“Old News” that’s worth hearing again, or maybe for the first time…

When I first saw this Acura commercial it got me thinking about what constitutes “old news” versus something relevant and important:

This Acura commercial is about crumple zones and their ability to absorb energy in a crash while directing it around the passengers ensconced in a safety cage.  It’s a nicely executed commercial that provides people with information that gives them confidence that Acuras are safe.

But it isn’t new and it certainly isn’t exclusive to Acura.  Many of us would say that crumple zones are “old news.”

In 1952, Mercedes-Benz received a patent for a crumple zone in an automobile.  Up until that point rigidity was regarded as the key to protecting passengers in an automobile accident.  The 1959 Mercedes-Benz W111 series included crumple zones and was actively crash tested by the company.

I can still vividly remember the first time I actually saw a crash test.  It was at the Mercedes Benz Safety Center in the Sindelfingen plant outside Stuttgart.  I was amazed at the devastation created by a thirty mile an hour off-set crash.  Right then and there I learned the value of a crumple zone.

Today, every automobile manufacturer uses crumple zones to make their cars safer.

Yet here is Acura, using their version of a crumple zone to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

If every car has crumple zones, then what’s differentiating about Acura’s?

Not much.

What is different is the context in which Acura judged the importance of the technology and its use in communications.

Rather than simply saying to themselves that everybody has crumple zones and therefore crumple zones are old news, Acura recognized that:

  1. Crumple zones were no longer a staple of automotive communications. There was a period of time when you could read an ad from virtually any luxury segment manufacturer and inevitably read about the safety benefits of crumple zones.
  2. One of the by-products of the recession is that consumers are interested in having factual information that helps them make informed judgements about the products that they buy.
  3. There’s a new generation of car buyers who didn’t grow up during the years when car advertising was full of information designed to help you understand the benefits of automotive engineering.

Acura seems to have said to itself: nobody is talking about crumple zones, people want facts and information to rationalize their decision and there’s a whole bunch of new prospects that don’t know much about automotive engineering…good time to use crumple zones to build our safety engineering creds!

Sometimes I think we fall into the trap of thinking that many of our product based benefits are old news because everyone offers the same thing and we think that “everyone” knows it.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, exclusivity is not essential to strong communications and just because it has been done before doesn’t mean there isn’t relevant and powerful way to do it today.

Please comment, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

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14 Responses to ““Old News” that’s worth hearing again, or maybe for the first time…”

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  12. Cameron says:

    Julian, thanks for commenting and “back to basics” is a nice way to articulate the opportunity. As long as the engineering/technology is expressed as a consumer benefit, I think people would like to know more.

  13. Julian Lea (London, UK) says:

    I work for an automaker, and you’d be atonished how ignorant the majority of consumers are about automotive technology. We find this in large scale research and small scale focus groups. This explains why there has been such a focus by automakers in the last decade to appeal to emotional instincts, rather than rational ones – everybody understands emotion, right? Acura clearly knows how difficult it is to differentiate themselves on a non-rational level, so hats-off to them for going back to basics.

  14. Cameron says:

    Rustem, thanks for commenting. There’s a whole group of people for whom this kind of information is new and helpful.

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