Archive for the ‘advertising’ Category

“WTF is going on with Lincoln?”

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

So started a holiday conversation over dinner at a friend’s house. I’m always the person expected to answer the automotive related questions and in this case a few people in the room knew that I had worked with folks at Lincoln in the past.

“Cameron, WTF is going on with Lincoln?”  Before I even had a chance to answer, the entire table jumped in and started discussing the recent Lincoln advertising featuring Matthew McConaughey:

 

 

 

Lots of different opinions, some loved the ads, some thought they were stupid.  Some folks really love Matthew McConaughey, some not so much.  I really had no idea how many people thought The Lincoln Lawyer was a great movie. Not surprisingly the conversation turned to all the parodies of the ads, Ellen did one, so did SNL:

 

 

 

All this conversation went on for a full a full a ten minutes and then someone remembered they had asked me a question, turned to me and asked again, “Cameron, WTF is going on with Lincoln?” I said:

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Until now, Cadillac has proven the adage: “Nothing hurts a bad product more than good advertising.”

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

This morning Cadillac introduced a new campaign from its new agency (Adweek 12/1013). The good news is that for the first time in a decade and a half, the product is as good or maybe better than the advertising.  The new ATS and CTS are getting rave reviews from the industry pundits and there seems to be broad agreement that finally, the Cadillac product is up to the job of moving the brand into the rarified air of Tier 1 luxury where Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus and Audi compete.

The Cadillac brand has been through a lot of marketing fits, starts and shifts over the last decade and a half. Messaging has been inconsistent and no real brand values established. That said, there have been some terrific ad campaigns that have gotten the brand noticed, unfortunately the product wasn’t as good as the advertising.

In the 2002 Super Bowl, Cadillac introduced its “Breakthrough” campaign (from Leo Burnett) hitting the heart of the boomer generation with Led Zeppelin:

The Breakthrough campaign really helped Cadillac get noticed again after years of being ignored by boomers who were buying Mercedes-Benzs, BMWs, Lexi and Audis.

In the mid-2000s Cadillac changed agencies (to Modernista) and produced this commercial for its “Life. Liberty. and the Pursuit” campaign:

In 2008, Cadillac introduced Kate Walsh as a spokesperson and raised a few eyebrows:

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“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Simon Sinek spoke at TED in September, 2009 and he offered this wisdom about leaders and powerful brands: “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

I was reminded of this in a conversation with a colleague in the automotive industry.  He asked me what I thought of his most recent advertising.  There was nothing decidedly wrong with the advertising but it fell into the trap of doing what Sinek called speaking from the outside-in.  In other words the advertising basically said we sell luxury cars that have these mildly interesting features.

I told my colleague that I felt that the advertising didn’t have a point-of-view that came from the brand and therefore it fell short of having the power to change perception.  I spoke about the need for “core values” that in turn would shape the brand’s perspective.  I suggested that he needed to find the 2 or 3 immutable truths about the brand without which it wouldn’t be the same brand.

Sinek gets at the same issue by asking:  “What is your belief? What is your cause?”  Another way to express it is: What is your company’s or brand’s ethos, what are your guiding principles?

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

How can it be that in an industry where we expect people to make the second largest purchase of their lifetimes (a home being the largest) the “why you do it” piece of strategy gets so little emphasis.  We know this to be true because so much of the marketing in the category is uninspired.  Most of it emphasizing features and pricing in mildly entertaining executions.

But there are a few great automotive brands that do understand “why they do it.”  Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Jeep, Suburu, Lexus all come to mind.  Each of these brands have a defined “why they do it” that truly shapes what they make and at their best how they market it.

Despite from time to time losing their way, these great automotive brands always seem to come back to their “why they do it.”

Recently, Mercedes-Benz introduced their latest S-Class.  The S-Class has always been the epitome of what Mercedes-Benz represents.  True to form, the S-Class marketing overtly expresses the brand’s “why they do it:”

While I don’t love the line “The best or nothing,” it is a literal translation of “das beste oder nichts,”  the company’s “why they do it” in the founder’s own words. Somehow editing the translation seems inappropriate.

Just today Jeep announced the introduction of the new Cherokee and despite having seemingly lost their way in recent years, here comes a new campaign about the joy of adventure and exploration, values that have always been at the heart for the brand: (more…)

1st post in 18 months…been busy creating an agency, reintroducing Lincoln and winning 2 Gold Lions and 1 Bronze at Cannes.

Monday, July 8th, 2013

It has been a long time since I sat down to write a post on my blog. The fact is, I haven’t had time until now. Eighteen months ago I accepted a job as President of what would become Hudson Rouge. The mission was to create an agency for Ford’s Lincoln brand in New York City.  I was employee number one.  Our goal was to “introduce” Lincoln to a whole new audience who knew very little about the storied brand and mostly thought of it as something their grandparents coveted.

Over the course of the first year we hired almost 50 people in New York, created great space in New York City and eventually named the agency Hudson Rouge.  Hudson Rouge was a reference to the fact that the Lincoln Agency Team would be located both in New York City and Dearborn, Michigan. Both cities happen to be on rivers that played a major role in their development, the Hudson River in New York and the River Rouge in Dearborn.

While hiring the team in New York, getting to know one another, getting to know our colleagues in Dearborn, getting to know our clients, and developing the agency’s eventual home, we also dug into Lincoln and figured out strategically how to re-present the brand to America.  The new brand was launched on December 3rd, 2012 with this commercial:  (more…)

Porsche’s “Everyday Magic” campaign. What were they thinking?

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Years ago, the enthusiast crowd and many industry observers were appalled at Porsche’s introduction of the Cayenne. Clearly an effort to build volume and profit for the company, many feared an SUV would destroy the Porsche brand.

The naysayers (me included) were wrong. The Cayenne has gone on to be the brand’s biggest seller and I think it’s fair to say that the 911 just keeps cruising along as one of the world’s premier sports cars. One of the reasons that the Cayenne did not damage the Porsche brand was that Stuttgart was incredibly clear that the Cayenne would be the “Porsche of SUVs,” in other words, a high performance SUV. Jeff Zwart (a Porsche factory driver as well as commercial director) directed, participated in and produced this Cayenne introductory video for Porsche:

Road to Cayenne

Obviously, the sole purpose of this video was to establish the Cayenne’s performance credentials and lineage.  Porsche successfully expanded volume by introducing a product true to the brand’s core values and marketed it successfully based on those values.  In fact you could argue that Porsche is doing exactly the same thing with the Panamera (introducing the “Porsche of four door sedans”).  We could debate whether the world needs another high performance sedan given Audi’s S models, BMW’s M series and Mercedes-Benz AMG models, but so far Porsche Panamera sales indicate that from a product point of view, Porsche judged the market well.

Porsche has successfully proven that it can expand volume by carefully developing line extensions that reflect the brand’s core value of performance.

So why, would they allow their latest marketing campaign to go so far afield?  What would possess them to feature the iconic 911 and the very successful  Cayman in communications designed to demonstrate that they are not “just” high performance sports cars, rather they are excellent everyday drivers:

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Do the marketing folks at Porsche really think that a perception of a lack of everyday utility is holding back sales of 911s? Really? (more…)

Cadillac’s “Business Unusual” illustrates the wisdom of separating “Church and State”

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Cadillac and Time Warner have just started a new program called “Business Unusual. Daring stories from the road to success.” Comedian Chris Hardwick is the host and the basic concept is that he will interview entrepreneurs who have defied the odds by taking a risk and turning it into a successful business.  The outputs are videos featuring Hardwick and the entrepreneur(s) discussing their venture, what worked, what didn’t.  The objective is to draw parallels between what these entrepreneurs have done/do and Cadillac.

Fair enough, but let’s face it, the promise to the consumer is an interesting story about an entrepreneur and secondarily a bit of information about Cadillac.

The two available videos (at cnnmoney.com) illustrate the difficulty of finding the balance between providing the content that the consumer is promised versus the commercial message.

The first video is about a company called Wagic and I think does a pretty good job. The entrepreneurs, their business and products are interesting.  I felt as if I actually learned something about their business idea and how they succeeded.  There is only one moment where I felt the commercial interests intrude.  Toward the end, Hardwick asks shamelessly “how do you go from something like this (pointing to a Kiddalac riding toy) to something like this (pointing to a Cadillac CTS).”  That then leads one of the entrepreneurs to say, “they (Cadillac) started from scratch, that’s what we would do if we were going to make a revolutionary car.” I don’t mind the opening and closing visuals of the car that Hardwick is driving, but forcing the brand strategy into the conversation was a bit over the top and left me a little frustrated.

Unfortunately, the commercial nature is even more overt in the second episode(more…)

The power of real people helps re-build the Mercedes-Benz brand.

Friday, March 4th, 2011

The power of “real” people in marketing is certainly not new. The latest iteration of  the idea is peer-to-peer marketing in social media. The underlying notion is simple, whether it is social media or a traditional “testimonial” commercial, consumers are more likely to trust the opinion or experience of people that they perceive to be like them…real and therefore trustworthy.

Mercedes-Benz has been in the process of re-building their brand’s core values (see earlier post) and recently has been focusing on safety. Mercedes-Benz’ use of real people to make their case for safety results in a very compelling campaign. Here’s a recent television commercial:

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” The accidents changed their lives, the films could change yours.” While the television commercial is nice, the real power comes if you visit the website.  There you can select from a whole range of films and hear each person’s or family’s story. Here are a couple of examples: (more…)

Mercedes-Benz scores with (a) safety but not in the Super Bowl.

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Mercedes-Benz participated in the Super Bowl for the first time a couple of weeks ago and they did a commercial that celebrated the company’s rich 125 year history while borrowing a little interest from Puff Daddy:

In USA Today’s Ad Meter, this commercial finished in the top third at 19th.  Of automotive commercials in the Super Bowl it was ranked 4th of 18.  Not a bad showing for the brand but it certainly isn’t getting talked about the way Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” spot or VW’s “The Force” commercial is.

I must admit, I felt a little let down.  The Super Bowl is such a huge platform and it demands that you have something important to say and that you do it in a different way. Chrysler understood this and is reaping the benefits.  Mercedes-Benz basically said that they have been building cars for 125 years and the newest ones are now available. Really?  Puff Daddy was enough to get noticed and for the car wonks among us there were lots of wonderful old MBs in the ad but that’s the best they good do with $6MM in airtime on the Super Bowl?

I’m sure the Super Bowl commercial reflects the push and pull of all the various constituents.  The agency folks want the message to be simple and easily understood, the company marketing people want it to be differentiating (125 years) and the dealers want to see product.  Check, check and check.

On balance, the commercial was solid, certainly nothing wrong with it, but it could have been so much more powerful.  Last year I came across some terrific videos from Mercedes-Benz that I think give a glimmer of what could have been: (more…)

The Super Bowl: The big winner was an ad beauty contest also-ran.

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

This year’s ad beauty contest was fascinating on a number of levels. Like last year, one manufacturer made it into the top ten.  Last year it was Audi, this time it was their corporate brethren at Volkswagen:

VW followed that up with a second commercial that took the 12th spot (#2 for autos). A pretty good showing for the VW guys and their agency, Deutsch LA.

After that things began to slip pretty badly for the auto industry according to USA TODAY.  The chart below details each of the eighteen automotive spots and shows how they ranked in the automotive category and among all the ads in the Super Bowl:

So again, despite having 18 commercials in the big game this year, the auto manufacturers were mostly average at best.  Mini even tried puerile humor, which in the Super Bowl is usually a guarantee of good results, but even “Cram it in the boot” didn’t get it done.

Another year, another set of mostly average commercials, another disappointing showing in USA TODAY.

Except that one auto manufacturer demonstrated that the Super Bowl ad beauty contest truly is just that, a thin veneer that looks great but has little substance.

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Super Bowl XLV–Will the auto industry carry the day?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Last year, I asked the same question and I think the answer was “no.”

Audi’s terrific A3 TDI commercial led the automotive pack, ranked 6th of 65 by USAToday but all the others were also-rans. Here’s how the automotive participants ranked in last year’s advertising beauty contest:

A dismal showing by the auto industry.  Despite being one of the highest interest product categories with some often fantastic products, we seem to be unable to captivate the Super Bowl audience.

To be clear, getting highly ranked in USAToday’s poll has nothing to do with judging a TV commercial’s effectiveness, it simply is a measure of a panel of consumers’ reactions and “how much they liked each ad.”  But it is without question, ‘the game within the game.’  As a Super Bowl advertiser you spend $3MM or so for 30 seconds and the chance to get noticed and liked. It’s an opportunity to get tongues around the world wagging about your ad, your brand and maybe even your products.

But to make that happen, you have to do something amazing. (more…)