Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Toyota Reaches Loyal Customers on Facebook

Toyota is gaining significant sales gains even with a lot of negative press about its many recalls. The plan, since last month, is to offer deep discounts that are unheard from Toyota. In fact, for years Toyota has benefited from high resell values because they haven’t had to offer deep new car discounts that do cause residual values to fall and drop prices in the used market which has given Toyota a nice advantage against the Big Three American companies -- Chrysler is still American, right? – that could have long term impacts. This of course all depends on how long Toyota will have to offer big discounts to curb the recall sales fallout.

Right now Toyota is reaching its loyal owners through a rather large media buy on Facebook with a video ad that has ran almost two months solid featuring Ronny, a Toyota technician, who communicates how the brand is responding to consumers going through the recall.

More importantly, Toyota is running several loyalty ads informing owners of “Toyota’s biggest offers ever!” with the ad headline reading “Toyota Loyalty” or “Toyota Loyalty Incentive”. The ads are not about adding Facebook fans. The ads bring users to the Toyota website where there is a landing page communicating the local offers and special incentives available at this “historic” time.

The discounts are helping as Reuters is reporting today that sales are up 35% over last year for Toyota.

Toyota's focus on loyal customers is part of their strategy since new buyers may be a difficult sale in the wake of recalls. As James Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, said March 30, "Our challenge down the road is going to be with conquest buyers," said at a conference cosponsored by the National Automobile Dealers Association and consulting firm IHS Global Insight.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jeep Attracts New Twitter Users for Chance to Win, But Will They Stay?

The first phase of the Jeep “Tweet-To-Win” contest concluded last Friday. Five people were the first to answer trivia questions on Twitter before anyone else and thus won trips to the New York Auto Show. The five winners will now have a chance to search a giant sandpit to locate a Tiki idol that wins the finder a new Jeep Wrangler Islander edition.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, I covered this story before the contest started and now it’s time to see how the contest performed for Jeep on Twitter.

The contest ran from March 15-19. The first person to correctly Tweet the answer along with the hashtag #NYIAS (referencing the New York International Auto Show) was the winner that day. The Jeep Facebook page announced everyday when the trivia question was going to be asked on the @Jeep Twitter account.

I noticed several Jeep Facebook fans commenting how they were disappointed the contest was on Twitter and not Facebook. Some fans decided to join Twitter so they could participate and Jeep’s Twitter followers went from 2,307 on 3/14 to 3,646 on 3/20, resulting in an increase of 1,339 followers during the event.

Quite a few of the new followers are new Twitter users too. Several people joined Twitter just to participate in the contest. One contest winner even updated his Twitter profile after winning and Tweeting 17 times with the words, “I have stopped updating Twitter. Unfortunately I have better things to do. :)” Three of the five winners had never used Twitter before and a fourth had a dormant account that hadn’t been used since last December.

This all raises the question: If the contest generates a decent bump in followers, but ones who are not active in the community and are simply there just for your contest and once the contest is over they leave the social platform, was it really an effective way to build your brand's presence in the community?

Now I understand the contest isn’t just about more Twitter followers. It was also about the brand showing it can do social media and provided a platform to run a contest in a different way to further increase buzz and awareness for the Jeep Wrangler Islander product. The contest definitely facilitated those goals. It was also a way to get the word out about @Jeep being on Twitter since the account has only been around since December 23, 2009.

Jeep is definitely a brand to watch, as they have been very active in social media on Facebook and enthusiast forums for years. It’s also a brand with a passionate group of enthusiasts that can be tapped to engage in a way many other brands wish they had.

Lexus Markets Its Hybrid Longevity

Website Experience:

The Lexus Power of h campaign has been going strong since 2008. I’ve always loved the idea of Lexus owning a letter of the alphabet; it is a great way to define the campaign in a simple, easy to comprehend manner plus it gives the brand a way to show it is an early adopter in the hybrid space, in the same way someone gets an email address like "" or "@Justin" on Twitter. It shows they were there before everyone else.

Lexus’ new ad campaign highlights their first mover advantage by positioning their luxury hybrid products in the total miles and vehicles built while their competitors are just beginning to come to market. With Lincoln, Infiniti and many others to enter the luxury hybrid segment, now is the time for Lexus to show their experience and the TV spots do that very well.

The Power of h campaign also received a newly designed web experience that uses interactive demonstrations that teach more about the hybrid and green technologies found on Lexus vehicles.

The site’s primary content areas are Innovation, Responsibility, and Conversations. The Innovations section talks about the technology benefits to the overall hybrid message. Users can see how different technologies impact fuel economy and better use energy in the vehicle.

Responsibility content communicates the ecological impact of the Lexus vehicles on our ecosystem, providing information about recycling, reducing waste, and even some cradle-to-cradle approaches to design.

The Conversations area houses video content that talks about different ecological actions that have less to do with hybrid cars, but is rather a way to associate the Lexus brand with green thinking. Most of the videos showcase green engineering examples to create a better world. The content is very interesting and demonstrates a true respect for the environmental movement.

As part of the Lexus 250hs launch, Lexus marketed to a group of video developers in a contest to create Viewer Created Ad Messages (VCAM) -- user generated video content developed by the community at Current TV. Typically this kind of content gets relegated to a YouTube channel or stays within the community it was created in, but Lexus brought the user generated videos into the new hybrid site under the aptly named “Conversations” navigational link. It’s a great example of how to extend user generated content into a larger campaign and by using Current TV members they attracted a group who semi-pro to professional videographers, which increased the quality of the content generated.

Overall the new Power of h campaign has some great messaging, an engaging web experience, and showcases user generated content in a way that is perfectly integrated into the work. None of this should come as a surprise as Lexus has set the bar for hybrid marketing.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Competitor Websites Respond to Toyota Recall Woes

Toyota is gearing up for a March rebound with 0% financing and aggressive lease pricing after taking a 9% hit in year-over-year sales last February due to their very public recalls. Meanwhile everyone is trying to capitalize on Toyota's quality troubles. Late night sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live poked fun at Toyota's issues by putting two people in an unattended accelerating Toyota Prius with the fake ad saying "Ford: We make hybrids too."

Comedic marketing spoofs aside, it is interesting to see how Toyota's competitors are responding to the recalls at their manufacturer websites.

The strongest marketing message comes from General Motors. For example, their Chevy homepage features a promotion tile reading "Special information for Toyota owners/lessses" that is in the most prominent position in the promotion banner ribbon on the page (I say most prominent because users tend to click mostly on links to the far the left as American consumers read left to right.)

Ford also features a nod to the Toyota quality issues but in a more tempered way by promoting a quality claim the brand has been using since last year after a major quality report put Ford on par with Toyota and Honda. The message is more about Ford and less about their competitor Toyota. The promo reads "Learn more about why Ford quality can't be beat by Honda or Toyota."

The only other manufacture website I found promoting a strong quality message on their homepage is Hyundai. Hyundai uses an image from their recent Sonata campaign, "Hyundai Quality: Hyundai Held to a Higher Standard." This approach uses no competitor call-outs, but it certainly can be read as a strategic message to appeal to people cross-shopping Hyundai with Toyota.

The home teams in Japan - Honda, Mazda, and Nissan - make no mention of quality or Toyota on their home pages. Seems local support is strong for the time being.

Jeep Summons Tiki Idol to Promote Wrangler
Islander Edition

Twitter is a very active place this month for the automotive industry: Ford kicked off Fiesta Movement 2 (#fiestamovement); Chevy ran a social media road trip contest to South by Southwest (#chevysxsw); Kia held a Twitter Party with mommy bloggers (#kiasorento); and now Jeep is getting into it with their “Jeep-Tweet-To-Win” contest.

Jeep is running a contest from March 15 to March 19 where the first person to answer the correct answer to a daily quiz Jeep-branded question “in the correct format” will win a trip to the New York auto show. The five winners will then have a chance to win a Jeep Wrangler Islander edition.

Jeep will announce each day on its Facebook fan page at 10am EST when the Twitter question will be asked. The five winners will dig in a giant sandbox for a “Golden Tiki” that wins one person the Islander Wrangler.

This connection between Facebook and Twitter accounts will attract some more fans and followers to Jeep’s social media accounts, but like all contests it is not really attracting fans, but contest participants who care only about winning not about possibly buying your brand or products. It’s a great way to build a list or add more counts in social media without really building a true fan base or solid leads.

Let’s hope the Tiki idea doesn’t further lead to bad luck for the Chrysler group. With sagging sales and a lot of promises of profitability without product to back it up; though, that may change soon enough, the Chrysler brands can use all the Tiki idol luck they can get.

However, searching for a Tiki reminds me of an episode of the Brady Bunch where the boys find a Tiki idol that leads to an episode of bad luck situations. While wearing the idol Greg wiped out on his surfboard, Peter gets an unwelcome spider crawling on him at night and Bobby is almost hit in the head by a heavy wall decoration in the hotel room. The ancient curse of the idol can only be reversed if the idol is returned to the Tiki Caves back to its resting place with the ancient island kings.

I’ll play and watch the contest this week to see how Jeep promotes the event. They have a small amount of Jeep followers on Twitter (2,307 as of 3/14 at 9:44am.) Perhaps word will get out that a free car is being given away like when Jason Calacanis tried to give away a free Tesla Model S if his @auto account became the #1 account on Twitter. That netted @auto slightly above 10,000 fans but then sputtered out.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chevy Uses Location-Based Service to Lift Brand Perception

The Chevrolet team is down in Austin, Texas this week for the South by Southwest (SXSW) technology and arts festival. As part of Chevy’s marketing effort, they teamed up with location-based service company Gowalla (a competitor to the better known Foursquare) to create a nicely done driver service for those checking into the Austin Bergstrom Airport.

Basically, when one checks into the airport’s location on the Gowalla application some people are randomly served up a free ride from the airport to downtown Austin in a Chevy vehicle of course.

I really like the online, offline integration here. It definitely provides Chevy with some positive brand lift for the well-connected people attending the SXSW festival. It's a nice way to reach a socially active audience that is sure to Tweet, blog or even talk in person about what a cool thing Chevy and Gowalla did on their trip.

For one blogger’s personal experience with the Chevy Gowalla offer checkout this post from the blog DigitalBeforeDigital.

Crayon's Joseph Jaffe shares his impression of the Gowalla Chevy execution:


Friday, March 12, 2010

Kia Finds a Respectable Balance with Their Twitter Party

Kia threw a Twitter Party for the Mommy Bloggers Club last night. The Kia Sorento is building off their Super Bowl family-oriented TV ad that featured several kid toys including a Yo Gabba Gabba character Muno, a Sock Monkey and couple other random plush toys. It was personally one of my favorite TV ads from the Super Bowl.

The event was fairly well received especially by the women who participated. The “party” was basically a Kia Sorento trivia quiz with several prizes award randomly to those who answered the questions correctly during the allotted time. Questions focused on the Sorento vehicle and knowledge of the popular Super Bowl ad played into the quiz as well.

Participants used the hashtag #kiasorento to participate in the “party.” A hashtag is used in Twitter to conduct a threaded conversation so everyone can filter #kiasorento to see what everyone is saying in their tweets (for more on hashtags on Twitter checkout this article.)

Determining if the Twitter Party with the Mommy Bloggers Club was successful is a bit difficult without knowing the goals established by the marketing team. There were about 40-50 unique people who participated; though, there really isn’t a baseline to understand if this Twitter contest performed well. Engagement was high but that was by design as people were answering quiz questions to win a prize. There were a few comments where people expressed their love for the Sorento ad or the vehicle.

Reach is always an interesting thing. I pulled some random profiles from those who participated and most of the women had decent Twitter followings and even some good engagement metrics when analyzed against the stats provided by the website Klout. The good news is that Kia definitely reached their target by having the Mommy Bloggers Club promote and co-host the event.

Twitter Spam

Many also feel in the Twitter community that this kind of contest turns the people one is following into spammers. So there are some negative side effects too when considering this tactic. I personally feel it is pretty much pointless spam banter for the followers not participating or caring about the “party” going on, but this is the case with many hashtag campaigns.

One campaign recently held by a major automaker caused me to temporarily unfollow several people because it was becoming very annoying seeing twenty of the same messages getting retweeted every 10 minutes. Fortunately, there is a tool called TwitterSnooze to turn this stuff off for people not interested in such Twitter noise.

Brands definitely need to be aware of the impact of such tactics. The good thing about Kia’s approach is it only lasted a couple hours instead of multiple days like other hashtag events.

Kia definitely raised some awareness about their brand and found a fun way to extend their popular Super Bowl commercial to an online, social media adept crowd who definitely seemed impressed with Kia’s effort. Overall, I’d say for a Twitter contest this one was managed effectively and was brief enough to not be a considerable annoyance that can lead to negative brand sentiment.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

BMW Downshifts from Half a Million Fans to Zero

I had a “why? Moment” this evening checking my Facebook Updates inbox. There was a message from BMW USA on February 20th inviting me to join their fan page. A new BMW Fan Page from the brand that just celebrated having over half a million fans is creating a whole new fan page for their U.S. team. Why? Why separate your brand into two distinct branded Facebook experiences?

For those who don’t know, MINI decided last October to create an official home for the global MINI brand from zero after they already had over 160,000 fans on a MINIUSA fan page. Since that time the MINIUSA fan page has lost a few fans in their total fan count and the new official MINI brand fan page has gained over 70,000 fans. It never really made sense why MINI didn’t just assume the 160,000 fans of the USA page and then grow the official MINI global brand fan page to increase the brand’s reach and have one single destination for all fans to congregate around.

Now BMW is following the same strategy of having a distinct USA fan page from their global page, but unlike MINI, BMW had the fans already at a global fan page. Both BMW and MINI are global brands without much variation in product or even messaging and both brands had pretty decent fan numbers to continue to build from.

In my opinion, there are some issues with this approach:

1. Confuses search result destination for potential fans. People who search Facebook for the brand are presented a couple options and most will likely choose the one with the larger fan base or the cleaner name – i.e. MINI, not MINIUSA.

2. The brand has to build two fan bases. The marketing of the fan page now becomes a country of origin issue and the brand now has to decide if marketing campaigns or customer communications will point people to the USA or global fan pages. Why cause this issue every time the brand goes to market their Facebook presence? It doesn’t make any sense especially when the global fan page is made up of a significant US population of fans?

3. Dividing fans reduces the overall fan count for a brand. Reducing fans by splitting them up reduces the effectiveness of the social community’s reach, since fewer fans mean fewer people getting a status update, promotion, images or other news.

4. If a communication is relevant to both groups of fans, the community managers must collaborate on messaging and also post the same content on two different pages, again an inefficiency for the brand.

Seems to me if you are truly a global brand like MINI and BMW are, there is absolutely no reason to create more work by having to market, communicate and develop two distinct communities one for the USA and one for everyone including the USA.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Toyota Modifies Its Way Back to Quality

There’s still a lot of misunderstanding around the Toyota recalls. Some recent news on the “fix” for the unintended acceleration issue, which is the most concerning of the recalls Toyota is suffering through with its product quality, is calling into question whether the “fix” really works. None of this is stopping Toyota from showing confidence that they are fixing cars.

As part of Toyota’s damage control, they have started running a new commercial they're advertising on Facebook featuring Ronny Malone, a Master Diagnostic Technician from one of their dealerships.

The video’s main message shows the company has completed over 1 million “modifications” -- apparently using the word “recall” is too negative. The commercial also shows Ronny talking about how he has a family too who drive Toyotas and that he and people similar to him are working hard to keep Toyotas safe.

Safety and a rapid response to make Toyota owners and considerers feel the problem is being solved is very important to show the company is taking the recalls serious to maintain their primary brand image of quality.

“It took 35 years of intense focus for Toyota to get to the top of the industry in this market and around the world, but in just one week Toyota’s masterfully calculated image and hallowed reputation is now in tatters, decimated by a swirling maelstrom of its own hubris and unbridled greed.,” writes automotive journalist Peter M De Lorenzo in his blog the Auto Extremist.

Fixing the quality problem is a big issue for Toyota as it defines every product it sells. The brand isn't so much defined by performance, luxury, technology, or even green, except for the Prius nameplate. Instead they are defined by quality and now that has slipped away and they need to regain it fast before the brand loses its primary differentiator.

Some current Toyota owners are showing their support for the brand by donning “Loyal Toyota” bumper stickers and posting photos of their Toyota with said sticker on a new Facbook fan page. Toyota has even added the LoyalToyota fan page to their favorite pages on the brand’s Facebook fan page. Perhaps Toyota can move away from the Toyota technician ad and adopt some of its owner enthusiasm in a future brand image campaign once they move beyond the recall situation? Toyota Loyal could become a pride campaign featuring real owners and used to rebuild the brand after a very arduous situation.

For now, talking about the fixes from one of the people on the field is a genuine way to show the brand is taking this serious and moving quickly to get it right. If they are successfully doing this remains to be seen.

VW Banner Brings the Inside Out

Everyone wants to convince you their small vehicle feels big inside. With car companies moving to more B and C class segment platforms to appease the desire for more fuel efficient cars in America, the marketing must find creative ways to illustrate, through images or words, how roomy all these new small cars really are, even if they are not. Americans like big and small products still need to be sold as such.

One interesting example of creatively showing a "huge" interior from a small car comes from BBDO for their client Volkswagen. The ad markets the VW Fox (not available here in the United States) with the car's interior being pulled inside out to reveal the interior in an interesting fun way.

The banner uses a slider that changes the car from the beginning to end frame shown in the image above. You can also play with the banner at BannerBlog here.

It is a clever execution and maybe there is a way to use this technique in a more interesting way to communicate a vehicle's inner beauty as I feel it isn't really that effective at communicating the interior as roomy or "huge" as the ad copy reads. It is playful, but does one really get the idea the car has decent dimensions inside? Not quite.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Folly of Fans and Followers

One very common error I see from those who are not active in social media is the fallacy of followers issue. This happens when someone who doesn’t use Twitter sees a huge number of followers on a person’s profile and assumes that person has more influence than those with significantly less followers.

Take for example, a presentation I was watching online from a recent auto show. They had a panel discussing the future of social media and what it meant to journalism. The host brought up several excellent insights in her presentation, but there was one very critical error. She used an example of an “influencer” - @ronniewilson – who has a large number of Twitter followers, “he [@ronniewilson] is becoming an extremely influential person in his industry with over 83,000 following his health and fitness test.” The speaker than continued about how this person said something about cars and that he was influencing a large audience of followers.

What’s disturbing about the use of Ronnie Wilson is that he is anything but an influencer. I took a look at his profile and ran it against a couple popular social media tools to determine his influence. The two tools I used are Twitalyzer and Klout.

The Proof is in the Stats

Nothing is perfect with either Twitalyzer or Klout. They do scoring that is interesting and does provide some information for comparative purposes, but the really interesting stuff is in the stats sections, especially the data Klout provides.

Ronnie has very little influence, if any at all. He has only 8 unique people who have engaged with him in the past 30 days and only 5 of his messages were interesting enough for 90,000 plus followers to share with others. What we have here is someone who used an auto-follow bot to gain a massive amount of followers to possibly appear influential to marketers or others unfamiliar to Twitter.

Like I said, I’m not so interested in Klout Scores or Twitalyzer influence numbers. They are mildly interesting, but if you dig into some of the statistics and look at how a person’s message is or isn’t being heard, relative to their follower numbers, you can get some idea of true influence. The stats I find most interesting are on Klout: @ mentions, unique @ senders, unique retweeters, and true reach. These stats show you if a person's message is resonating and sparking conversation and sharing in his or her network.

The trouble is finding what is a good number from these stats. I found the best way to determine this is to look at several profiles from people discussing the same things. If a campaign wants to talk to muscle car enthusiasts look at Twitter profiles discussing that. If a campaign wants to talk about home cooking look at several profiles. After looking at 5-10 profiles you'll notice what some better numbers are but don't expect the numbers to be huge. Reach is much smaller than say a follower number.

Beware of Robots

How can I tell this person is using a robot to gain followers? Well I can’t be 100% certain that is the case; though, the low engagement numbers show Ronnie's community doesn’t really care about his Tweets since they lack any reason to share or engage with him. He could be gaining followers through some major media coverage or popularity in a very active social space; however, having watched organic Twitter follower growth versus non-organic (using an auto-follower bot) growth it is very obvious looking at a chart like this from Klout that shows a very high trajectory of consistent growth. To gain 30,000 follower in one month is an obvious giveaway (from 3/15/09 to 4/17/09 he went from 33,375 to 62,248 followers.)

Perhaps using Ronnie Wilson was a mistake by the expert talking about social media’s influence journalism. Unfortunately, it is a mistake that isn’t uncommon nor will it be the last time such an oversight will happen.

Facebook Fans a Poor Indicator

It is very easy to get lazy when it comes to social media data and that’s what happened with a recent AdAge article covering “The Cult of Toyota.” I briefly discussed it in my monthly report on Automotive Facebook Fans: February 2010, but want to raise two points here.

The article mentions how Toyota’s Facebook fans grew 10% since the recall which supposedly shows a respectful amount of support. I looked at four months of growth data for Toyota and found that in those four months Toyota’s fan base grew on average 11%. None of the months included any marketing support either on Facebook (meaning no ads for Fanning Toyota were ran on the Facebook site.)

Another issue also happened in the AdAge article that bothered me. The author brings up Honda as a direct comparison to Toyota, which they are but using fan counts is a highly false indicator of brand strength on the social community website.

Honda has over 300,000 and Toyota only 80,000 fans. So Honda is roughly four times more popular with its fans than Toyota is with its fans, right? Nope. Not even close. Fortunately, the AdAge article doesn’t draw that point but the author does use Honda’s fan count as a reference number, but it’s a massively flawed comparison because Honda grew its fan base with a significant marketing buy late last year when they ran their Everybody Loves a Honda campaign.

The Honda Love campaign had over a full month of paid Become a Fan ads on Facebook, TV commercials with Honda’s Facebook URL, print ads with the URL, and all their email marketing communications included Fan promotion. They grew over 1,300% due to that large marketing dollar commitment (sorry no exact numbers have been disclosed and Honda has been so gall to pretend they did “minimal” marketing.) Without the big marketing spend Honda’s fan base would be very similar to Toyota’s organic (zero marketing) fan numbers.

Just like with Twitter followers we all have to be very careful when pulling Facebook fan numbers to determine trends, comparisons, or understanding a brand’s health.

Unfortunately, unlike Twitter, it is very difficult to determine how much true reach and influence a brand has with its fan base. The page administrators have access to some decent data, but that is not public.

Without behind the scenes Facebook analytics, it is nearly impossible to figure out how effective a brand is with its fans. There are no public tools to analyze a Facebook fan page like there are with Twitter analytical tools thus making it difficult to truly measure the impact a site is having with its fans.

In Conclusion

Using and Facebook and Twitter numbers can definitely be misleading and this is only a surprise to those unfamiliar with the sites and what engagement and influence truly means. The big lesson is that as marketers or journalists we can't be lazy when assessing how popular a person or brand is in the social space by simply looking at fan or follower data. The truth is far more complex than that.

UPDATE May 10, 2010: There is a great article from Harvard Business Review on the topic of "Followers Don't Equal Influence." If you are interested in some more data on this topic I highly recommend the article.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Volvo Wants You to be Naughty

The new Volvo S60 is sexy. You heard me right, a Volvo can be sexy with its smooth, flowing lines. I saw the concept car last year here in Detroit and it was the most interesting, beautifully designed Volvo since the P1800. Fortunately the production version of the concept from the 2009 show has remained pretty much intact to become the 2011 Volvo S60.

Yes it is sexy, but is it really naughty? Volvo’s marketing team thinks so. They had some fun prior to the car’s debut today in Geneva with two video teasers promoting the Volvo S60 reveal website: The two preview videos were a good way to build some buzz about the vehicle’s new website and created a mental shift of thinking of a Volvo as naughty. Naughty definitely sparked some interest since it seemed so far outside of Volvo’s normal brand image of family safety.

Michael Persson, director of global marketing communications for Volvo says “The all-new Volvo S60 is a particularly dynamic car with an exciting design and innovative safety features… We are showing what it can actually do and just how much fun it is to drive.”

The Naughty Volvo Cars website features a couple videos of the S60 aggressively driving in some empty road slaloms. One of the tests is an Elk Test that demonstrates “the S60’s amazing responsiveness in an emergency maneuver.”

After watching the tests the website viewer can submit ideas to make the Elk Test “even naughtier, more playful.” Users are asked to submit ideas with the top five ideas going up for a group vote with the top voted idea to be filmed by the Volvo S60 team.

Ideas are shared on a Discussion board on the Volvo brand Facebook fan page. As of today most of the ideas were not ideas at all, but instead Volvo fans asking for the return of a Volvo S60R as several enthusiasts figured a naughty Volvo implied a fast, Type R Volvo that did not happen today.

The site is pretty straightforward stuff. Navigation is clear and the video content is presented in a clean, easy-to-use format. The use of a Facebook discussion board made for an easier development schedule, but it does seem a bit disconnected since it doesn't warn the user a new window is opening and that the Facebook page is there to submit naughty ideas.

It also still isn’t entirely clear what is so naughty about the S60 after watching the videos and reading the site copy. The message feels very disconnected especially when the site asks, “want it naughty?” It just sees a bit odd for a vehicle that is probably going to sell to wealthy, middle-aged, professional men and women who buy a Volvo to protect their kids.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Automotive Facebook Fans by Brand: February 2010

It’s been a very interesting month on Facebook for the automotive industry. A lot of companies are getting more aggressive with their marketing efforts and showed up with some decent spend promoting their brand fan pages in February, the Super Bowl happened, and Toyota is in a tailspin.

Marketing For Fans

Several brands did “Facebook Fan” campaigns. Fan campaigns are ad unit buys that typically show up on the Home News Feed page of Facebook in the Sponsored section between Suggestions and Events content. The ad units feature a “Become a Fan” button that allows people to easily fan a page without even having to visit it.

Dodge ran the most significant Fan campaign in February. They most have bought a full month of ad units, only the third time I’ve ever seen a brand do such a thing (VW and Honda being the other two.) Dodge ran ads featuring two messages. One featured their Super Bowl video “Man’s Last Stand” and the other linked to the Dodge Fan Page tab talking about their Super Beard Contest.

Mazda also bought several weeks of Fan ad units in conjunction with their Mazda 2 vehicle launch. The ads asked users to “Join the Movement.” The ads did not feature a vehicle image; instead, the unit was a blue-on-blue checkered flag with a small Mazda logo. Very little branding in the units but Mazda had a significant percentage jump in Facebook fans, a whopping 568% growth in February. Could it have been more with a stronger logo or did they gain more with less branding? Tough to say, but Mazda definitely attracted a strong number of fans with their buy.

It’s hard to say whether Dodge or Mazda did better with their marketing buy on Facebook without knowing impressions bought and how targeted the buy was. Percentage wise Mazda did far better than Dodge’s 126% growth, but Dodge had a much higher starting number of fans. Dodge grew by 36,000 fans versus Mazda’s 18,000 fans or two times the growth in numbers over Mazda.

Volkswagen did a little bit of marketing in February too to further promote their PunchDub Super Bowl ad. They only ran Fan ad units for either a day or few days after the Sunday following the game. The ad units also included the Super Bowl commercial they did.

Ram Trucks and Acura both did marketing buys too, but nothing that significant. Acura saw growth of 10,000 fans but that probably didn’t involve much of an ad buy with targeted marketing spend and some fan growth due to organic increases; though, the 185% growth number shows they did accurately reach their fans.

Let’s Talk Toyota

This morning as I was finishing this article an article showed up on AdAge about “The Cult of Toyota” and how since the recall Toyota fans are rallying to the brand with a 10% growth in fans since the recall announcements that started at the end of January.

From the article:

“According to Doug Frisbie, Toyota Motor Sales USA's national social media and marketing integration manager, the automaker has actually grown its Facebook fan base more than 10% since late January, around the time of the marketer's Jan. 21 recall announcement and its Jan. 26 stop-sale date.

“In fact, Mr. Frisbie said the automaker has been somewhat surprised by the large number of customers who have leapt to Toyota's defense in ‘an authentic way.’

“That's a testament to the resilience of the brand, but also to Toyota's ability to quickly pick up one of the most important tools in a crisis-communications handbook: social media.”
First of all, the number is 15% in February, but that’s not my issue with the assessment.

If we look back at Toyota’s growth in fans month-by-month we notice two things. One, they have doubled their percentage growth of fans gained from 7% to 15% from the January to February. So, AdAge is right the brand is attracting more fans since the recall so the recall must be the reason. Maybe not if we look at what else stands out in the data – they grew even more in November 2009 yet there was no recall then nor did they market for fans that month.

I would argue one couldn’t really account any surge in fans due to the recall. This is only four months of data and it is not clear what a typical growth in fans is for the brand. It looks to be somewhere around 11% on average so a 15% gain in one month really isn’t that significant especially when you consider how many other brands not marketing and not going through any major PR issues are also gaining fans in the double-digits.

One of the interesting things about doing this monthly "Facebook Fans by Brands" report is seeing how the spin is done to showcase things that seem unusual to the casual observer, but are really not. What would be interesting with the Toyota situation is to evaluate the brand’s conversations on its Facebook fan page since the recall. Now that might show something unusual or interesting.

A Couple House Cleaning Items

Suzuki decided to move their Facebook automotive content to a new Fan Page for Suzuki Autos that did cause some dip in their numbers since my prior calculations were using a more broad Suzuki Fan page that encompassed all of the brand's vehicles including motorcycles and recreational products.

Finally, I have been tracking Scion's brand page for quite sometime but just learned this month, when the fan page was updated with information about it being an Unofficial Fan Page, that it is not managed by the brand. Also, the page received a new friendly URL So, I have removed Scion from the report since they currently do not have a Fan Page for the brand; though, they do have one now for their Release Series vehicle line.