Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

“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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On the cusp of……slipping the needle in.

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Last week the auto industry reported US sales and what a great report it was!  Just scan the headlines:

“Out of the Doldrums, Automakers Post Strong U.S. Sales.”  –New York Times 12/3/13

“Brisk Demand Lifts Car Sales”  –Wall Street Journal 12/4/13

“Auto Sales for November Hit Fastest Pace in Almost Seven Years…Industry Bullish on Growth”    –AdAge 12/3/13

“Industry rides toward 2014 on a high” Automotive News 12/3/13

“Strong US sales boost Detroit Three Car Makers”Financial Times 12/3/13

Just this morning Automotive News reported:

“Likely from Santa: Soaring SAAR for December, big ’14”

So the march out of the recession continues for the auto industry, some forecasters are even predicting that in 2014 the industry could retail 17MM units again.  Forgive me, but I find these predictions a bit unsettling. I’ve seen the boom and bust of cycle of the industry a few times and each time we go through it, I quietly say to myself, “Ok now we’ve learned our lesson.”

It was just a few years ago that the country was thrown into the worst recession most of us can remember. Auto industry sales collapsed to 10.4MM units in 2009 and Chrysler and GM went through bankruptcy. Bankruptcy gave the domestic manufacturers an historic opportunity to rid themselves of excess production capacity and correct one of the industry’s long term bugaboos, we were simply making more cars than people wanted to buy.  Too much production led to inflated inventories which in turn led to marketing that relied heavily on incentives and made price virtually the only criterium for purchase. We taught consumers to ‘buy the deal.’ Promotions are a necessary part of any business and there will always be times when incentives need to be used, but using incentives became the SOP of the industry (particularly the domestics) and made it impossible for anyone to make money.

For the last couple of years, with the recession just behind us, the industry has shown restraint. Production and inventories were kept under tight control, fewer incentives were used and low and behold, margins increased! This has been great for the industry and things are really on firmer footing than anytime in recent memory.

But, will the industry become a victim of its own success……again?! (more…)

“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…)

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…)

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…)

Is Fiat taking VW’s US positioning?

Monday, November 29th, 2010

The week before last, I was in Los Angeles for the auto show.  There were a number things that were interesting, but for me, the most interesting was the introduction of the Fiat 500 to the US market. The Fiat 500 represents the re-introduction of the Fiat marque to the US and thus garnered quite a crowd at the press conference:

As we watched Laura Soave, Fiat’s head of marketing, introduce the Fiat 500, I couldn’t help but lean over to a colleague and say “Fiat is taking Volkswagen’s US positioning.”  The presentation was full of “Italian passion” which might have been code for a youthful, fun, engaged approach to driving.  Here’s a video/ad:

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Chevy Runs Deep

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Chevrolet’s new advertising was previewed today in Detroit at Goodby’s new offices and breaks officially on the World Series tonight.  We learned a few days ago that while not a “tag line” the new work would include the theme “Chevy Runs Deep.”

Here’s the first commercial:

Already the pundits are criticizing the campaign.  Advertising Age has an article headlined “Criticism of the new Chevy theme runs deep” which does a very nice job of  chronicling the pundits’ negative opinions and I’m sure by tomorrow morning there will be more.

Much of the criticism stems from the idea that Chevy is trying to capitalize on “patriotism” or “American heritage.”  Other folks are implying that there is nothing new here, that in fact Campbell Ewald did this sort of work for Chevy for years and reference “Like a Rock” and “Heartbeat of America” as proof points.

Got it.  It’s true, the advertising is referencing the fact that the Chevy brand has long been a part of the fabric of America.   (more…)

Ford, with Mike Rowe, gets Tier 2 retail right.

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Anyone who has worked in automotive marketing knows how tough it is to do really good Tier 2 advertising.

Here’s the issue.  Tier 1 is funded by the manufacturer and is often referred to as the “brand” communications.  Tier 3 is the communications funded and executed at the local level by individual dealers.  Tier 2 is caught betwixt and between.

Funded in part by the manufacturer and in part by the local market dealer groups.  Tier 2 must serve two masters.  The manufacturer wants to be sure that the work reflects the brand and makes the doors swing whereas the dealers are understandably concerned with just making the doors swing.  Just to make it more difficult, the manufacturer’s marketing team and the dealers often have a different points-of-view about what will make the doors swing.

Tier 2 is where the brand versus retail discussion often gets very heated.   It is very tough to find a balance between the brand and retail messages.  More often than not, you end up erring toward the retail.  We all know what this formula looks like.  The TV commercials are visuals of the vehicle on the road, held together by a litany of product features in the copy and you tie it up with a bow…the deal.  The newsprint is a visual of the car, a couple of sentences covering key features, the deal and some legal disclaimers.

This leads to a sea of sameness when it comes to Tier 2 communications.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.   (more…)

Nissan decides to build a brand.

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, Nissan launched a new brand campaign. Today Nissan made available a new commercial for the Leaf, their soon to be launched plug-in EV:

This is a wonderful commercial, it’s big, emotional and engaging. Before seeing it, I was certain that I didn’t want an EV, now I’m less certain, and I know for sure that I want to help that polar bear.  I admit that this commercial makes me think about Nissan a little differently; I’m not yet convinced that the company stands for “Innovation for all” but it’s a start.

Nissan has struggled over the years to establish a brand identity for itself. Automotive marketing history buffs can probably trace the issue back to the decision to change Datsun to Nissan in 1981.  In 1986, after a transition period, the brand was officially Nissan.

Since that time Nissan has struggled in the shadow of Toyota.  While Toyota steadily built a reputation for quality and reliability and smashed sales records, Nissan labored as the number two Japanese brand.  Nissan’s brand identity has never been clear and I suspect for many people it’s an simply an alternative to the better established Toyota.

The manufacturers in the vast middle of the market struggle with brand identity partially because (more…)