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Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Meaningless, marketer, motivation, movement…

by on Sep.21, 2009

Please buy and try our cars, please! Pretty please!

GM's new non-charismatic advertising pitchman.

GM's new non-charismatic advertising pitchman.

Business recessions are first cousins to death and taxes – they come with regularity but are not predictable. Many years ago in a business downturn, some unknown, but clever retailer, a men’s shoe store proprietor, originated 30-day wear tests.

The message was delivered in print or broadcast by the nice, aging white guy who owned the store who personally guaranteed your satisfaction when he confidently said, “Wear these Florsheim’s (or other brand name) shoes for 30 days. If you don’t like them, just return them for a full refund. If you’re not happy, I’m not happy.”

Such a deal!

The odd thing was it always worked; always brought in business at a slow time and the potential liability was almost negative. Less than three or four percent of the wing tips or whatever was sold were returned to the store. It was as good as money in the bank for a shoe retailer.

Fast forward to 2009 and yet another big time business recession, some say a depression, no one is left untouched, but the automobile business takes a serious gut shot. What can be done to bring in business?

Hmmm. How about a satisfaction guarantee? Drive the client’s cars for a while; if not satisfied, just bring it back to the dealer. Sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it. Only this time the industry has switched from shoes to cars. Same concept. Same guarantee. Hmmm.

Less than a couple months out of bankruptcy court, GM, the once arrogant Gargantuan Motors, but now justifiably called Groveling Motors is making that pitch as the lead-in to a new campaign called “May the Best Car Win!” using the satisfaction guaranteed crutch.

If you haven’t seen the commercial, we won’t waste your time with a click through. The marketing and creative types have put the new CEO of GM in front of the cameras as the spokesperson, literally saying in his soft Texan twang, “Have we got a deal for you. Drive our cars (the names you know) for 60 days and if you don’t like it, bring it back and we’ll return your money for a full refund!”

Automotive hype is not automotive hope, as in we hope the new campaign is gonna work based on a satisfaction guarantee. Moreover, why use this guy anyway? He may have been a good CEO for a telephone company, but as a spokesperson, he’s lacking the “carisma” gene. Why should we put confidence in him?

The payoff line really got to me, “We’re putting our money down that if people buy one of our vehicles and don’t absolutely love it, we’ll take it back.” First of all, it’s not GM’s money for them to say, “We’re putting our money down …” just a damn minute, it’s not their money. As taxpayers, it’s our money! We bailed ‘em out, remember? In addition, don’t forget they’re supposed to pay it back, although chances of that are slim – see Ken Zino’s analysis here.

Even the Lutzonian proclamation announcing the new ad effort in a media release lacked the bold, bodacious, sometimes belligerent tone of halcyon days that we have come to expect. “We think if consumers give us a fair chance and look at the facts on the things that matter most to them, like design, fuel economy, warranty and safety, our vehicles are the best choices — that’s what makes an offer like this possible.”

Beyond the profligate squandering of loaned financial assets, there are other product/brand marketing issues! Consider if you will such important topics as product positioning and product differentiation, product personality, product appeal, product presentation and product believability.

As the lead commercial in campaign designed to instill confidence in the “revitalized GM” it is obvious there is a severe lack of knowledge, much less awareness of the demands of consumers in the new automotive marketplace.

No Taxpayer Moolah!

No Taxpayer Moolah!

Do I have the answers? No. Nevertheless, there must be someone on the agency or corporate side who can be more convincing than just an empty promise of satisfaction. They still do not get it, do they? Gee, 60 days that’s double the old shoe promise.

Hyundai’s Joel Ewanick Named Grand Marketer of the Year

Advertising is a self-congratulatory business for the creative’s who are judged by their creative peers. Marketers stand alone, which is why Brandweek magazine’s 2009 Grand Marketer of the Year is one of the most prestigious in the industry.

In honoring Hyundai’s vice president of marketing, Joel Ewanick, the citation noted, “Marketers of the year consistently make new rules and then break them, reinventing the best way to connect with consumers and make a product resonate.”

Ewanick has been the force behind the of brand’s innovative aggressive Assurance program, the fixed price $1.49 per gallon program and the acceleration of dealer payments on C4C. Those of us in the automobile industry are well aware of Hyundai’s unique programs and marketing assaults that have increased market share and share of mind. (See previous item on need for innovation at Grumpy Motors)

This is the 18th year that Brandweek has honored top marketers with the “Marketer of the Year” award and they are selected by a panel of the magazine editors with the winners based on their own research and broad perspective across all industries. All candidates are scored by merit and marketplace efforts that not only speak for themselves in terms of brand performance and sales, but also can be traced back to individuals. To see interviews of those who were nominated click here.

Shell’s Fuel My Passion Contest has Social Networking Applications

American’s love of the automobile has been under siege recently, but Shell has launched a new online contest in which consumers post car stories about their passion for their rides and enter to win many prizes including the grand prize of free Shell V-Power® premium gasoline for a year.

That’s a nice goal from a company with more than just a small interest in rekindling automotive interest.

Pretty straight forward, right? Well, yes and no.

There’s a paragraph of fine print, “To enter, participants can submit their stories online at www.shell.us/fuelmypassion. Shell contestants will be required to submit a creative photo, with the contestant giving the “V” sign (symbolizing Shell V-Power) along with their ride (e.g., car, motorcycle, boat, RV, etc.), and a story up to 100 words on: “How Shell V-Power fuels their passion for their ride.” The story portion of the entry can include poems, songs, “love stories” or anything else that expresses a unique or special bond between the contestant and their ride as well as how Shell V-Power® helps fuel that passion,” which seems overzealous and way too rigid to me. Certainly, there are passionate car owners, who are fervent contest entrants, making it easier would probably add many more respondents.

Judging is done by the folks at Shell too. Ok, it is their contest, but it could have been much better.

I really liked the idea of the contest, but was obviously bothered by the exacting rules because this could have the basis of a true automotive love contest — a Face Book meets You Tube version with Twitter voting – with consumers deciding the outcome.

It could be a new medium in automotive marketing and advertising, which is very rare.

Eleven Auto Brands in New Ranking of the 100 Best

Branding is the new buzzword, once again, and the goal for every brand from automobiles to zippers. Here’s the latest list from the annual Business Week/Interbrand, a brand consultancy. Given the state of the world economy, most brands showed a loss, with auto brands among the worst. The auto brands included were:

Rank

Brand

Brand Value

$ Millions

%

Change

8 Toyota 31,330 -8%
12 Mercedes-Benz 23,867 -7%
15 BMW 21,671 -7%
49 Ford 7,005 -11%
55 Volkswagen 6,484 -8%
65 Audi 5,010 -7%
69 Hyundai 4,604 -5%
74 Porsche 4,234 -8%
88 Ferrari 3,527 -0
96 Lexus 3,158 -12%

Source: Business Week/Interbrand

For full content including methodology, click here for Business Week, and  here for Interbrand.

Audi Continues Commercial Creativity

Take a look at this for a very strong Audi commercial in which the brand name is not used! A real winner whose ads this year have shown arresting consistency.

Remembering the past

And, if you are of a certain age, by clicking here, it will bring back a few memories of an easier, less stressful time.

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3 Responses to “Marty’s Marketing Minutia”

  1. Ken Zino says:

    The conservative National Taxpayers Union, an opponent of the original auto bailouts and — as a proponent of the “Let GM Fail” school of thought —criticized the new GM money- back plan last week.

    Such an offer is unusual in the automobile business where the value of a vehicle drops dramatically once it leaves the dealer’s lot.

    The negative comments followed the roll out of the new advertising campaign featuring GM’s new chairman Ed Whitacre, strolling through the GM Design Center in Warren, Michigan, and drawling in an English-like dialect

    “Normally a strategy like this would be a bold move to compete in the marketplace, one that consumers and shareholders ultimately decide to reward or punish. Unfortunately, with this 60% government-owned company, taxpayers don’t have the option of ‘pulling out’ of GM and putting their investments elsewhere; unless, of course, they’d like to be prosecuted by the IRS and spend a few years in jail,” NTU, incoherently, noted.

    Of course, under NTU’s illogical way of thinking, if GM fails, then taxpayers lose their investment and their taxes will have to increase to cover the debt.

    To fairly access the revenue of the program, the number of vehicles bought above the current baseline would have to be compared with the number of vehicles returned and what their actual subsequent disposition cost was.

    Only then could you assess the success and cost of the program.

    If it moves more metal than GM is currently selling and the revenue is positive, then taxpayers should favor the plan.

  2. RT says:

    So Ed is missing the “carisma” gene? You’re evidently missing the “spelling” gene, or maybe even the “spellchecker” gene. Charisma is spelled with an h after the c. I knew what you meant. I’m used to deciphering all the anti-GM, anti-union slop on the internet, and yours is no exception.

    • Ken Zino says:

      RT: It was deliberately in “quotes” to set it off as a pun on charisma. CAR isma. Get it? Perhaps we were too subtle for some…