Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Proving The "Good Stuff" Can Be Found in the Creative Department

I've been in enough campaign ideations to know it really took some convincing to get a client to sign-off on a "dog fish" as the lead in your new car commercial. When evaluating a campaign, one often asks is the campaign more about the car or the driver. I have never asked is the campaign about the driver's genetically, mutated pet?

Perhaps this came up in research? The target consumers enjoy surfing, swimming and own dogs so how about we develop an ad using a mystical creature that's half dog and half fish? I have to admit it does sound like some good stuff, please pass the ganja. At least it's memorable, which is something I can't say about most ads; though, the memory is more about the pet and not the car. I know it was Volkswagen. But was it a Golf? A Jetta? A Passat? Oh wait, I think it was a Jetta, a Jetta station wagon...

The ad was developed for the Brazilian market. more.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Toyota Saturates to Annoyance

Maybe it’s the use of 80’s song “Saved by Zero” by The Fixx? Or perhaps it’s just that no matter what program you watched, on whatever channel you had on, whatever station on your radio too, you were bound to catch Toyota’s national sales promotion to get 0% financing in one of the worst auto slumps and the first time Toyota recorded an operating loss.

Apparently you are not alone if you had enough of this ad. It even gathered some negative sentiment when a Facebook group started called "Stop Playing Toyota's 'Saved by Zero' Commercial" recruited almost 10,000 members.

It’s official now the WSJ and voted it one of the worst ads of 2008.

Really? The worst? Sure it was lame and the link between 0% financing and “Saved by Zero” wasn’t the most ingenious connection ever. But is it the worst because of the song choice or the message? It was the relentless buying spree that Toyota went on to promote the offer. The problem was over saturation. Toyota could’ve handled this issue by coming up with a variety of ads for their 0% financing campaign. Rotating ads with different messages could’ve also appealed to different consumers.

I’m not sure “Saved by” is the right language too at this perilous time. The message implies Toyota is reaching out to help people by having them buy a new car with no financing charges. Good luck. The problem right now is too much debt and people are for the first time in years reducing their debt load.

It is a brutal time to sell cars. Unfortunately, the entire backlash around heavy consumer spending in prior years, macroeconomic stress, and most people concerned with just keeping what they already have, all caused Toyota a bit of negative press when they bought a ton of airtime promoting “Saved by Zero.” Unfortunately, they’ll be playing “Red Skies” at their upcoming shareholder meeting.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cadillac's Reality TV Version of Gran Turismo

I am a performance minded driver. I love watching Top Gear, I watch some racing, follow enthusiast magazine and boards, and I even do performance modifications on my own car. From this foundation, I am a bit of a sucker for performance minded marketing efforts. The latest example in this space is a rather interesting site from Cadillac called The CTS-V Performance Driving Lab.

Cadillac took several drivers to Monticello Motor Club from November 7-9. There drivers were given the opportunity to test the new 556 hp, 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, powerhouse from General Motors. The cool thing is the way Cadillac brought the experience to everyone else by posting everyone’s drive on a website.

Pro driver Andy Pilgrim set a benchmark for the track and then novice track drivers took their tries for the best time. The site shows you three camera angles – cockpit, heads up display, and another showing the turn of the wheel close-up on the brake caliper. You also get to see real-time speed, RPMs, and G-Force numbers. It all gives one the impression of some video game like Gran Turismo. The gauges are real-time too along with a GPS readout in the lower left to see position on the track. All of this is some pretty amazing technology integrated into a great way to showcase the CTS-Vs performance credentials.

But it is it compelling as a marketing tool? I would argue yes and no.

Why Yes?

I can see performance minded consumers checking out a few videos. There are tons of videos all over YouTube showing track times, races, you name it it’s on there. Cadillac did post the Andy Pilgrim video on YouTube, so it is promoting the CTS-V Lab site on YouTube through their MyCadillacStory Channel. I can see why they didn’t just use YouTube as a place to host all the content since most of it is video and it would follow a more natural experience leverging YouTube’s place as where to go for video online. The issue is with all the feedback, real-time data extras that make the experience great and unusual. So, score a big YES for Cadillac on showing how to do real-world performance in an interesting, engaging way on the ‘net.

So Why Yes and No?

It is interesting seeing novice drivers take their shot at the track, but it’s far more interesting to see several experienced drivers compete and show that competition in the way Cadillac so beautifully does in this execution. Plus I think it would be more sought out by performance racing fans that like to see their driver(s) take a stock street legal car for a competitive spin. So, it loses some luster by having novice drivers who are a bit guarded in how the push the performance of the car, as seen in many of the videos. There are just a lot of poor laps on the site, though Cadillac did try to solve this, provided one sees the link for “Fastest Lap Times” that is left dangling from the main navigation.

All in all though I think the site is an interesting take on showcasing a performance car and I commend the team who brought in some nice features and feedback data for true driving fans.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Finally Truth in Consumer Marketing Research

I always thought the aspirational target customers developed during consumer research were rather two-dimensional cardboard cutouts of imaginary people. Fortunately, Mitsubishi felt the same and decided to create “Paper Craft” versions of their researched customers and pair them up with the appropriate vehicle.

Make sure you checkout the numerous examples on Mitsubishi’s site. See them here.

What you’ll find is an exhaustive range of vehicles, most found outside the U.S. market. They really are pretty cool looking things. I have young twin boys and decided to download a couple vehicle cutouts to see how they looked after following the supplied instructions. It took me a little while longer than expected to put a car together. In fact, my wife was watching me and pulled the paper and scissors out of my hands to show me how it was done. I was told I was doing it all wrong and that her years of cutting paper dolls was the proper training for this. I was more than happy to oblige as I was finding this whole experiment rather tedious. So, please find a seasoned paper doll expert of your own if you try this at home (the result is the photo above, yes that's my own Mitsubishi eKWAGON, the easiest cutout I could find.)

The email newsletter I received that included a link to the cutouts, invited me to build one and email them a picture of my completed model. I am doing so and will see what comes back (so stay tuned.)

I personally love the black clad, dark grey shirt couple sporting the Lancer Evolution as their car of choice. I don’t know what your experience is but most Evo owners don’t look this cool. They usually are wearing a Sun Microsystems white t-shirt, khaki shorts, and Nike shoes. Oh well, it’s all about image and who really wants a cutout of some 35 year-old software engineer?

I have to admit though I did enjoy playing with these and the kids really found them entertaining, even though, they couldn’t push a paper cutout across the living room floor at 15 mph.

I recall years ago that Mini Cooper ran some print ads with paper cardboard cutouts in Wired magazine that I quickly punched out and put together on my desk at work. Yeah I’m a geek. Better get back to learning Ruby on Rails.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Guess the Idea Sounded Better on a PowerPoint

Hilo Chevrolet, of Hawaii, decided to roll-over their Asian competitors Honda and Hyundai by throwing monster truck wheels on a Chevy Suburban as a way to crush the competition. Unfortunately, the demonstration backfired when the Suburban blew a hydraulic hose and leaked vital fluid while the Honda remained waiting for more.

This just a week after a Ford dealer in South Carolina insulted Asians with his rant about Japanese cars being "Rice Ready, Not Road Ready." I get the not road worthy part, but what the hell does "Rice Ready" mean? It's another example of a gregarious dealer trying to show his triumphant patriotism in an idiotic manner.

With all of the fear and worry mounting from a month of bad Big Three press and questions surrounding a Bailout (that thank heavens finally came through), it is of little surprise that local marketing departments have lost their minds. The problem is neither of these two examples help the U.S. auto cause and, at worse, backfire. American cars have a poor history that many of us remember who owned 1970s and 1980s models. Repairing the reputations has been a tough road, but the good news is that quality issues have lessened dramatically, high safety ratings are not exclusively denominated by any country, and style is improving.

I'm personally excited to see such cars as the Pontiac G8, the 2010 Ford Fusion, the new Mustang, and great little roadsters like the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice. These are all products I would love to have in my garage and are far more fun and interesting than a bland Toyota Camry or Honda Accord (though both are fine cars.)

It's just sad that some dealerships are losing their minds and making their brands look as bad as the all the complainers against them. What the U.S. auto manufacturers need is more myth busting around poor quality and less patriotic flag waving. People who do not work for a brand buy a car because it is the right choice for their needs and expanding some minds by showing American brands are worth looking at, because it's not 1985 anymore, is a good thing and good for a healthy competitive marketplace. So please park the monster truck and no more name calling.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Handcrafted AMG Snowflakes for the Holidays

Every snowflake is unique. Mercedes-Benz wants it’s customers to know that every AMG engine is unique too. Using engine parts, visitors to the new Mercedes-AMG Snowflake Creator, can move around engine parts into various repetitive designs to generate their own snowflake to send it to their friends along with a message. I’m thinking I should send one to my wife letting her know what I want for Christmas – a $194,700 AMG SL 65 Black Series. She can skip the giant red bow.

The snowflake creator is a somewhat interesting execution. It’s not particularly entertaining as you only have five auto parts and an AMG logo to create your masterpiece, but adding more parts isn’t really necessary.

What is interesting is taking the idea expressed on the homepage, “’One Man – One Engine.’ This is one of the signature components of the AMG philosophy, speaking to the unique hand-craftsmanship utilized for every AMG Mercedes built.” We all know snowflakes are unique. (Or are they?) Bringing together an idea we all understand, take a symbol of the holidays, and mesh it together back to your brand’s desire to communicate the uniqueness of your product. It is a compelling message and a great way to reinforce the special quality of AMG.

Sending an email works well at a time when people are exchanging e-cards over the holidays. I like it when companies can find a way to make the holidays relevant to their marketing efforts. Besides, I’m sure it’s more welcome than getting this e-card.

The site doesn’t let you save your snowflake as an image or post it on your social networking page, but that doesn’t seem necessary as this is a holiday card application and who really needs an picture of your “unique” creation. It’s about creating a card that is uniquely you though it isn’t communicated to the person receiving your e-card that the snowflake is part of the AMG philosophy of being handcrafted and unique. It just looks like the typical Christmas e-card with some strange looking circle floating down to the hood of a Mercedes. So, the message of the site is lost when sent along to your friends.

Overall, it’s a nice execution and a timely way to demonstrate the uniqueness AMG is reinforcing about their products. more.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ford KA, So Little, Can You 'Find It'?

Ford's UK campaign for their KA compact auto will be launched with a mobile phone campaign called "Find It". The work will debut in January 2009.

From Marketing Magazine: "According to the company ‘It's the first ever campaign in mobile marketing, by an automotive brand, to use augmented reality...[which] is a field of computer research that deals with the combination of real-world and computer-generated data, where computer graphics objects are blended into real footage in real time.'

"Direct packs have been created by youth experiential group Don't Panic, and will be distributed in bars, clubs, fashion boutiques, universities and at music events. The packs contain QR code stickers, which by using a wap link through a camera phone projects a 3D Ka onto the screen, available in three designs. " more.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Just as Difficult to Comprehend as Cubism

The Nissan Cube finally debuted at the LA Auto Show last month, but before that Nissan debuted their Nissan Cube pre-reveal website. The site was tailored to the attention deficit disordered consumer with plenty of clickable cubes that brought you to no content about the car, just a bunch of stuff about cube-isms (witty sayings written by Nissan’s marketing group) and the ability to share the site with your friends. My question is share what? The pre-reveal site had no content about the car. In fact, there is only one shot of the vehicle in a small 150-by-150 pixel shot of the car in a 3/4-rear angle.

The site also featured a Twitter link allowing you to subscribe to Nissan Cube Twitters. There were updates nearly everyday that just sent you more “cube-isms”. There were 118 followers and 88 updates. Some real examples: “my dog gets me”, “I’ve got shag on my mind”, “I roll with the carpool” and my personal favorite “why all the fuss over money?” Huh? The Twitter ended when the car was revealed in LA and now asks people to visit their… you guessed it – Facebook page.

What I wonder is did the Twitter increase engagement? Possibly, but most likely not. The witty statements did fit with the cutesiness of the car and it’s youthful target certainly fits a Twitter user. The big issue I have with the execution is why end it on Twitter when the car is revealed? Few people would ever visit the pre-reveal site since it is not aligned with all of the press releases and auto show coverage. Seems Nissan could’ve had a more significant Twitter audience if they kept it going with their new reveal site and Facebook page.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

L/Studio Advertises on Facebook

While responding to a status update this evening on Facebook, I noticed a Facebook advertisement for the Lexus L/Studio site. The best part is that the status update I was responding to was on the topic of the Real Housewives of Orange County, leading me to believe Lexus has bought up some interesting keywords around the guilty pleasures of bad reality television.

There is no mention of Lexus in the ad. The advertisement features Lisa Kudrow, ignoring any mention of the automotive brand. This is obviously a lifestyle play by Lexus and one that is still receiving some investment as it looks to find an audience.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Ultimate Build & Price Machine

BMW has developed, jointly with Microsoft, a new build & price configurator that allows potential customers to drag and drop vehicle choices using a large iPhone like touch screen. There is one screen that acts like a canvas, similar to the film Minority Report, and a second screen that displays the configured vehicle in an emotional way through video and rich photographic content. It's a pretty nice implementation, though it is not portable; however, components could be used to improve online build & price implementations - particularly the emotional content when the vehicle is fully configured. Imagine having a vehicle, exactly like the one you just built, driving along the autobahn. more.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fueling Sales: Beyond MPG Numbers

The race to prove one’s superiority is on in 2008 and is sure to continue into 2009, even as gasoline prices fall significantly. The idea that $4 gas is possible is in the mind of the consumer and it has changed the perspective on what is important in the purchasing decision. Fuel economy is now even with safety and quality when it comes to leading factors when buying a car.

So now that fuel economy is a major influencer, how are the automakers responding to this change? Product changes take years in manufacturing leaving marketing with the brunt of this task. You have to sell the products that simply exist. There is no silver bullet to improve fuel economy in a matter months.

One issue becomes obvious very quickly, most non-hybrid cars have similar fuel economy numbers, provided they are the same class of engine (4, 6 or 8 cylinder.) A lineup of 4-cylinder sedans have pretty much the same mpg numbers within 1-3 mpg, leaving marketers with little competitive advantage in the mpg distinction. A couple ways companies have dealt with this dilemma are as follows.

One approach is to show dominance by using miles superiority on a tank of gas. The new Chevy Traverse launch site does this using a PowerPoint graphic. The Traverse gets consumers another 60 miles in driving range before a refuel when compared to its competitors, yet it has the same fuel economy as the Ford Flex and Toyota Highlander. How does it do this? Through the magic of a bigger fuel tank. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the size of a fuel tank would be used to show a competitive advantage in fuel economy. To hell with logic, Chevy just bolted on a bigger tank to the frame. Advantage Traverse! Or something like that.

Chevy isn’t alone in this approach. In the UK, the Smart car competes with several small compact fuel sippers and decided to use driving range as a differentiator for the ForTwo model. Fortunately, Smart uses a more whimsical approach by letting the site visitor choose the correct answer of how far the Smart can travel. They even bring in a bagpipe player to celebrate the news.

Another approach is Honda’s Fit online game experience. This one is really odd. The concept here is to show the Honda Fit as a “a hero of fuel efficiency” by pitting it against the “Fuelivors”. Fuelivors are represented as big, old, inefficient American cars. Though this isn’t a challenge against a Chrysler Sebring, Chevy Cobalt, or Ford Focus. No that would be a fairly even match; instead, Honda brings us back to 1960 American big cars, complete with fins and giant grilles. Too bad online games weren’t around during the 1970s gas crisis as the Honda Fit game would’ve been a perfect fit.

There really hasn’t been a great approach yet to differentiate on fuel economy, unless of course you are a hybrid – the Prius hybrid. In the non-hybrid category, there may be some opportunity to find a way to extend fuel economy beyond just mpg numbers. Besides fighting 1960 Impalas or having a larger fuel tank, product is what gives you a competitive advantage in fuel economy, marketing less so.

Giant Red Bow Sales to Nosedive this Christmas

Automotive advertising is definitely going to decrease in the coming months and possibly years. One of the changes happening in Christmas 2008 is a decrease of the buy a car for your loved one Christmas ads, most commonly associated with Lexus. The big red bow car ads will be replaced by less ostentatious messaging.

Honda will be extending their TV spots with online media placements that will donate $1 to charity for every registration on their site. It's the softer, community approach that will be more common this year than the overtly festive approach of prior holiday sales events.

With sales numbers way down across the industry, Honda's strategy of getting hand-raisers to communicate to via a charitable gift enticement could be a good way to obtain leads as the economy recovers.

This is disappointing news as I was hoping Santa would bring me a new car for Christmas (I always ask, never receive.) Oh well, it's a time to be thankful for what you have, not what you want. Maybe I'll just ask for some new micro-fiber towels to wash what I own. more.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Some of My Work Debuted Yesterday

It's a great time to work with Ford, Lincoln and Mercury. This is a time of new distinctive design and high fuel economy vehicles as Ford adjusts to the changing market. That's why it was an exciting day yesterday when three vehicles I worked on debuted at the LA Auto Show, followed by three vehicle reveal websites. Two major launches included the new Ford Fusion + Fusion Hybrid and the Lincoln MKZ. We also developed some content to reveal the new Mercury Milan & Milan Hybrid. All the distraction of the industry aside, these are some solid products with major updates to their interiors, improved fuel economy, and the addition of a couple hybrid sedans.

Since this is some of my work, I'll just let it speak for itself as I really cannot get into much about the strategic decisions without divulging proprietary information, so my apologies. I do think there is some beautiful work but I did learn a few things that I look forward to improving as we look to the Detroit Auto Show in January and what's to come then.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Advocacy Marketing… Begging for Billions

It is an ugly time in the automotive industry. So bad, that even the beloved Toyota is down 23% last month. A lot is changing in the U.S. (and global) economy and it is hitting the Big Three (GM, Ford and Chrysler) and international automakers hard. Unfortunately, like the U.S. consumer, the Big Three are highly leveraged and spending more than they bring in. The financial crisis is hurting U.S. automakers two fold: in higher lending rates as they borrow to keep operations going and secondly in the ability of customers to get credit approval. One of the big issues that is exacerbating the sales decline in automotive is the new lending standards forcing many borderline or less-than-perfect borrowers out of the market. The whole lending industry is in a giant stalemate as banks continue to suffer large write-downs of bad debt when just a year ago they were lending hundreds of thousands of dollars to anyone with a pulse, forget proving you had an income or could rub two nickels together. So, here we are in one of the worst global financial crisises since the Great Depression.

The Big Three are currently pushing the public for a government bailout between $25-$50 billion. This is suppose to buy the automakers sometime while the banks eventually relax their lending standards; thereby, allowing more buyers into the market. Buying time will not quickly turn Hummers into Priuses; instead, this is about giving the industry cash to continue operations in an environment that has stopped lending to firms with bad balance sheets, and yes all three U.S. automakers have some pretty dismal balance sheets.

Without going much more into what the situation is from an economic or political perspective, I want to look at what the Big Three are doing from a marketing perspective. Instead of our usual topic of selling products, GM and Chrysler are doing advocacy marketing through two online efforts: GM Facts and Fiction, Chrysler’s Corporate Blog and Grab Democracy By the Horns.

Chrysler’s Blog

Chrysler has started posting some of their corporate blog content on YouTube and they maintain a blog off of their Chrysler Listens website. The videos advocating support for a government bailout are almost laughable. Autoblog chastised Chysler for “breaking out the handycam” as the videos reek of amateur corporate training video quality. The voiceover and pictures of Washington DC, a flag in a factory, and random ‘action shots’ inside corporate headquarters I’m sure is something the employees of Chrysler were forced to watch. Really, who would watch this unless someone was paying you? (Oh wait, I watched them and no one is paying me right now… hmmm better rerun my MSN Time Valuation Calculator.) Unfortunately, the Chrysler advocacy videos probably won’t budge the political debate in the Big Three’s direction. Then again maybe I’m wrong, maybe Chrysler’s low budget approach just makes you feel sorry for them. Yeah, I’m right. It does nothing.

The new effort is a bit more consumer friendly, Grab Democracy By the Horns. Really? Grab Democracy by the Horns? Are we supposed to wrestle democracy down to the ground with a lasso and tell it to fork over some of those billions? Worst Website Name Award aside, the site is a bit more advocacy friendly than the Chrysler corporate blog. Unfortunately, it must be a work in-progress as several of the links are not working. For example, apparently no one has "Shared Your Story." Supposedly, people are to share their woes of being a private equity fund and the pain of a bad investment in the auto industry.

GM Facts and Fiction

I have to admit I love it when GM creates new websites to stay engaged with consumers and brand advocates, like they have done with their Fastlane Blog, or when they have tried to redefine the energy debate with their GM Next website.

GM is out on the Internet trying to actively define issues and GM Facts and Fiction is no exception. The homepage of the site calls visitors to action with their “Mobilize Now” and “Get the Word Out” action links. The Mobilize Now section actually categorizes a user’s own advocacy by the type of person they are. For instance, if you are a retiree, you get a custom letter to send to your congressperson. Employees, suppliers, dealers, and my personal favorite “Concerned Americans” all have form letters or phone statements prepared by GM to show support for a bailout.

The site also provides several Myth and Fact statements and a Learn More About the Crisis page that links out to several articles, polls, et cetera that show third-party data and information about the auto industry’s current situation and how a bailout would help America, not just GM. It is an interesting approach and one that is significantly better than the corporate video route Chrysler is taking. GM feels it can best educate it’s advocates through knowledge and defense against some of the “myths” it feels are currently clouding the debate. Much like any political discussion, GM is using Facts and Fiction as a tool to improve advocacy by improving the insight of those supporting the bailout or by convincing those on the fence that the bailout is a good thing for all Americans.

Social Media

There is even a social networking angle that popped up on my Facebook profile this evening. Someone from Digitas (GM’s digital agency of record) started a Cause group called “Support the US Economy by Supporting the US Auto Industry”. Most of us who have joined are there for self-interest, I’m sure. It is, however, an interesting way to get the word out across social networks and may even drive some traffic to GM Facts and Fiction, which is prominently featured on the Facebook Cause page.

What About Ford?

So where is Ford in the Big Three advocacy play? They have decided to opt out and focus on future product as evidenced by this recent article in The Detroit News. Ford is trying to play this one under the radar. They definitely want aid and some reports have said they have maybe 7 months of cash to burn through before having the same issue as GM, but Alan Mullaly wants to show that Ford is a healthy company and just wants aid as a matter of fairness if his cross-town rivals get any help, i.e. why should GM and Chrysler get any competitive advantage through lower lending rates or cash availability.

In Closing

Advocacy marketing, when three giants of U.S. industry are seeking billions in government aid, is not an easy thing to sell to a citizenry that is seeing historical foreclosure rates, rising personal bankruptcies, and a very shaky job market in just about every industry. This leaves a lot of Americans with the question: Why GM, Chrysler, and Ford? Why not the company I work for or own? What makes their need for stability and survivability any greater than mine? Unfortunately, that question never gets directly addressed by GM’s or Chrysler’s advocacy websites. Why? Because the reality is a lot of jobs are unstable today and a lot of businesses would love some government aid in a time of dire need. The good news for the Big Three is that the debate is falling more and more in their favor with some recent polls suggesting there is support for a Big Three bailout. Now if only congress and a lame duck President can come to some agreement before GM starts bouncing checks next month…

Thursday, November 6, 2008

When Your "Best Side" Is Under the Hood... You're Ugly

There have been numerous debates about how to properly advertise a car. Some of the most infamous include Infiniti's debut campaign that never showed a vehicle or when Range Rover took a "risk" showing a vehicle caked with mud, at a time when every vehicle was always shown as if it just rolled off the showroom. But I have never seen an advertisement that shows only the engine cover as its beauty shot. Enter the Kia Sorento. While reading the NY Times this evening, I noticed a rather puzzling shot of an engine block cover to the right of the article. Having removed an engine cover or two in my past, I knew what it was. But I doubt most people do, since very few of us open the hood of our cars.

There is no call to action or no message surrounding the engine cover image. Instead, just a price and the vehicle's name. I wonder if many people would even know it was an advertisement for a car? On rollover, a message about the vehicle's horsepower is given. But is this for a car, truck, SUV, or crossover??? I doubt the click through rate on this ad is very high. It is being advertised in an upper funnel spot, outside of an automotive context, with an image that resembles the chest plate of some futuristic robot or some really expensive lawn mower.

When advertising outside of an in-market automotive context, it is best to engage and interest the consumer, but to do so in a way that communicates who you are or gets them interested in what you are saying. A stale image of an engine cover with no engaging copy is the worst thing you can do. Kia has a compelling, low-price 5 passenger SUV in the Sorento that could be much better communicated to a large audience. It's a value product in an financially conscious time, so sell it on it's merits as a good buy without giving anything up (like moving to a small car for example.) Performance is not the Sorento's segment advantage or the care of most 5-passenger SUV consumers: value, versatility, and roominess are. So promote it in a way that interests a larger audience.

Maybe when the Kia Soul gets released will Kia finally show a vehicle from outside its engine bay.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Consonants HGTV and GMC Team Up for Some Nice Content Integration

Reaching your consumers through natural pathing is a goal of all advertisers. If there is one mantra I have come to use in online marketing that’s go to where your customers already are. There are many examples of advertisers, across industries, trying to build their own Facebook, their own Snapfish, or their own YouTube. There are also a lot of ideas out there right now trying to gain inclusion in people’s social networks. While all of this is important to evaluate when developing an online brand experience, one of the better ideas in online media has seemed to lost its cache and that is online content integration. I finally came across a good example from a recent email marketing newsletter sent to me by GMC.

GMC Trade Secrets on AOL Living brings together useful consumer content relevant to the passion points of its potential customers. The execution also brings in some HGTV celebrities: Eric Stromer, Kelly Edwards, and Curtis Stone. The AOL Living section provides some rich DIY content that was developed custom for this site and not just a repurpose of content. My favorite was “Fix Driveway Stains” a nice integration of automotive relevancy and homeowner tip that currently has over 800,000 views.

Some nice touches include the “Get Weekly Updates from the GMC Pros” email hand-raiser. GMC requests some information about vehicles people would be interested in, plus timeframe when they may be in-market, but it also lets the user Skip the form and just sign up for the Pros' email content. GMC is respectful that all of the visitors may not be interested in the vehicles so the Skip button is prominent.

The site also includes an Ask the Pros section under every video. Unfortunately, like a lot of content sites like this the replies to questions asked are non-existent. People left a lot of questions on the site but it seemed only about 1 in every 8 had a response; though, the response was typically from another user of the site, not the Pro.

Overall the site really meets the homeowner, do-it-yourselfer at a level that is worthy of their time. Even with all of the GMC ad banners on top and along the margins, the site features the Pro content without overly pushing GMC in an obnoxious way. Sure there is some quick pre-roll of the Pros driving a GMC vehicle before a video tip is given but at least it uses the Pro in the pre-roll and isn’t a 15 second GMC ad.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Meet the Peckers Beckers

Audi has been known to poke fun at its competitors. The most infamous jab came in 2004 when Audi made fun of the Lexus LS’s self parking technology. The ridicule of Lexus continues in their new web site experience for the new A4 campaign, but Lexus isn’t the only one to take a hit or two. Mercedes and BMW owners are called out for their stereotypes too.

Meet the Beckers is an episodic experience that has more to do with the “what group do you fit into?” marketing communication approach. The luxury market is ripe with tons of stereotypes about the owners of particular brands: snobby, elitist, arrogant, and just plain assholes who think because they have a nice car they own the road, and two parking spaces (sorry Audi, your owners do it too.) With plenty to make fun of, Audi decided to do some comedy webisodes that highlight these stereotypes and, of course, show the sane, cool driver drives an Audi.

So, how does one find Meet the Beckers? Automotive blogs started promoting it first and I have yet to see any media put behind the site. The Audi USA site does not list the site anywhere off its home page or on the A4 vehicle pages or the A4 launch site. It is also non-existent from the current campaign Truth in Engineering I’m guessing a site that is more about exaggeration doesn’t really fit with “truth”, so Audi has let “Meet the Beckers” live on its own, separate from the current A4 and brand campaigns.

Having a site that is outside of the current brand and vehicle campaign, that even Audi acknowledges doesn’t fit in its current communications (evidenced by the difficulty of finding the Meet the Beckers), is something I don’t recommend since it is so disconnected from everything else they are putting out there about their product. So, Meet the Beckers just doesn’t fit with what Audi is doing.

The site does have the expected YouTube Channel. Views are decent, considering there is no media supporting the content. Unfortunately, nothing is really unique about the content or experience with the channel and you wonder why Audi didn’t just avoid the channel cost and post the videos up on the YouTube site without the burden of a channel to manage.

Regarding the site, there are a couple key things missing. Most prominent is a link to the Audi A4 for information about the product the site is promoting. Also, there is no way to share the video content through Facebook or MySpace. The site is expected to get views through viral communications yet Audi only provides links to “digg it”, “”, and “send to a friend.” The send to a friend execution simply opens one’s email software and places the following language in the body of the message:

Every Thanksgiving the Becker family plays football. And every Thanksgiving, things get worse.
Visit the link below to watch the game unfold.

Meet the Beckers. You're invited.

Does the content relate to the target and is the content funny? I felt the content was right on as I personally enjoyed and felt other consumers in this space would find the jabs funny and offensive in a fun way. Well, after doing a non-scientific poll on a well-known BMW enthusiast site, the verdict is in: 80% of the audience I polled enjoyed the first episode and left comments in support of the site; even though, the site really digs in hard against the BMW arrogant, asshole stereotype. Will everyone get it? No. But the enthusiast consumer does and it looks like that was Audi's aim.

All in all, the site does have some merits but the merits are outside of Audi’s current Truth in Engineering campaign and, therefore, will die a slow viral death since it doesn’t really fit within Audi’s major marketing efforts. I’m guessing Meet the Beckers came up in some brainstorming around what do with the new A4 campaign and someone felt it still was worthwhile to pursue even though the direction went elsewhere.

UPDATE 11/04/2008: Audi released episodes 2 & 3 and well let's just say they fell flat. The humor just wasn't as fun the second and third time around. Unfortunately, only the first video was worth watching and overall the concept became more about the ridiculousness of the characters (even the Audi guy became annoying in his normal-ness.) I did also learn that Audi did run some media to the site when episode 2 went live, they had some banners on Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to catch the messaging.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Non-Automotive Video Content from Lexus L/Studio

What makes auto manufacturers think they make great film studios? I think all of this goes back to BMW Films and their well-received series from several years ago. Unfortunately, Lexus has decided to throw their hat in with L/Studio, a new web experience that features several unique webisodes and documentaries that is “an eclectic collection of unique perspectives meant to inspire you… and to help you innovate in your own way.”

Now when I think about innovation I don’t think smarmy, poorly written comedy webisodes staring Lisa Kudrow (of Phoebe from Friends fame.) Nor do I think about brief documentaries about high-heeled shoes, so it isn’t clear what inspires innovation from the content on L/Studio. There is one video called “The Long Run” that covers the conditioning of an ultra marathon runner but this is really more about motivation than it is about innovation. If inspiring innovation was really their cue, the documentaries provided by Acura on the Acura Advance campaign are probably more inline with Lexus’ goal. At least with the Acura site, one gets a glimpse into the lives of truly innovative people who are impacting our world and not just some trite attempt at comedy.

Besides content not really fitting the objectives set by Lexus, whom is this supposed to appeal to? Since this is a luxury brand, it must be trying to appeal to luxury buyers and content like the baby boomer Ray Manzarek from The Doors segments or the high-heel documentary certainly reach an older more established consumer. The high-heel documentary that is currently being run as an online media spot on YouTube with the message of “The Height of Obsession” and a pair of black stiletto heels appeals to any woman I suppose, considering I have yet to meet a woman who isn’t into shoes, but once consumers get to L/Studio do they ever go back?

Repeat visits is something Lexus is expecting since there is a whole registration process one can do where you can add friends from L/Studio’s current user community, recommend videos, or mark some as favorites. This part of the site is the most baffling. Am I really going to have any social network here? Most likely not. I found only one user of the site who made a recommendation of a video after looking at about 20 random profiles using the “Find a user” tool. A social community online is usually an expression of your offline world, you “friend” people you know and with some minor exceptions you reach beyond your real world social networks. The lack of any real networking on L/Studio is really not surprising since the ‘invite a friend’ capability is hard to find on the site and inviting friends to sites is something people rarely do. And if L/Studio is all about attracting a 30-40 something luxury consumers, inviting friends and engaging in a social network on an automotive funded video site with limited content is even more highly unlikely.

So, what should Lexus have done with all of this content? They at least should’ve made the video content more viral by allowing viewers to post the videos within social networking sites instead of assuming people would become part of a L/Studio community and invite all their friends. The video content should’ve also been posted on YouTube to get the content into a place where video is most expected to be on the web. So, extending content into more likely environments instead of driving consumers to a campaign site with an unknown, vague brand like L/Studio seems futile.

I also think the mission of L/Studio to “inspire innovation” is really lost by the content that was developed for the site. The content is just all over the place and really there is no common thread or anything that really inspires one. Most of it is contrived, sitcom-like content that looked like a way to keep writers busy during the 2007-08 writers strike and the documentaries really are not that captivating, and I’m a huge fan of documentary film. So content alignment to the goals of the site really needs to be addressed. Is it entertainment? Is it motivation? Is it for musicians? What is it? It isn’t clear and unfortunately leads to a site with no defined audience, which like most sites with undefined audiences will live a brief life since it will fail to gain a vibrant audience.

<Visit Lexus L Studio>

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Fine Art of Delayed Gratification

At 4pm EST on September 18, Ferrari debuted its full communication on the new Ferrari California. Of course, this online event is probably more for auto enthusiast geeks like myself than the average Ferrari buyer who is too busy trying to find employment now that Lehman Brothers is bankrupt. Good timing Ferrari! Just in time for the global financial crisis, good thing golden parachutes are the norm these days.

Timing aside, Ferrari has been doing one of the more interesting delayed vehicle reveals. It all began several months ago when they launched their Ferrari California web site complete with a countdown clock and, the interesting part, “Hear”. “Hear” simulated the sense of sound by allowing the user to click on various sound environment features thereby letting the ferocious sound of the exhaust note be enjoyed even if you can’t afford one.

Their next debut came with the “See” content. Finally, the official images, some downloadable wallpaper, and a screensaver were made available for PC and Mac. By this point the car’s full look inside and out was clearly communicated unlike some of the annoying delayed reviews from Citroen GT, Ford Mustang, and Porsche Panamera.

The final installment that arrived for the Paris Auto Show reveal is “Feel” and what a rich experience it is. There are 11 videos all done to showcase the car: the premier, backstage, interviews, after party, the typical road cruise full of beauty shots, and what everyone was waiting for the President’s speech… okay just kidding about the last one, but hey someone took the time to film his talk so post it to the web site.

Overlooking the President’s speech, the films are interesting and really build a lot of passion for the car along with bringing everyone up into the debut beyond just filming the typical stage introduction of the car on the media day. The videos are really for brand passionate visitors, which I’m sure there are a lot of when introducing a historic nameplate like a California GT.

What I find most compelling about the Ferrari California website is the way they did a staggered delay to reveal. They also accompanied the reveal with a lot of photos sent out to auto enthusiast sites, prior to the auto show reveal, to generate some early buzz for the car. Vehicle shots were not isolated to showing one photo of a headlight or a shift knob; instead, Ferrari realizes the car is beautiful in its entirety and that showing a couple professional shots of the car would generate more passion for the car than just feeding the public a small corner of the car’s exterior or interior and to keep building suspense by progressively releasing more and more professional shots.

Teasing with minute photos of each part of the car is excruciating. If you want to tease, please do it the Ferrari way and not the Citroen way.

Monday, September 22, 2008

More Annoying than Speed Bumps

Experiential campaigns usually involve a product spokesperson at some wine and cheese event, but Honda decided to skip the spokesmodel and instead dig grooves into highway asphalt. The groves in the payment play the William Tell Overture when motorists drive over the stretch of highway, which is what you expect for a Honda Civic campaign or so someone at Honda thought who conceived this breakthrough idea.

Well the Lancaster, CA residents didn't find the idea very compelling as they convinced the county to pave over the stretch. "One says the road music sounds like a high-pitched drone. Another says it keeps him and his wife up at night." Personally, I can't find these so called 'neighbors' when viewing the video and knowing what I know of Lancaster, CA. It's a desert with not a house in sight in the video. Must be quite an echo out there in the vast wasteland of sand and well more sand. more.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Esquire & Ford Produce First E-ink Magazine Cover

The first digital magazine cover hit the newsstand this week as the Ford moved to promote its new vehicle, the Flex.

Overall, I think the treatment is well done especially from the front cover perspective when you see it against all of the static magazine covers. Though I wonder if other magazines adopt this concept your daily bookstore will start to look like Time Square? Bad thing? Probably not, certainly would make the bookstore window compelling at night.

The connection with Esquire was around the magazine's 75th anniversary with the tag line "The 21st century begins now." Oh well, I guess Esquire is 8 years late but who cares it's advertising and we can define when things start. Right!?

Unfortunately, the impact isn’t as positive for the sponsor of the ad – Ford. The Flex image on the inside of the cover does a three light ‘dance’ that really isn’t as compelling as the billboard text implementation on the front cover. However, the creative is inline with the Flex’s overall dark, techie, electrifying campaign look and feel. So, it is on message.

Overall it is an interesting concept and attempt at buzz. Regarding buzz: Some heard about the upcoming “E-ink” cover and wrongly thought of it as something that could be changed or would resemble some of the E-ink reading tablets out on the market; instead, it was simply a bit of electronic billboard motion.

That said, reception has been positive in media circles and less positive by technocrats. Personally, I think it is similar in fashion to the recent BMW 1-series ad, it is an unique approach to traditional media and plays with what is traditionally a marketing free zone --the front cover -- in a new way that breathes some life into declining interest in magazines.

<video showing the magazine>

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Incentive Driven Pre-Order Effectiveness

Unfortunately for Volkswagen the minivan isn’t growing. In fact, minivan sales have dropped for years and this year along they have fallen 20% (overall auto sales are down 8%.) So after years of co-development with Chrysler/Dodge, the VW Routan is making its debut this fall.

Let’s first understand the cutesy name of this family hauler. Routan is an invented word indicating the bond between VW and America. It is a combination of the words ‘route’ and the ‘-an’ suffix VW uses for other European vans.

The Routan’s initial marketing push is to drive pre-orders by giving a free gift. The enticement is an U-Promise $1,500 college tuition contribution. There is of course a nice fit between a family focused minivan owner and doing something for the kids. Pre-orders are not an easy thing to obtain unless the car is in high demand with limited supply availability, think a desirable sports car like the Nissan GT-R. But do pre-orders with a gift actually drive more sales?

I’m going to break up Routan buyers into two groups: people who are going to buy a Routan any way, I’ll call them “Routan Buyers” and the other group is people considering the vehicle but still undecided, referred to hereafter as “Routan Considerers”.

Routan Buyers have already decided to buy the car and are simply waiting for the car to hit dealer lots. Most will not pre-order since the minivan is not a high demand vehicle and availability should be a non-issue at the dealership. Some may do a pre-order to receive the tuition offer. However, is $1,500 really that much toward the typical cost for college? Not really and even less so for parents with kids that have quite away to go before college making the $1,500 incentive less of the total cost.

Routan Considerers probably won’t be influenced by a tuition incentive. They too may not value an incentive that will take several years to affect a family’s finances. Considerers also won’t be influenced by an incentive that does not lessen the total cost of the vehicle or give them some instant gratification for their choice. But the larger issue is the matter that any minor incentive is unlikely to shift a buyer to make a decision before he or she is ready. Buyers most influenced by discounts and incentives would most likely pull ahead their shopping decision if employee pricing or a low percentage finance deal were offered.

It takes a lot to move an undecided buyer to purchase and few pre-order deals really have the impact to make a considered high-priced purchase more impulsive.

So, the pre-order tuition offer is a futile attempt to drive sales prior to launch. Volkswagen would probably be better off putting less focus on the tuition offer and instead demonstrate to consumers how the Routan is unique from it’s Chrysler and Dodge cousins (all three vehicles are built at the same auto plant in Ontario Canada.)

In my experience and research, the only significant way of generating pre-orders is by restricting supply at or near launch for a highly sought after vehicle. Limited edition models like the Mustang Shelby GT500KR or a VW Golf R32 create excitement for the product. Minivans really don't generate a lot of passionate excitement, unless of course VW actually brought a minivan worthy of consumer excitement like the Microbus concept.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Reflecting on the BMW 1-Series Launch

"The media strategy for the 1 Series is all about short, intense experiences," explains Esme Rottschafer, group account director at The Media Company, adding that Cundari developed the creative for the ad (both Toronto-based). "We knew [this process] would be tough to do, but it was an innovative one-off that fit beautifully with the strategy."

Short, intense experiences. The quote above was taken from the coverage of Canada’s Vibe magazine featuring a hidden 1-series on the cover, provided you turn the lights off. Coverage of this tactic was rampant across BMW message boards,, several non-BMW related blogs, and market publications. What Cundari did was generate a buzz beyond just the car. Technique was the buzz with the Vibe magazine cover.

It was a well-executed traditional media placement that transitioned to some great online buzz. BMW’s campaign wasn’t just about creating buzz online; their strategy was to concentrate half of their media budget on online media. “By comparison, executives at BMW of North America say, Internet ad spending for other models ranges from 1 percent to 15 percent of the total ad budgets,” according to the NY Times.

With a target consumer in the late 20s and early 30s, an interesting online implementation was the 1-series Facebook application that let members design their own 1-series in their “What drives you?” auto graffiti contest. It was an engaging way for friends to share different creative ways to make the 1-series canvas their own. It was more than just the typical Facebook quiz or ‘Become a Fan’ idea. Here BMW lets friends create a personal style and isn’t it always about standing out when one is buying a luxury car? Plus it allowed creativity that was simple for anyone to try.

Where the BMW 1-series went wrong with their product launch wasn’t a media placement or website, it was trying to generate exclusivity by writing “Year One of the 1” around the Start Button. Most consumers and brand advocates felt it was a bit too gimmicky.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mini Shows Green and Fun Can Coexist

Green marketing: “Integrating business practices and products that are friendly to the environment while also meeting the needs of the consumers.”

So instead of being bound by a rigid Carbon Footprint calculation, Mini decided to recreate the formula: “Fun to Drive” Factor + Green Factor = Carfun Footprint Score. Even without a hybrid, Mini is looking to position itself better in today’s fuel-efficient consumer mindset and that is what the Carfun Footprint website is all about.

How do you a make a non-hybrid car perceived as green? By trying to extend their brand’s playful style and performance by emphasizing a lesser-known quality, the Cooper’s competitive fuel-efficient engine (base model gets 37 hwy, 28 city.)

What Mini gets right with their Car Fun Footprint calculator are a couple major things. First, they establish a new frame of reference for the consumer by linking green with fun showing how car buyers don’t have to sacrifice style and performance while being cognizant of fuel efficiency, i.e. you can have your cake and eat it too.

Another attractive quality is Mini’s competitive angle. While I may not own a Mini, I can at least learn how well my current car stacks up and can send the site to my friends seeing how their cars rank. Of course, if you want to improve your score there is an Improve link that let’s you build & price a new Mini Cooper.

The green motoring tips link sends you an email providing fuel efficient driving tips no matter what you drive. Of course Mini reminds you right up front that “the best way to improve your Carfun Footprint is to drive the 37-mile-per-gallon Mini Cooper.”

An improvement could be a Carfun Footprint challenge with friends instead of just sending the link to a friend. The site could forward your car’s score to your friend and challenge your score against theirs seeing who ranks best on Mini’s site.

Overall, the site is a great way to demonstrate the fuel efficiency of Mini’s products. In a market that is concerned with fuel economy but not willing to give up everything for it, Mini has hit a cord with their playful Carfun Footprint site.

Hyundai's Phaeton?

One of the most compelling stories happening right now in automotive marketing and brand development has to be Hyundai Motor’s attempt to change to a luxury brand. As USA Today puts it, Hyundai is trying to become a brand for “thrifty rich people.”

Unfortunately, for Hyundai, performance numbers or amenities don’t sway luxury buyers as much as image, according to Tom Libby of JD Power’s Power Information Network. It’s the attempt of a brand to redefine itself as luxury that really is a major hurdle.

Volkswagen undertook one recent example when Ferdinand Piëch tried to remake VW into a luxury brand by going up market with some of its product decisions. Of course, the VW example is an odd one since VW already has Audi as a luxury brand; that aside, VW looked to stretch its brand image most notably through it’s introduction of the Phaeton vehicle. Like the Hyundai Genesis, the Phaeton was a singular product designed to take VW into luxury territory.

From BusinessWeek:

Perhaps no Volkswagen model more embodies the company’s odd product strategy over the last decade more than the $75,000-$90,000 Phaeton sedan. The car, which VW chairman Ferdinand Piech developed to go up against the Mercedes S Class and BMW 7 Series, has been a flop in Europe and was discontinued in the U.S.

But why was it a flop?

Most of the issues VW had with launch had to do with convincing the automotive press that this was a serious contender to BMW and Mercedes. Hyundai is having a similar up hill climb getting the press to see the Genesis as a contender to Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes. Product strategy contends with the brand shift by throwing all available luxury gadgets, better interior materials, and overall improved fit and finish as the brand moves up market.

Even with all the extra goodies at a competitive price point the Phaeton failed and mainly because the dealer network and prominent VW badge sank the strategy.

Dealers had troubles meeting the needs of a luxury consumer who had higher expectations of customer service than a Jetta owner. Hyundai is sure to suffer a similar issue. Luxury dealerships have become places to enjoy your time at. When I bring my wife’s Lexus in for service I am offered a cappuccino, free WiFi, and sit in a leather seat near a hearth fireplace. Somehow I doubt Hyundai will be upgrading their dealerships to cater to a luxury consumer. Right or not, luxury consumers expect special treatment from their brands, which is all part of why they are willing to spend more.

The badge issue is an interesting one as it pertains to Hyundai. Part of Hyundai’s move up market has included a redesigned grille that has removed the Hyundai logo from only the Genesis and replaced it by a flowing chrome look reminiscent of a Mercedes. There is no doubt that the logo removal is there to remove consumers from their biases of Hyundai. VW’s Phaeton had a prominent VW badge in front and was often noted by journalist as a hampering issue for the vehicle to go up market when parked next to a sea of German luxury cars. Hyundai has recognized the issue and is addressing it in a stealth way; they know their logo isn’t helping any luxury perception of their brand.

So, how about the website? While I keep hearing Green is the new Black, apparently, Hyundai didn’t get the message and went with a very traditional black is luxury web presence.

“It’s beauty through functionality,” says the cliché deep-voiced narrator. The site communicates vehicle features through brief one or two sentence statements. There is no direct language about the car being a luxury vehicle; instead, Hyundai tries to communicate luxury through stylized content areas, comparisons to luxury makes (Mercedes to be exact), water motifs, images are uncluttered, and sound is similar to a lobby at the W Hotel.

The Genesis events section of the site shows some nice extensions to the experiential activities going on to launch the car. There is a tour, videos from the tour with consumers showing their surprise about the vehicle’s luxury elements, and there is a Genesis Discovery Challenge quiz that quizzes one’s knowledge of opulent tastes and vehicle attributes by mixing cultural questions with Hyundai Genesis.

It is an interesting challenge for Hyundai and they may have an edge over the failings of the Phaeton since the Phaeton was in the $70k price point while the Genesis is a more palpable $30-$40k car. But even a thrifty luxury buyer still wants prestige and convincing consumers Hyundai is an image brand is not an easy task. Personally, I feel Hyundai should’ve taken the new grille and started a luxury brand similar to the success of Lexus, Acura and Infiniti. There Hyundai could start fresh and come to market with a couple starter vehicles to build their luxury voice from instead of having to show the Genesis along side a Hyundai Accent.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Leasing is Surprisingly Alive and Well

While Chrysler is exiting the leasing business, some manufacturers are increasing their leasing promotions online. Well at least one manufacturer is increasing their leasing efforts using a pre-roll (commercial shown prior to video content on a website) on Wall Street Journal dot com. Aston Martin is promoting their DB9 Volante convertible model with a "surprisingly affordable lease offer." I tried that line on my wife this evening telling her it is a "surprisingly affordable" car now, but she didn't buy it. So, in an environment of credit consolidation, including today's announcement of HBSC pulling out of the US auto loan market, Aston Martin soldiers on with a $1,699/month lease rate on the DB9 soft top.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What's the Auto Marketing Blog?

So how did you end up here? An interest in cars? An interest in marketing? Either way you're at the right place. This blog will be my attempt to follow trends in the Automotive Marketing space, focusing primarily on the U.S. but I'm sure I'll occasionally cover some International trends as well. I hope the blog is informative, intelligent and provides a good laugh at times and I hope you too find reason to post some responses and thoughts of your own as you read posts here.

I should probably explain who I am. I am currently a Senior Digital Brand Strategist with Wunderman (part of the WPP marketing firms) where I work on digital projects for Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury out of Dearborn, Michigan. I have worked for a few other automotive firms including Chrysler and General Motors where I also participated in a variety of digital marketing efforts. My professional career is now 14 years long, but not all in automotive, in fact I have worked for or with the following firms: Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Microsoft, Honeywell, and several private firms. Educationally, I hold a MBA from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor's degree in English Literature from Hillsdale College.

A brief personal automotive history, I started my love of cars with probably the worst car ever built - a Chevy Vega - I bought for $300 back in the late 1980s. That didn't last long, after weeks of trying to fix the car's brakes, replacing 2 master cylinders and having no luck ever getting it resolved, one rainy evening in Portland, Oregon I made a sharp turn and pressed the brake pedal to the floor and glided ever so gently into a light post. Oh well, life did get better as I later owned a beautiful 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang and currently own a 2007 BMW 335i convertible. After a rough start, I am now driving my 'reality' dream car. My fantasy dream car is a 1961 Ferrari GT 250 California, but then again whose isn't if you have ever watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off?

I am definitely a BMW brand advocate, but I love all kinds of makes and their contribution to automotive history and am definitely a car nut, but I'm also a marketing nut. Combining my two loves is a passion of mine and that's why I think this blog will be a compelling read for many who stop by. Whatever the original reason, I'm sure you'll find what I write compelling from many angles.

Well enough pontificating. It's time for me to get a real post on this blog. Thanks for stopping by and let me know what you think, how I can improve the blog, or if you have any topics to suggest.

Christopher Baccus

PS - While I do work for Wunderman, this blog is a collection of my own thoughts and in no way represents the views or perspectives of Wunderman or any WPP company. I also will not cover any in depth analysis of Ford, Lincoln, or Mercury's work since I am often involved directly or indirectly in strategic efforts for these companies and will not provide any insight to where that work is heading directionally as it would intrude upon my work with our clients.