Archive for the ‘Communications’ Category

“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…)

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…)

Reaction to the White House’s new vehicle sticker proposal: “If we get below a C do our parents have to sign off on it?”

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

So said my 24 year old son when he saw the announcement that the White House/EPA was planning a major overhaul to the window stickers that appear on new cars to include a grade based on fuel efficiency and emissions.  To be fair, the EPA has put forth two proposals, one without a “grade:”

and one with a grade:

According to the EPA’s website the “EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are updating this label to provide consumers with simple, straightforward energy and environmental comparisons across all vehicles types.”

Fair enough, after almost thirty years with very little updating, it’s probably time to make some improvements to the industry’s new car stickers.  I’m all for providing consumers more and better information to enable them to make the vehicle purchase decision that is best suited to their needs and desires.  I doubt that anyone in the industry would disagree.

Here’s the rub, the option with the letter grade is a not too thinly veiled attempt on the Government’s part to pass a value judgment on your decision to purchase a vehicle. (more…)

www.momentoftruth.com—Buick on the cusp of a marketing breakthrough!

Friday, July 30th, 2010

How many times have I sat in meetings with manufacturers and discussed the need to get consumers engaged with their brand in the digital space? Too many times to count and the concerns are always the same.  What if they say things we don’t like?  What if they say something untrue?  What will they expect of us?  How will we respond? Inevitably the lawyers weigh-in and the reasons “why not” stack up like cordwood.

So I think it noteworthy that Buick has found a way to get beyond the reasons “why not” and to give consumers an uncensored voice regarding the new Buick Regal at www.momentoftruth.com.  This is a terrific website with tons of information from a variety of sources, the company, general media, buff books, blogs and real consumers.  The use of Twitter and Facebook feeds, Youtube videos and Flickr is terrific and makes the site feel very credible.  The net effect is that you feel as if you’re getting a chance to see the entire body of opinion regarding the new Buick Regal in one stop.

GM is using technology that searches the web for mentions of the Buick Regal, aggregates it, edits out the profane and posts the rest. The result is really fun and full of interesting commentary.  It’s not quite a dialogue with consumers but it’s a step in the right direction.

I admit that I had to wade through a lot of positive comments to find the few negative ones, but they’re there.

Good for Buick, maybe the reality is that most of the response to their new vehicle is positive!

Corvette vs. Jeep Grand Cherokee. Ads not product.

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

We wouldn’t expect one of the buff books to have a comparo between the 2011 Corvette and the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee but in marketing circles there’s an active discussion going on comparing their new advertising.

Chrysler’s new ad for the Jeep Grand Cherokee first appeared about a month ago and seeks to stir Americans’ pride in our heritage as builders and innovators:

Chevrolet’s new ad for Corvette appeared last week on the All-Star game and draws a parallel between our country’s space program and the 2011 Corvette:

Some critics have gone as far as saying that Chevrolet should not have aired the Corvette commercial because it was too similar to the Jeep spot.  There are certainly similarities between the executions. (more…)

The “Chevy” vs. “Chevrolet” dust-up. What it means for a global brand.

Friday, June 11th, 2010

The last twenty-four hours has been full of articles, blogs, tweets, surveys, all questioning the wisdom of the folks at Chevrolet who were apparently seeking to remove “Chevy” from the brand’s lexicon (NYTs 6/10/10).  Predictably, people were shocked and the Chevrolet folks accused of varying levels of insanity, some even questioning their patriotism.

Thankfully, as the day wore on, Chevrolet made an effort to explain that it had been mis-understood (see the press release) and that the memo leaked to the New York Times had been “poorly worded.” Unfortunately for the folks at GM, this whole incident has just added fuel to the fire for those folks who want to find fault with every thing the company tries to do.  If you take the GM folks at their word, what they were trying to do really isn’t crazy.

At the heart of this dust-up is a real issue.  How to most effectively manage a global automotive brand.

Here’s a video of Alan Batey explaining that indeed “Chevy” is just fine but that “Chevrolet” is the global brand:

Put aside Mr. Batey’s understandable defensiveness and his desire to assure us that “Chevy” is OK.   (more…)

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

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

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? (more…)

Everything “Old” Is “New” Again by Curvin O’Rielly

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Curvin O’Rielly has been kind enough to allow us to publish this article on McNaughton Automotive Perspectives.  For those of you who don’t know Curvin, he is one of the most respected copywriters in the advertising business.  Among his automotive  accomplishments was the creation of the Saturn brand with his colleagues at Hal Riney and Partners.  As you will see, Curvin’s perspective on automobile advertising is both timely and timeless.

Everything “Old” Is “New” Again

By Curvin O’Rielly

In 1982, when I was a young creative director at BBDO in New York, I was asked to write an article about the automobile business for Magazine Age.

The article was well received. I even won an American Business Press award for it. The question is, has it stood the test of time?

Well, some of the details I included in the article are as dated as the wide ties we used to wear (the ones you’re saving, hoping they come back into style again), or the disco music we used to listen to (admit it; you boogeyed to disco), or the haul-ass iron we used to drive, the cars with more horsepower than their suspension systems and brakes could reasonably handle (unless they were well-engineered vehicles from Europe).

What’s still true about my article, unfortunately, is that the automobile industry is once again in deep trouble. This time, it’s poised at the abyss, owing in part to the economic tremors that came close to causing a complete meltdown. At the abyss, too, because it was smart (or so it prided itself) but then not smart enough. I mean, surely those at the wheel had to have seen all the danger signs on the road they were heading down, just as they had to have known they were racing toward a disaster of epic proportions.

That said, here are the observations I made 28 years ago, with some minor rewrites here and there.

••• (more…)

Hyundai’s Assurance Program does not a brand make…now what?

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

The big news in automotive marketing this week was that Joel Ewanick is leaving Hyundai and going to head up marketing at Nissan. Hyundai won 2009 marketer of the year under Ewanick’s leadership and the company implemented the breakthrough Hyundai Assurance Program.

The Hyundai Assurance Program was a stroke of brilliance at a time when the economy and the auto industry were in a tailspin.  It basically gave consumers a no risk way to purchase a vehicle.  If you bought a Hyundai and subsequently lost your job, you could return the car, no questions asked.  Truly brilliant and it propelled Hyundai through the recession and out the other end.  Hyundai’s 2009 sales grew 8% and its share of market was up 1.1 points.  This performance earned it elite status as one of only three automobile brands (Kia & Subaru were the others) to increase volume in 2009, while the industry overall declined 21%*.

The Hyundai Assurance Program was an unqualified success in a tough marketing climate.  But now what? (more…)

We should be embarrassed: Thoughts on the documentary “Art & Copy”

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Who should be embarrassed?  The auto industry and their communications agencies.

If you haven’t had a chance to see the documentary “Art & Copy,” you must.  Last night I saw it for the second time and enjoyed every minute.  If you have worked in the advertising business or are responsible for advertising on the client side it is well worth seeing.

It’s a chance to see some of the most talented people in the agency business talk about what makes great communications.  Hal Riney, Mary Lawrence, Jim Durfee, Lee Clow, George Lois, Jeff Goodby, Rich Silverstein, Dan Wieden and others talk about what they think represents great work and what inspires it.  They talk about great ideas: Braniff’s End of the plain plane, Apple’s 1984 and Think Different, Got Milk, Reagan’s re-election campaign, Nike’s Just Do It and VW’s Think Small among others.

At the end, these people and the work leave you inspired.  You’re reminded that at its best, advertising can change opinion, entertain, move people emotionally and to action.  Great work respects people and treats them decently.  Great work can build brands, companies and value.  Great work is really hard to create, get approved and execute, but when it all comes together, it can move mountains.

Here’s why we should be embarrassed.   (more…)