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Dogging it.

Venables Bell and Partners, an ad agency I admire, pooped the bed last night with a spot produced for Audi that combined oversized Doberman Pincer heads on Chihuahua bodies.  I once wrote a piece for Adweek as a kid (never sent in) suggesting that every element of an ad should sell the product. Even deconstructed elements. The room in which I watched the game last night was loud during this dog spot so I have no idea what the spot was about.  But I can tell you. visually, the little/big dogs skeeved me out. The Lotto guy with the little body and big head from a couple of years ago (Little bit of luck) was similarly retching but at least his voice and the story made it a little easier to bear. Compare the Audi spot to the Kia spot by David and Goliath with the dude from Matrix. Even with the sound off, I came away associating luxury with that particular Kia model. An unexpected association. 

Ugly dogs or luxuary car?  Which value prop would you like America to take away. Xactly. 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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I love the brands I work on. It’s a requirement. I’ve often said “your baby might be ugly but s/he’s your baby” and that’s what happens if you are a good brand planner. Brands become yours, like children.  It’s not likely you are doing a good job of planning until you do have the love.  Being smitten isn’t enough.

So what’s this dignity thing? Well, if you get to know your brand well enough to love it, then you see there are probably many ways to present it in undignified ways.  Ad agents, tyro in-house designers, social media interns may tart it up like a trailer park hussy. Or give it a smart-ass, know-it-all voice. The music arranger might change the vibe, like the DNG’s dancing hamsters for Kia, who are now grooving to techno rather than hip-hop. Undignified.

Once, in a focus group in Kansas City for AT&T, while exposing advertising to consumers I was smacked in the face by the comment “AT&T wouldn’t talk to me that way.  That’s not an AT&T ad.”  That consumer had a dignity-ometer working.

The point:  If you don’t know your brand, starting with the idea and planks, you are not able to understand how to present it with dignity. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, be irreverent and even a little pushy – it means dressing the baby up for success. Know it, love it, share it with everyone on the team, then present 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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