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training tips while also promoting Nissan vehicles, the Nissan Altima was the lead vehicle for two years but now it’s been replaced by the Nissan LEAF.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.


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?


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.

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


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Honda Goes the Gamer Route Again, But Are They Missing the Mark?

Honda is the online gaming brand of automotive marketing. Their latest effort is part of the Honda CR-Z launch called 3-Mode Mania. The game gets its name from the three different driving modes available on the car: Sport, Normal and Econ. It's an interesting way to showcase the different driving behaviors of the vehicle, unfortunately the game play is so basic one hardly notices any difference when selecting the different modes.

The Tron-like driving path is very simple with thin red lines displaying the track and you drive what looks like a Monopoly piece car; though, there is a choice of colors to personalize the experience. I tried the game a few times and found it a bit dull since it was too simplistic and like I stated earlier the modes really didn't provide much distinction in game play.

I do find it interesting though that Honda went with an online game for a 2-seat hybrid vehicle. The game for the Honda Fit made a bit more sense since the Fit did market to a younger audience, but the CR-Z seems like a third-car for empty-nesters. Unfortunately, it won't attract the former CRX fans as the CR-Z really missed the mark on being a reincarnation of that excellent, sporty 2-seater.

So my bet is the CR-Z is more likely to be bought by an over-50 demographic with a decent amount of disposible income who want a mild hybrid with a bit of a sporty feel. Personally, it was difficult just writing that last sentance because I'm still not sure who will really buy this car since it lacks decent hybrid numbers, missed the CRX reinvented crowd, and only sits 2 people without all the fun of typical topless or fast third car.

I'd also guess the target consumer is not much of a gamer, unless the brand decided to focus on youth; even though, hybrids barely make a dent in the younger age groups. Therefore, the CR-Z buyers are not likely to play the online game 3-Mode Mania. Perhaps Honda should rethink doing a game every time they launch a small car and instead focus on the activities of their likely buyers. Just a thought...


Monday, August 2, 2010

Automotive Facebook Fans by Brand: July 2010

BMW and Audi are definitely proving all it takes to drive significant Fans on Facebook is a healthy marketing budget. Both brands had over 40% gains in July and both crossed the laudable 1 Million-Fan mark. Considering it took BMW years to cross the half-a-million-fan mark back in February 2010, where they celebrated the milestone by launching a YouTube video, it is interesting to see how ad impressions on the social media site can drive significant gains for aspirational, luxury car brands. (Note: the BMW Facebook Fan page was assumed by the brand in November 2009 where it had been managed and originally created by a BMW dealer in Spain. So, the first 1/2 million fans was dominantly, if not entirely, gained organically.)

Some of the smaller volume brands like Mitsubishi, Smart and Scion also experienced over 40% growth leading me to believe both also ran Facebook advertising this past month.

Toyota gained an impressive 38% fans in July. They were actively promoting their latest social media user generated content idea called “Auto-Biography” where the social media team selected a few stories to be “animated with the help of [their] artistic friends”… i.e. ad agency. This is interesting, as Toyota has been running several safety videos in response to their much publicized recalls.

Here we finally see Toyota recovering from the bad public relations and turning to the voice of the customer, which I think is a good move based on where the brand is today. Let the consumer voice showcase their passion for the products. It was a risky bet, except that Toyota approves every story before it is posted on the Facebook tab.

The only odd thing in July was a negative fan dip for the Infiniti brand. It would be interesting to see why this is happening. My guess is that some Infiniti fans are a bit turned off by the social media team’s wall posts promoting the Cirque du Soleil promotion; though, this guess is just that a guess. Looking at the fan page comments on the Cirque posts, several fans do enjoy the association. It still could be due to an increased frequency of the team pushing every marketing promotion on the page's wall. Without knowing the Facebook analytics and insight data, it is difficult for me to assess what is going on, perhaps their Facebook team should look at frequency of posts and also when the fan drop may have occurred since it is pretty rare to see a brand page lose fans in a month.