference.  The Kia story and D&G’s role will be a fun one to watch. Peaceful.

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Pop quiz.  You are thinking of buying a new car.  A Volkswagen Beetle is among your choices. For the sake of this exercise, let’s say you are 25 years old.  Here’s a marketing multiple choice:

A.     You’re invited to a special free concert with the black Eyed Peas performing. There are Volkswagen Beetles positioned at the entry points to the concert.  There is mad signage and car pictures projected on screen throughout the concert but the performers never mention the words Beetle or Volkswagen.

B.     You like the Black Eyed Peas and buy a ticket to their concert. At the show there are no physical cars on display, but there are large display ads tastefully arrayed around the concert space showing car, brand and promise.

C.     Fergie, in workout clothes, is photographed leaving the gym of her personal trainer. She looks particularly aglow and has a hand darting around her bag looking keys — about to get into her new black Volkswagen Beetle.

I can tell you what an event marketing company would pick. And charge. I can suggest what a typical social media company would select (all three, they rarely care.) And I can tell you what a PR company would prefer. Heavy on one, but all three would generate fees.  There is only one true answer here. And that answer is fundamental to marketing. And you all know which one it is. Marketing is hard. Peace!

PS. Answer “A” actually happened… and it’s not correct.


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Chrysler’s new Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl Meyer has been brought in to energize this bobbing-in-the-water brand. Her background with Lexus and chops in luxury marketing is supposedly her edge. If she can actually come into Chrysler and affect real change, she may be successful. But frankly, it comes down to the cars…to the design. 

Go into any mall parking lot in America and look around. Do the Chryslers stick out? Can you even see them or are they invisible? A Sebring may catch your eye, but that’s about it.   My 16 year old son likes the Chrysler 300, but I don’t see it. To me, it looks like every other Chrysler, only 5 inches taller.
As any marketer knows, marketing starts with the product. Chrysler needs a design point of view. I’d like to hear Ms. Wahl Meyer articulate a mission statement for the Chrysler brand and therefore for the design team. That would be a good start.  Marko-babble like “burnish the image,” and “understand our consumers,” and “focus our marketing approach” sounds like someone without an idea. 

Hey, Ms. Wahl Meyer. What’s the idea?


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