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.