Archive for February, 2010

“Global” Campaigns & The Ultimate Driving Machine

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

My last post regarding BMW’s new campaign resulted in a few conversations with colleagues that were interesting and got me thinking about the challenges associated with marketing a global automotive brand and the concept of a global campaign.

Virtually every automotive brand is global.  Not every brand is marketed in every country but I can’t think of any that are sold only in their country of origin.  That means that every manufacturer must be concerned with what their respective brands stand for in each country in which they are distributed.  Obviously, it is in the manufacturers’ interest to have their brands positioned in the same way from country to country.  Customers and prospects should recognize the brands no matter where in the world they come into contact with them.

Of course the real world is not quite this neat and tidy.  Brands have developed in different ways in different countries, so for some manufacturers it’s a challenge just to get their colleagues around the world on the same page regarding the brand’s core values.  In my experience we do pretty well when we concern ourselves with the strategic underpinnings of the brand, where things fall apart is when execution of the strategy is considered.

There seem to be two basic approaches to execution, each with its own set of plusses and minuses:

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BMW & Joy: “Danger Will Robinson”

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

It has a feeling of inevitability attached to it, but still, I can’t help but feel let down.  For years many of us have held up BMW as the example of a car company that understands its brand and sticks to it. That all just changed. BMW is no longer the manufacturer of The Ultimate Driving Machine, according to this commercial “at BMW, we don’t just make cars, we make joy.”:

The longest running and probably best known automotive industry positioning line has been thrown in the bin in favor of “Joy.”  I’m conflicted. On one hand, I’m shocked and I really believe that BMW has made a horrific mistake, but on the other hand, there are aspects of this new campaign that I like.

“The new “Joy” campaign ‘is a big departure for us,’ said Jack Pitney, vice president of marketing for BMW North America. ‘We hope to really add some humanity to our brand’ and show the diversity of its buyers,”Wall Street Journal 2/15/10

In fact, what I like about the commercial is the humanity.  It’s fun to watch people enjoying life in and around their BMWs.  To see enthusiast communities enjoying their passions together.  To see all kinds of people, some even like me, joined together by a common bond created by a car.  It is truly what makes great automotive brands great, that sense of being part of something bigger than you are.

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Responding to Toyota’s troubles. With incentives!!??

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Toyota has been very successful in the US and has undeniably eaten Detroit’s lunch. Now Toyota has stumbled and you can hardly blame its competitors for attempting to take advantage of the situation.

That said, it’s a good time to pause and take a deep breath, because as so often is true, it’s not what you do but how you do it that matters.

Today’s New York Times has an article headlined: “With Toyota in trouble, rivals gain.” Manufacturers are offering incentives to encourage Toyota owners to come in their stores, trade-in their Toyota for a new whatever. Supposedly these incentives are not being widely advertised and dealers are being encouraged not to “try to take a predatory stance in this type of environment.”  According to GM and others, their dealers have requested incentive support.  Of course they wanted incentive support, there’s blood in the water.

There are a couple of good reasons to push back against this knee jerk reaction to offer incentives. (more…)

Super Bowl XLIV: Which automotive manufacturer got it done?

Monday, February 8th, 2010

The sentimental favorites won the Super Bowl…at least the football game part.

Generally speaking I thought the advertising game within the game was just OK, not great.  Within the automotive segment, six manufacturers stepped up for the Super Bowl:

As I said in an earlier post, the tough part about advertising in the Super Bowl is that while the football game is the primary draw, the advertising contest comes in a close second.  As an advertiser you have to be willing to do work that will stand out and entertain because the very next day the “results” of the ad contest will be published in USAToday.

I always watch the Super Bowl hoping that one or more of the automobile manufacturers will break out of the category mold and amaze us.  Here’s my take on the automotive commercials, from best to worst:   (more…)

Toyota’s brand: People don’t love their refrigerator either.

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Toyota is in deep stuff given the allegations of unintended acceleration, several huge recalls that will cost BILLIONs of dollars, continuing investigation by NHTSA, civil penalties, reduced sales, weakening brand image scores and deflated residual values.

There has already been plenty written about the impact of this on Toyota’s brand reputation.  It certainly is going to set them back, some pundits say it’s a “speed bump” for Toyota, others say the situation will effectively “kill” the Toyota brand.  I suspect that the “truth” will be somewhere in the middle, the Toyota brand has been damaged, it will take a good deal of time and effort to recover, but it will recover.

Rather than debating the current health of the Toyota brand, I’ve been thinking about the discipline of branding in the automotive category and what its practitioners can learn from Toyota’s experience. Certainly the need to manage the media and to do so in a transparent way is critical.  Time is of the essence, the internet can take your reputation and spin it out of control in a heartbeat.  Beyond the crisis management learnings, I think that we are seeing the danger of having a brand that is based solely on rational underpinnings. (more…)