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Friday, December 24, 2010

Would You Pickup this Hitchhiker in Your Benz?



I love the truly bizarre marketing ideas. One of favorites was last year's An American Werewolf in Yaris. It has been replaced by an even stranger idea - this one from a Berlin street artist and photographer Stefan Gbureck for Mercedes-Benz. It's called "Tramp a Benz", and for those lacking a German to English dictionary "tramp" is basically German for "hitchhiking."

The idea comes from the German advertising agency Jung von Matt. The travels of street artist Gbureck are captured digitally via a blog and Facebook fan page, and what blog doesn't have a Facebook page these days - except my blog.

I wonder how this would translate in America. I'm guessing only hitching rides with Benz drivers would involve a lot of walking and wondering if hitching a ride with a Chrysler when Mercedes owned them would count.

The only time I ever picked up a hitchhiker was in high school at 16 when I saw two older girls (probably 18-20.) I cruised up in my '76 Chevy Vega and they giggled a lot at me, but fortunately didn't kill me and throw my body in a vacant lot which is pretty close to what my mom said would happen if I picked up a hitchhiker again.


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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pontiac Resurrects from the Dead Tries to Sell Me a Buick



Last Monday afternoon I received an unexpected email. Seems Pontiac is back. Well at least the former Pontiac eNewsletter is back and it no longer has a new Pontiac to sell me, but someone at General Motors feels a new Buick Regal is the new GM's answer to Pontiac.

I suppose the Regal is the right answer, since it is trying to position itself as a sports sedan capable of reigniting "Excitement!"

It's an interesting play with Pontiac owners/leasees probably on the hunt for a new car and GM obviously wants to keep Pontiac owners in the family so with the new Regal there is a decent replacement for these customers.

The email also promoted service for Pontiac owners and a new mobile app available for 2011 Buick, GMC, Chevrolet, and Cadillac models. It will be interesting to see how or if the Pontiac eNewsletter will promote other GM vehicles or if it will try to move Pontiac owners to the Buick brand.


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Luxury Site Offers Cheap 2011 VW Jettas



Luxury retail discount site Gilt is selling a few 2011 Volkswagen Jettas for the low, low price of $5,995. That's right, as part of the launch of the new Jetta, VW partnered with the luxury online retailer to help gain some awareness with the stylish Gilt customer base.

If you don't know what Gilt is here is some information from their website: "Gilt Groupe provides invitation-only access to highly coveted products and experiences at insider prices." Basically, the site (and new mobile application) offer discounted clothing, home goods, travel and its first ever car for sale. Brands are high-end labels - think Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue customers on a budget.

The purchase experience is very similar to American Express when they offered a BMW Z4 for $5k in 2004 during their My Life My Card promotion. Like the American Express offer, the VW sale requires some quick clicking since only 1 lucky person a day for 3 days will get the deeply discounted price.

Overall, it's not a bad way to generate some awareness for a new car launch beyond a typical media buy. Plus the Gilt Group's exclusive audience (yes, I've been a member for a few years now) fits the VW Jetta target enough to warrant interest whether the Jetta shopper is looking for himself or one of their kids.


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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

BMW Takes Branding to a Creepy Level



This is either really cool or kind of creepy. I'm in the latter group, but you have to give BMW props for taking cinema advertising to a new and rather interesting space.

The technique used is similar to when one looks straight at the sun and then closes their eyes. Once eyes are closed, an image of the sun is captured as an afterimage. Don't believe it? Try it when the summer comes out in six months or look it up on Wikipedia (remember that site? The one that now sounds like WikiLeaks.)

BMW took the afterimage effect to a new place where they quickly flashed a bright light during an in cinema commercial and then the commercial asks the audience to close its eyes. Those who closed their eyes saw the afterimage of "BMW". It's a pretty cool idea; though, it isn't something that is easily portable as the projection of the logo requires a full installation behind the movie theater's screen. So scale is an issue.

Fortunately, we can all enjoy the concept via YouTube even if YouTube is unable to burn the BMW letters into our eyeballs. Maybe someday...


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Friday, November 26, 2010

GM's We All Fall Down Imagery Doesn't Fit



General Motors gave thanks this holiday week to the millions of taxpayers who helped bail them out last year. The timing of the ad is at least better than Chrysler's failed attempt at thanks in 2009 when they thanked people using a full page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today right after they received the bailout money. At least, GM had the sense to wait for a thank you the week after they went public with their IPO and return to investor financing.

I see two desired outcomes GM wants from this particular ad. One to energize people who like the brand. Second is to get people to see GM has a fighter that didn't just lay-down after it got its money. They want people who have lost faith in GM to know the brand is getting up, not giving up and wants to be seen as a survivor and champion.

The imagery used in the ad is all about not giving up. It shows several historical and socially recognizable clips when it looked over, but the people in the ad did not give up and found the strength to win.

The biggest criticism I can see from the imagery used is that all if it showcases individuals who got back up using their own freewill and not through a helping hand. No one gave the boxer a 5-hour energy drink, shoulder massage and pep talk to rise up from the mat. Sure someone helped Evel Knievel up from his accident but he got back on the bike himself and kept going.

The Henry S. Truman image makes no sense. That was just the Chicago Tribune showing how low their opinion was of Truman. There was no falling down, just miscalculation.

Perhaps Popeye is the most relevant image as he gets his boost from an outside source - spinach. But unlike Wimpy, Popeye probably didn't have to borrow the money today with the promise of paying it back Tuesday. Cynics might think Wimpy was the better image to use..?

It would be interesting to see how they tested this ad. Did GM bring in people upset with the bailout or did they focus test against people open to seeing GM as independent again. My guess is more the latter. Perhaps it has a chance of getting people 'on the fence' to see GM as a fighter and survivor.

Personally, I think they are fighting the good fight. GM has not laid down and they are trying hard to win back public opinion. Unfortunately, this ad falls down in its ability to recycle history as a way to repair GM's image. Fortunately, their new products are giving them a true fighting chance.



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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ford Enters the Sarcastic Electronic Greeting Card Industry



If you are not familiar with someecards.com, checkout the site now. It's a brilliant site that takes a sarcastic stab at the greeting card industry.

Ford has become the first automotive company to sponsor someecards eCards. The Fiesta launch gives Ford a youth oriented product where it can have some fun with its media communications. Two eCards are now available on the someecards.com site that feature automotive messaging along with a "Sponsored by 2011 Ford Fiesta" label. It's a playful way to have some fun with the product and tap into the existing viral success of the someecards website.

The Ford Fiesta sponsored eCards are accompanied by a couple banner advertisements from the Fiesta campaign to help strengthen the alignment with the vehicle's marketing goals to drive consumers to the FordVehicles.com shopping site.
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Monday, November 8, 2010

Toyota Highlander Takes a Shot at Frugality



Jalopnik summed it up pretty well yesterday when they posted an article entitled "The Toyota Highlander Is Breeding Assholes" about the new ad campaign for the Highlander. It's a bit harsh, but it gets to the point and made me wonder if right now is the best time to be promoting obnoxious, stuck up children who look down on others in older cars.

The premise of the ad is that a child does not want their parents picking them up from school in an old station wagon. It's embarrassing when a dad pulls up in a Buick Roadmaster while the Toyota family's child has a shiny new Highlander SUV to brag about.

What Toyota forgets is that a Buick Roadmaster can be very cool. In fact, really cool in a fun car enthusiast way; hence, the headline slam from Jalopnik.


What bothers me most about the ad is its timing.

At time when frugal spending is in vogue, it is a bit counterproductive to insult families who are being sensible driving used, most likely paid off, cars. Though, I'm not surprised a car company is promoting buying a new car. Increasing used car sales or promoting keeping a car that is a decade plus old isn't good for business. Insulting frugal families isn't good marketing either.


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Toyota Wants Your Ideas with a Twist



When I first caught the news of Toyota launching a new site called "Ideas for Good", I thought it was your typical request for consumer ideas much like My Starbucks Idea or Ford's Your Ideas. However, Toyota is taking an unusual, though complicated, twist on the concept.

Toyota wants people to generate ideas from a handful of their technologies. If you are not familiar with Toyota's technologies that's okay as they provide links to details. For example get to know more about T.H.U.M.S.:

T.H.U.M.S. (Total HUman Model for Safety) is an advanced injury-simulation software that measures more than the conventional crash test dummy can.

It's an interesting approach. Here is a technology developed by Toyota now tell us what we should do with it beyond its original automotive application. So far there were no ideas posted on the site, but that probably has more to do with today being the first day of promoting the site.

Toyota is promoting the ideas site using television ads which is also a different route than Ford, Starbucks and BestBuy who kept their idea sites to digital promotional channels, not TV.




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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Automotive Facebook Fans by Brand: October 2010



BMW continues to rack up Facebook fans quickly. They were near 3 million fans at the end of October and a now over 3 million as of early November. What’s interesting isn’t BMW’s continued rapid growth nor is it Audi following close behind; instead, what’s interesting is another German luxury marquee has decided to play the Facebook fan game. Mercedes-Benz grew an astounding 65% in October and surpassed their own first million-fan milestone.

This month Lexus and Toyota both redid their profile images to include additional messaging. Lexus is cross-promoting their Twitter and YouTube accounts while Toyota takes a page from Dunkin Donuts, but with their own twist by featuring a fan’s vehicle. Toyota is also promoting a new shopping application for mobile phones called mLot.

Some brands kept up their brand page marketing as Cadillac continued to run reachblock ad units featuring their new Cadillac CTS Coupe that drove fans to the main Cadillac fan page. Volkswagen also promoted their brand fan page. The VW ad units featured the new Jetta that launched last month. What was interesting is that VW used to promote vehicles and bring people to their vehicle fan pages, not the main VW fan page. Seems they are making a change and focusing on the main fan page, not surprising as most of the action is on brand pages not vehicle pages.


Also interesting is quite a high number of fan pages seeing 20% plus growth in one month. Several of the brands didn’t seem to have ad units running in October yet they experienced some rapid growth typical of buying media.




Download the Excel file: Facebook Auto Fan File (October 2010)


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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chevy Volt Ad Premiers on World Series Tonight



"We're wanderers. Wayfarers. Even nomads. So doesn't it just make sense that we build an electric car that goes far... really far."

Chevrolet is getting ready for the Volt to hit the American road as we near the final months of 2010. This is the first consumer video promoting the production car.

Overall, I personally like it. It's not groundbreaking and maybe it should be, but I think Chevy is trying to normalize electric vehicles and make the concept more friendly, not just for Greens, but for everyone.

There are no MPG claims just some very small type about "25-50 miles of electric driving in moderate conditions." Also, the information about the car being electric isn't shared until the very end of the ad.

Chevy is also introducing a new tag line for the brand: "Chevy Runs Deep". Not sure where this is going but it's a bit confusing at the end of the Volt ad, since the ad is talking about the car running more miles than any other electric car. How that is "deep", or what "deep" even means from a brand positioning statement, is still lost on me. Will be interesting to see how Chevy, which I thought was called Chevrolet, evolves "deep" in coming marketing uses.
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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Will the “First Online Test Drive” Inspire At Least One Real Test Drive?



Mitsubishi thinks you will be interested in driving their new Outlander Sport using your keyboard. To do this, they have rigged a SUV so that one can control it online.

I kept seeing the ads on TV and received some email from Mitsubishi (I signed up for updates months back), but didn’t realize until I went to the Outlander Sport micro-site that the test-drive is being held November 1-10. To participate in the “Live Drive”, there is a sign-up form that has to be sent before November 1 and those who register will receive an access code.


The drive looks like it will be similar to a consumer ride and drive event where several orange cones will be setup in a large, empty parking lot. The new Outlander Sport will then be controlled by a remote control.

“Live Drive”, “Virtual Test Drive”, “Online Test Drive” whatever they are called it is not something new. Every automaker I’m sure has had a brainstorming session around how can they get consumers to experience a test drive using a computer. If you can’t get ‘butts in seats’ you might have some luck getting people interested in a vehicle while they virtually drive with butts is in desk seats.

Toyota did their version of a Virtual Test Drive with their Yaris launch site a couple years ago. Yaris let users control four different camera angles and added some hot spots to get more information while the car drove through one of five user selected cities.

The Yaris drive highlights key local landmarks for those wanting to learn more about the cities the car drives through. Everything is video based so it is far more passive than what Mitsubishi is attempting to do with the Outlander Sport. The interactivity of changing camera angles or clicking hot spots doesn’t feel like a test drive; it feels more like switching camera views on a video game, not playing the video game.

I have a feeling the Outlander Sport “Live Drive” will be more like playing the game than controlling viewing perspectives. It’s an interesting novelty experiment. Will it move much product? Who knows? If it is executed well then it may catch some buzz and thanks to a somewhat healthy TV ad buy from a minor automotive brand it should get a decent initial audience.

I’m looking forward to my online test drive and will send an update to let you know what I think about the execution and since my family is in the market for a new SUV, who knows, maybe I might go from office seat to car seat as Mitsubishi hopes.

More details from USAToday.


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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sponsorship Marketing: Ford's Activation at BlogWorld



I’m at BlogWorld this week. As an avid blogger and someone who has experienced the amazing impact blogging has had on my own professional career and personal relationships, I love what blogging means to social media and in an age where everyone talking social media usually talks Facebook and Twitter we are all reminded, here at BlogWorld, that blogging is a major, major part of social media.

But this is an automotive marketing blog and like any good blogger I better know my audience and you didn’t come here to hear me wax poetically about social media; instead, I’m going to talk about a brand I have an affinity for – Ford.

As a Gold Sponsor, Ford is everywhere. They are one of three Gold Sponsors with the other two being Mandalay Bay and Kodak. Of course Scott Monty (@scottmonty) is here and so are some people from the Ford social media team including Brian McClary (@brianmcclary). The brand is present with large Ford logos throughout the building on several posters that communicate the way to rooms and featured behind speaker panels. The program everyone carries also has a healthy Ford logo on the cover.

Where it gets interesting is with Ford’s experience approach to social media. One of the things Ford does very well is create experiences with their products in a way that gets people talking – and blogging – about their immediate reactions with the brand. To do that at BlogWorld, Ford is hosting test drives with a full range of vehicles. Yes! I finally get to drive the new Mustang GT 5.0.

BlogWorld brings together an audience that loves to publish, by definition everyone here is a self-publisher, and here Ford is tapping into that natural instinct with conference attendees and they don’t need to do it with win a free trip or here is $5,000 for the best uploaded YouTube video; instead, the community responds by participating and then sharing their experience. This is true User Generated Content.

Ford is using a couple tools to promote their test-drives. The hashtag #FordBWE (BWE – stands for Blog World Expo and is being used by the conference as #bwe10.)

The test drives are being done via registration using the social media tool PlanCast and Tungle.Me. Both are simple applications that use existing social media log-ins (Facebook and Twitter) where people can “Count Me In” or sign-up for a specific date and time appointment.

I’ll be there tomorrow at the driving event and hope to share how Ford setup the event Mandalay Bay Casino. So, expect some impressions from me about the new Mustang GT 5.0 if you follow me on Twitter (@cbaccus.)

UPDATE:
Unfortunately I attempted to drive a Mustang GT 5.0 but failed. When I went down for my allotted time someone took another half hour in the car and I was tired of waiting so I decided to come back the next morning, but didn't get a chance then as the morning ended up being fairly busy.

Ford did one other thing I noticed Saturday morning. They decided to use a Promoted Tweet in the #bwe10 Twitter search thread. What this does is anyone following the hashtag #bwe10 (BlogWorld 2010, in case you didn't get the meaning) will see the Promoted Tweet on the top of all Twitter searches for that hashtag. I personally liked this approach since conference attendees are the ones most likely following the hashtag and it gave Ford an easy way to remind event goers that they were holding test drives at BlogWorld.

Full disclosure: I used to work for Ford at their Agency of Record Team Detroit doing Digital Marketing Strategy, but left there three months ago. I was not involved with this event or any of its planning before I left.


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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Honda Attempts to Add Some Swagger to Their Wagon



If the Toyota Sienna is the "Swagger Wagon", does this latest commercial for the Honda Odyssey make the Honda minivan the "Hair Band Wagon"? And what appeal would a hair band wagon have besides being capable of hauling around a couple kids and a pair of Marshall amplifiers?

Sorry Honda but this one tries to come across as absurd fun, similar to the Toyota Sienna campaign but it unfortunately misses the mark. It just falls flat. It comes across as if the ideation team looked at what their main competitor was doing and decided hey we really need some music in our ad and should make the minivan cool again. Answer: Black cat, Marshall amps, and fireworks. Hmmmm.... maybe the ad needs more spandex and a drum solo?


How it's done.



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Monday, October 11, 2010

Automotive Facebook Fans by Brand: September 2010



Let’s get the big news out of the way. BMW surpassed the 2 Million fan number September 28th. On July 5th they hit 1 Million fans, so in a mere 3 months they gained over 1.1 Million fans. BMW has been on a fan rampage and finished the month promoting their secret reveal (I’m guessing it’s the new BMW 6-series.)

Hyundai saw a massive increase in fans as they nearly doubled their fans in September from 41,653 to 82,773 fans. This was done in part by some reachblock ad units I did see Hyundai run on the Facebook site. Others doing reachblock ads where Cadillac and Toyota continued to promote their safety and user story ads throughout the month of September.


Honda worked on promoting their Honda CR-Z Hybrid, but the ad units drove consumers to the CR-Z vehicle page. Honda saw a typical 10% gain on the brand page. Unfortunately, I think they missed an opportunity to drive more fan traffic to their primary brand page. It’s interesting to note that at the end of September Honda’s luxury family member Acura decided to abandon their vehicle fan pages. It will be interesting to see if Honda makes a similar move with their product fan pages or if other brands will follow Acura’s lead here, especially as brands probably look to 2011 and 2012 as ways to increase social media efficiency as social destination effectiveness comes clear with years worth of supporting data.

MINI finished their major Facebook campaign where they gave away a MINI Countryman from their Facebook fan page. Fred Manuel Roldan Rivero from Lisbon, Portugal won the MINI Countryman and the brand shared the giveaway PR event with their fans. Overall it was a nice promotion for the Facebook fans but MINI didn’t really see any major bump in fans which I find interesting because this contest may have more to do with energizing its fans than say growing the fan base. I don’t have any of the ad units promoting the event, if there were any, but MINI only saw a mediocre 11% increase in fans in September and XXX% in August. It’s tough to judge the contest as I don’t know what MINI was trying to drive. I assume handraisers and contest entries but Facebook fan growth didn’t seem to be a goal or a goal that wasn’t met.

In another notable move, Scion experienced a 34% jump that probably was due to the launch of Scion in Canada. Previously, Scion was only available in the United States. Scion launched the brand in Canada last month and one can assume the launch helped some fan growth from those to our north.


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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Acura Shuts Down their Vehicle Facebook Fan Pages



I have never been a big fan of automakers starting vehicle fan pages. There are exceptions to my thinking, for example halo cars like the Mustang or Corvette or when one vehicle is more compelling than your brand alone - like the Subaru WRX.

My thinking is you are lucky to get a person to fan any of your fan pages, so why not drive people to your brand fan page where you can talk about the car/truck/suv they are interested in, but also market some of your other products and brand messages. It's a great opportunity to showcase your product portfolio.

Acura has decided this is the way to go. They started with a strategy of having the Acura brand fan page, but also have a tab called "Vehicle Lineup" where fans could click and go to each vehicle fan page. Now Acura fans click the vehicles in the tab and are taken to the Acura.com website vehicle page and isn't this all about driving consumers to your optimized shopping site? Okay, it's not all about that, but you should be working to get fans to your .com site.

The other reason to not have unique vehicle fan pages, especially for brands like Acura that are more defined by the brand than one vehicle, is the extra resources to manage the vehicle pages and also you start segmenting your fans so your advertising becomes a discussion around whether to drive Acura fans or vehicle page fans. Why not simplify?

On an interesting note, Acura did not get the fans moved from the vehicle pages to the brand page. I'm guessing a lot of brands will not change their strategy because they cannot simply transfer fans from one product to a brand page. This is the old issue with sunken costs and how some tend to hold on to bad investments simply because they spent a bunch of money already.

It will be interesting to see if other automakers (and other industries) will catch on and focus on building their brand, not individual product pages.



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Friday, September 24, 2010

The Kitten Meme's Influence on Automotive Marketing



The Dodge Caravan "Kittens" commercial is strange. What else can you say about it? It's an odd jump to the concluding line of copy: "It has everything. So you can do anything."

After watching the Dodge ad I had to wonder if they were inspired by another recent, fairly viral kitten ad. A year ago Toyota Australia did a commercial with their Ninja Kittens that is far more entertaining with a better soundtrack, energy and storyline.


All of this makes me wonder if kitten memes, laser cats, and general fascination lately with being a 'cat person' is showing it's impact on automotive advertising. Should we expect more? Will it always be human- kittens or will this develop into something more emotional and gentle like Ikea's brilliant ad that recently featured cats getting comfortable in a store after closing? (ps - don't forget to checkout the Ikea behind the scenes video.)






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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Automotive Facebook Fans by Brand: August 2010



It was bound to happen and September was finally that month where I didn’t have an opportunity to get the monthly Facebook Fans report up on the blog in the first couple days after capturing the numbers. Fortunately, I did record all the fan counts on September 3, but with the Labor Day weekend and a week of social media fun on the new job (more here at TechCrunch.) I didn’t get a chance until now to finally analyze this month’s data.

First, let’s talk about the brand I used to do digital strategy for: Lincoln. Lincoln’s growth in August definitely received a major jolt as it increased fans from 4,533 to 13,161 leading to a 190% increase. Most of this can be attributed to a contest Lincoln was running in July and August where the brand showcased a chance to be the first to test-drive the all new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. Lincoln created a special tab for the MKZ and also accompanied the promotion with some email marketing and advertising on Facebook. Of course, the jump is significant, because Lincoln’s fan base is a small number so adding almost 9,000 fans will cause a big boost percentage wise.



Another brand with a rather small fan count, but also a generous gain in fans was Mitsubishi. They saw a 44% gain in fans as they added nearly 13,000 fans in the month. They had several sweepstakes where fans could win a Flip SlideHD Camcorder, $500 gas card, Nikon Digital SLR camera, and ultimately a trip to Japan. Giveaways are certainly an effective way to gain “Likes” as we see in several reports about why people “Like” a brand on Facebook with the number one reason being discounts, support for company number two, and number 3 to get a freebie (full study from ExactTarget.)


Finally, in the giveaway to get Fans Facebook strategy, Mini also participated with their Win a Countryman contest. They saw a strong 36% increase in fans. Product launches naturally tend to increase fan counts beyond the normal 3-6% organic growth, but by adding a giveaway Mini boosted their growth significantly.

Toyota continues to do a lot of marketing on Facebook. They continued throughout August with ads throughout the Facebook site where they mostly promoted their Auto-Biography contest where participants submit videos about their personal experience with Toyota. Toyota is letting the message come from customers, a very smart message after a year I’m sure the company can’t wait to be over.

The other big news for August is BMW is rapidly gaining fans to cross the 2 million fan mark. They just crossed 1 million fans back in July. Yet, they continue to still spend time on the BMW USA fan page. Segmenting fans by creating unique fan pages has never been a good approach in my book, especially considering you can segment your messages to your fan base by using Facebook’s features to send a message only to people in a particular geographic location. That issue aside, they are dominating in the automotive Facebook fan grab.




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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Have We All "Like" Lost Our Minds




I was clicking through a Lexus ad for their new IS "Wield Precision" campaign when I noticed on the landing page at Lexus.com that I could "Like" the page. The hero image area of the page showcasing the car driving down a road had 167 'Likes' already. 'Like' of course is Facebook nomenclature for 'engaging' in an activity demonstrating one enjoys a piece of content. What started as a way to like someone's Facebook status update or like a photo posted has turned into 'Like' anything fever.

I just wonder what's the real point? Have we lost our minds as marketers thinking if someone clicks a 'Like' button that there is somehow more value to that view than just a page visit? Or have we as consumers lost our minds thinking someone cares we visited a web page and now we must show our satisfaction?

Even if someone does 'Like' the Lexus IS page it barely registers it on Facebook where the brand gets a small one line message that I did something. What I liked isn't even very clear (see image at right.) To clarify, I'm not picking on Lexus. I'm just using this latest example from the Lexus IS marketing team.

In the end, it really doesn't matter because Lexus did get a few more people to share an experience with only the cost of having a developer add a Facebook Like button.

Now please 'Like' this blog post... :)


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Monday, September 6, 2010

Tweet Buick Social Media Trio for a Test Drive



Buick is interested in appealing to a more youthful customer and they are making strides with the Enclave, LaCrosse, and now the new Regal. As part of their outreach, Buick has hired three social media "Ambassadors" (their word) where one can tweet the @DriveBuickChi trio and "the test drive comes to you", provided one lives in Chicago (that's what "Chi" stands for in case you were wondering...)

It's an interesting concept and surely takes some of the hassle out of car shopping for those who are serious potential buyers. I wonder though how many tweets will be people testing how this concept works with no intent of really buying.

They are tweeting pictures of test drivers like @BrianGainor (Brian Gainor) @LauraGainor (Laura Gainor) who tried out the LaCrosse last week. Laura is a social media strategist for a marketing+pr agency and blogged about her experience.

Buick is spreading the word by posting a photo gallery on its Facebook page. I'm not sure if other efforts are happening to get the idea some reach. They have also created a Facebook event from August 1 to October 31 for those who want to attend a drive. To further increase interest, test drivers can win VIP tickets to an event if they are lucky to find some tickets under the test drive car's seat.

I do like the idea of Tweet to test drive. It's an interesting idea and one that could work very well for a dealership. One wonders why this concept wasn't extended to a dealer instead of going with three social media experts. I get the obvious reason, but why not train a dealer and test-pilot how effective this can be and then broaden its reach to other markets.


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DC Shoes Gymkhana has Its Matrix Revolutions Sequel



I have enjoyed the Gymkhana series from DC Shoes featuring its co-owner Ken Block. In fact, in my best of 2009 Gymkhana 2 made the list. Unfortunately, Gymkhana 3 - the first to feature the new Ford Fiesta - is a sad sequel. There are no amazing moments, the car is a sad prop, the Ford logo gets its moment across a couple pairs of silicone mounds and there's enough black lighting to satisfy any college stoner's decorating needs.

Now to be fair this is Part I: The Music Video Infomercial alluding to the hope something great may come in a future part of Gymkhana 3, but starting out this way is no way to build interest for future episodes.

Gymkhana 1 was amazing. Gymkhana 2 kept it interesting and had a few great moments. This however is just sad. This is Gymkhana's Matrix Revolutions.

Nothing is really wrong with the rap by Cool Kids and the video is well shot, but it lacks any of the appeal or the fascination from the other Gymkhana videos and the Fiesta doing the electric slide in a few frames doesn't help.

One YouTube reviewer sums it quite well, "less rapping, more driving."

Perhaps all of this is to make the shoes and clothing more the star than the car, since this is an ad for DC not Ford and, if that is the case, the production team has done its job. They've turned the cool automotive lust of Gymkhana into a clothing commercial.


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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Facebook and the Death of Micro-Site



There is a move in digital marketing to replace the micro-site with a Facebook fan page. The latest casualty is the Nissan Master the Shift lifestyle marketing campaign.

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know this campaign since I previously covered it. It has been around for over 2 years. Nissan has done a great job with the email marketing efforts for the campaign where they are constantly giving away free sports related equipment to contest entrants. Regular email communications are sent as new content is added and contest prizes are released.

Basically, the program is a lifestyle marketing effort linking the passions of running, cycling, and yoga featuring three key personalities: Lance Armstrong, Ryan Hall, and Tara Stiles. The experience includes several videos showcasing different exercise and training tips while also promoting Nissan vehicles, the Nissan Altima was the lead vehicle for two years but now it’s been replaced by the Nissan LEAF.

This year Nissan shifted (pun intended) their micro-site to Facebook where all of the prior website’s content went into various Facebook tabs. This worked pretty well for the athlete content as each person has their own tab and video views seem decent; though, it’s tough to truly gauge as I’m not sure how much advertising was done to drive people to the Facebook page. Also, is some video views were probably done through YouTube and Google search, not all entirely through the Facebook experience.


One wonders though if the move to a Facebook fan page is a better, more effective, decision than keeping the micro-site.

The most significant issue I can see from the Nissan Master the Shift change is how buried the vehicle content is now. One can only get to the vehicle information using the Favorite Pages section of the Facebook fan page. The vehicle content really gets lost in the new experience, but this may be a result of the campaign’s goals having to do more with contest entries (the entry form is the first thing that shows up when one clicks an ad) and driving people to the unique content created for each of the athletes tend to be more primary objectives.

Another concern with moving to Facebook is that the user now has several interruptions that never existed with a micro-site. For instance, if a friend on Facebook initiates a chat, Nissan could lose that person’s attention. Also, any status update or new message information while on Facebook could further distract the visitor. There is of course just the fact that one is on Facebook and may simply and easily return to their Facebook news feed. The usability, call-to-action person in me questions how so many other clicks can interrupt the experience and thus lose the person Nissan is trying to reach.


The whole change from micro-site to Facebook fan page is an experiment. I would love to see how well the change is for Nissan, but without any primary data analytics it’s difficult to assess the strategic decision, but it’s an easy realization for the Nissan team as they can see if their content is getting a higher engagement rate by moving to Facebook.

Nissan is also launching an 18 stop event marketing campaign, as detailed here (though the story incorrectly says the Master the Shift campaign "began in April.") Getting out to events is a great way to reach this target consumer. It also provides another way, besides banner ads, to get the word about Nissan's working with these athletes and an additional way to promote their Facebook fan page.


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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Volvo Asks to be Part of Your Social Connections



Volvo sent out a "Stay in the Loop" email that solely communicated connecting with the company on Facebook and Twitter. It's the first time I've seen any automaker send out an email communication out to their mailing list that only promotes the brand's social presence. Most emails are putting some sort of link to a Facebook page or Twitter account, but that is usually relegated to the end of a quarterly email communication.

There's nothing really significant here from Volvo, but it is interesting to see the brand solely promote its social links with zero promotion of a vehicle. What's nice is the call-to-action is straight forward, but do customers or potential customers really want your company sending them emails about liking them on Facebook?


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Monday, August 16, 2010

Audi Petitions U.S. Facebook Users to Bring TT RS Here



European sports cars that typically stay in Europe are often begged to be brought over by automotive journalists and die-hard enthusiasts. Audi is taking a different path, possibly to prove how much begging there really is for a their only available in Europe TT RS sports car, by asking social media participants on Facebook and Twitter if they are interested in signing a 'petition' to bring the TT RS to the United States. Supposedly, Audi will do it if there is enough interest.

As someone intimately familiar with product planning, the whole idea of asking random people in social media to show interest in your car is a bit ridiculous. Sure it creates some nice social media engagement numbers like app installs on Facebook, tweets on Twitter and comments on your brand fan page but is the effort truly reaching real customers of the TT RS. Product planning isn't about social popularity, but rather marketability and profitability of a product against the competition in its segment, at least that's a good portion of the decision. Asking random people if they want X product is not.

Regardless of how sincere Audi is about their 'petition', the effort now includes some advertising on Facebook and an application where one can share their seriousness for buying one and provided the images load -- they did not for me after many attempts -- one can share pictures of the TT RS.

Audi is definitely finding a new way to turn the begging done by enthusiasts into a social conversation and that at least is an interesting concept. Now we'll just have to see if 122 application Likes on Facebook is enough to influence product planning.
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dodge Wants Some Viral Appraisal




Dodge is extending their "Freedom" TV spot with a new online video that has an elderly woman stopping by antique stores to get an appraisal for a photo of George Washington and a few colonial soldiers posing next to a Dodge Challenger.

I do enjoy the attempt to extend the campaign online with a video that pokes fun at the absurdity of the commercial's concept and it does show Dodge has a sense of humor about the idea (how could they not?) However, I wonder if the video is funny enough to get any significant views.

It's charming for a second, but I'm not a die-hard Dodge or Challenger fan so I'm not really the target audience for the video. It had only 100 views when it showed up in my recent Channel updates screen on YouTube; though, the video has only been live since late yesterday.

Personally, I'm loving this Dodge ad more: Dodge Tent Event


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