Posts Tagged ‘Mini’

What to do about automotive marketing?

Friday, April 30th, 2010

What a difference a year makes.  It’s 2010 and the auto industry is beginning to recover.

After an incredibly tough 2009, consumers seem to be coming back.  For the first time in recent memory, Americans’ perception of domestic automobiles seems to be on the mend (Business Week 4/23).  Ford’s bet that Americans will buy smaller, fully featured automobiles looks like it may pay off.  GM’s product plan created by soon-to-retire Bob Lutz is leading a resurgence for the General.  Hyundai and Kia, supported my excellent product quality, have taken advantage of recessionary sensibilities and grown share of market.  Audi , Subaru and Mini have come out of the recession on a tear.

On the other side of the ledger, Toyota continues to struggle with recalls and concerns about quality.  This has led to unprecedented incentives by Toyota and the predictable response by competitors to match them.  So a good number of consumers who had been sitting on sidelines during the recession have come back to dealerships looking to for a good deal.  After 2009, it’s a relief to see traffic in the stores but at the same time if the incentives continue that will not be good for the industry long term.  In 2009, some progress had been made at reducing the use of incentives, but the moment Toyota jumped in to defend its franchise, that opened the floodgates again.

So the good news is that customers are returning to the stores, but are they coming back for the right reasons?

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Is Mini moving out of its niche? How to avoid the automotive equivalent of a comb-over.

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

An article in the April 2nd edition of the New York Times was headlined: “Despite Expansion, Mini Says It’s Still a Niche” and confirmed something that had occurred to me at the New York Auto Show.

In New York last week I saw the new Mini crossover, the Countryman, for the first time in person.  All the Mini design cues are present in the Countryman and I think you’d be hard pressed to say that it wasn’t part of the Mini family.  But I was struck by how “big” it seemed, it didn’t seem small and taut the way all the other models do.  Part of the difference was that the Countryman’s ground clearance is higher, so its stance is really quite different than the other Minis.

This got me thinking, at what point does a marque go too far and begin to lose its essential character?  Has Mini gone too far with the Countryman?

I suspect this is a little like losing your hair.  Little by little your hair recedes, almost imperceptibly, you make little adjustments as you go, thinking no one will notice, until one day you end up with comb-over and people are snickering behind your back. Little by little automotive brands seem to lose their way. (more…)

LA Auto Show: Everyone’s talking about electric vehicles, but diesel is winning.

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

It was ironic that virtually every manufacturer was talking about EVs in one form or another, yet the much less fashionable technology…diesel…took home the Green Car of the Year prize.

Don’t get me wrong, I think some of the electric cars and concepts are fascinating.

Chevrolet showed us a production version of the Volt and spoke about the fact that there would be no “range anxiety” because of the small motor that would generate electricity to charge the batteries. Audi showed the E-tron, an electric version of the R8 with an electric motor poweringeach wheel and delivering supercar performance. BMW’s “Vision” concept demonstrated where “Efficient Dynamics” might take the brand. Mini has been testing electric cars on America’s roads and had an example at their stand.

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EVs are being talked about as if they will solve global warming, reduce our fossil fuel consumption to zero and generally save the planet. EVs are the messiah of automotive technologies.

Here’s the problem, electric cars are expected to represent maybe 10% of sales by 2020. At that sales rate it’s hard to imagine the technology as a game changer from a fuel consumption or global warming perspective.

At least we have the folks responsible for selecting the “Green Car of the Year” to provide a reality check. For the second consecutive year, a diesel-powered vehicle was selected as green car of the year. Why? Clean diesel is a practical and “green” approach to transportation. It offers 25-30% better mileage, it emits less CO2 and particulate emission is now comparable to gasoline-powered technology. Today’s clean diesels meet the most stringent pollution standards and are sold in all fifty states.

The Audi A3 TDI is a terrific example of the modern clean diesel and a worthy “Green Car of the Year.”

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Modern clean diesels are readily available, offer the possibility of reducing fuel consumption by a third and emit less C02 than gasoline engines. Maybe after we’re done talking about technology that won’t make a difference for another 20 years, we’ll start to talk about one that can make a difference tomorrow.

I know it’s not fashionable, but we need to change Americans’ perception of diesel because it makes sense.

automobile industry is entering new territory as the recession wanes and consumers, who have been emotionally scarred by the last 18 months, remain cautious.  Many believe that consumers have been forever changed by this recession and that they will be more conservative with their money for years to come.
No one expects that the automotive industry will achieve the heady sales levels of the early part of this decade.
“By 2013, car and truck sales in North America will rebound to the new normal rate of 15 million to 16 million units”  Automotive News 8/5/09
At best, we will attain a “new normal” of 15-16MM units in 2013.
That means that competition for customers is going to be tougher than ever and no one’s business is going to grow just hanging on to the industry coattails.  Historically the manufacturers have reacted to these types of circumstances by using incentives.  These tactics artificially inflated sales earlier in the decade, pulling sales forward and contributed to the most recent “correction” that has pummeled the industry.  Using short-term incentives to steal share is not the answer to long-term prosperity, it’s merely a tactic that gives a franchise a quick shot in the arm.  Establishing a brand’s immutable points of difference and creating consumer affinity for it, is what creates value over the long term.
Last week, BusinessWeek published a piece by Ed Wallace about GM making the same mistakes; in it he made the case for branding:
“True, people want a “deal” when they buy a new car. But more important, they want to buy something exceptional….The automotive selling process, done right, has little to do with negotiation: It has everything to do with building value in the vehicle.”
It’s about time the industry took “branding” seriously.
You only need to look as far back as the last eighteen months to see the power of an automotive brand.  Subaru and Mini have survived the recession and some would argue have flourished under incredibly difficult circumstances while virtually every other manufacturer suffered.
The automobile industry has not made building and nurturing its brands a priority.  There are some exceptions like Subaru, Mini, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Jeep.  But generally speaking investing in the brand has been the first thing cut by automotive marketers when things get tough.  The brand investment gets cut in favor of marketing efforts that will “make the doors swing.”  Frankly some of the above-mentioned brands have weakened in recent years, but clearly the marketers in charge of them have historically recognized the leverage created by a well-understood brand.
The first step toward having a well-understood brand is being able to clearly articulate it.  This is not a tagline or even a series of “core values,” both these approaches seek to summarize a brand.  The first step is a complete and full articulation of the brand, several pages perhaps, that explain its history, beliefs, behaviors, accomplishments, failures and contributions.  This document seeks not to summarize a brand’s essence but rather to capture it in detail; it describes the brand’s character, what makes it authentic.
The process of writing it down is critical.  A consultant friend used to say that: “nothing exists until it is spoken.”  In this case, if you can’t write this document about your brand, then you don’t have a brand.  Often it can help to have an “outsider” write this document, if you allow that person full access to your company and your people.  Either way, you need to articulate your brand in depth and in full, as it should form the underpinnings of all that you do.  It should drive communications, your use of social media, dealer experience and everything in between.
With this document in hand, you are ready to leverage your brand and give your customers the experience that will differentiate you from the competition.  Without it, you’re grasping at straws, hoping that somehow everything comes together.
In the hyper competitive “new normal” market of 12-16 million units, “guessing and getting lucky” will not carry the day.Opportunity knocks for well-articulated automotive brands.
The automobile industry is entering new territory as the recession wanes and consumers, who have been emotionally scarred by the last 18 months, remain cautious.  Many believe that consumers have been forever changed by this recession and that they will be more conservative with their money for years to come.
No one expects that the automotive industry will achieve the heady sales levels of the early part of this decade.
“By 2013, car and truck sales in North America will rebound to the new normal rate of 15 million to 16 million units”  Automotive News 8/5/09
At best, we will attain a “new normal” of 15-16MM units in 2013.
That means that competition for customers is going to be tougher than ever and no one’s business is going to grow just hanging on to the industry coattails.  Historically the manufacturers have reacted to these types of circumstances by using incentives.  These tactics artificially inflated sales earlier in the decade, pulling sales forward and contributed to the most recent “correction” that has pummeled the industry.  Using short-term incentives to steal share is not the answer to long-term prosperity, it’s merely a tactic that gives a franchise a quick shot in the arm.  Establishing a brand’s immutable points of difference and creating consumer affinity for it, is what creates value over the long term.
Last week, BusinessWeek published a piece by Ed Wallace about GM making the same mistakes; in it he made the case for branding:
“True, people want a “deal” when they buy a new car. But more important, they want to buy something exceptional….The automotive selling process, done right, has little to do with negotiation: It has everything to do with building value in the vehicle.”
It’s about time the industry took “branding” seriously.
You only need to look as far back as the last eighteen months to see the power of an automotive brand.  Subaru and Mini have survived the recession and some would argue have flourished under incredibly difficult circumstances while virtually every other manufacturer suffered.
The automobile industry has not made building and nurturing its brands a priority.  There are some exceptions like Subaru, Mini, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Jeep.  But generally speaking investing in the brand has been the first thing cut by automotive marketers when things get tough.  The brand investment gets cut in favor of marketing efforts that will “make the doors swing.”  Frankly some of the above-mentioned brands have weakened in recent years, but clearly the marketers in charge of them have historically recognized the leverage created by a well-understood brand.
The first step toward having a well-understood brand is being able to clearly articulate it.  This is not a tagline or even a series of “core values,” both these approaches seek to summarize a brand.  The first step is a complete and full articulation of the brand, several pages perhaps, that explain its history, beliefs, behaviors, accomplishments, failures and contributions.  This document seeks not to summarize a brand’s essence but rather to capture it in detail; it describes the brand’s character, what makes it authentic.
The process of writing it down is critical.  A consultant friend used to say that: “nothing exists until it is spoken.”  In this case, if you can’t write this document about your brand, then you don’t have a brand.  Often it can help to have an “outsider” write this document, if you allow that person full access to your company and your people.  Either way, you need to articulate your brand in depth and in full, as it should form the underpinnings of all that you do.  It should drive communications, your use of social media, dealer experience and everything in between.
With this document in hand, you are ready to leverage your brand and give your customers the experience that will differentiate you from the competition.  Without it, you’re grasping at straws, hoping that somehow everything comes together.
In the hyper competitive “new normal” market of 12-16 million units, “guessing and getting lucky” will not carry the day.
VW & Crispin.  It was only a matter of time.
VW of America just announced that it is reviewing its advertising business currently with Crispin Porter & Bogusky.
VW is truly one of the world’s most loved automotive brands. While there have been a number of clever and in some cases intrusive commercials from Crispin there has been little that has built or even sustained the VW brand.
Crispin is without question one of the most talented creative agencies in the country but while they did a wonderful job helping to create the Mini brand, they never succeeded in bringing that power to Volkswagen.
At times the work was startling, stopping you in your tracks…remember the “Safe Happens” commercials.
Watch “Safe Happens”
Last year we saw Brook Shields introduce the Routan.
Watch Brooke
Most recently we’ve seen “Max” the talking Beetle.  In this commercial he introduces the Jetta diesel.
Watch Max
While the advertising has been interesting, sometimes funny, and at times talked about, what has it added up to?  Not much.
In an industry that is hoping to sell a little over 10 million units in 2009 and hopes to achieve a “new normal” of 12-15 million units by 2013, competition for buyers is only going to get more intense.  The manufacturers that actually have well-established brands (there aren’t many) have a leverageable asset that will enable them to “win” in this hyper-competitive environment.
Volkswagen is a brand with a well-defined value structure.  It started in the US with Doyle Dane Bernbach, Arnold nurtured it and now another team will have a chance to articulate the brand’s values to its enthusiasts and prospects.
VW has certainly had its ups and downs in the US but throughout it all, it has been truly loved by millions of loyalists.  That kind of devotion is at the heart of what makes an automotive marque powerful and it’s a good place for the next agency caretakers of the VW brand to start.
TreeFarm Partners: Automotive marketing consulting that makes a difference
We are an automotive strategy and implementation firm that makes a difference for our clients immediately and profoundly. We believe that a few senior level people working as a team can move mountains and make things happen quickly and productively. We’re here to partner with you, help you make smart decisions and get them implemented quickly Opportunity knocks for well-articulated automotive brands.
The automobile industry is entering new territory as the recession wanes and consumers, who have been emotionally scarred by the last 18 months, remain cautious.  Many believe that consumers have been forever changed by this recession and that they will be more conservative with their money for years to come.
No one expects that the automotive industry will achieve the heady sales levels of the early part of this decade.
“By 2013, car and truck sales in North America will rebound to the new normal rate of 15 million to 16 million units”  Automotive News 8/5/09
At best, we will attain a “new normal” of 15-16MM units in 2013.
That means that competition for customers is going to be tougher than ever and no one’s business is going to grow just hanging on to the industry coattails.  Historically the manufacturers have reacted to these types of circumstances by using incentives.  These tactics artificially inflated sales earlier in the decade, pulling sales forward and contributed to the most recent “correction” that has pummeled the industry.  Using short-term incentives to steal share is not the answer to long-term prosperity, it’s merely a tactic that gives a franchise a quick shot in the arm.  Establishing a brand’s immutable points of difference and creating consumer affinity for it, is what creates value over the long term.
Last week, BusinessWeek published a piece by Ed Wallace about GM making the same mistakes; in it he made the case for branding:
“True, people want a “deal” when they buy a new car. But more important, they want to buy something exceptional….The automotive selling process, done right, has little to do with negotiation: It has everything to do with building value in the vehicle.”
It’s about time the industry took “branding” seriously.
You only need to look as far back as the last eighteen months to see the power of an automotive brand.  Subaru and Mini have survived the recession and some would argue have flourished under incredibly difficult circumstances while virtually every other manufacturer suffered.
The automobile industry has not made building and nurturing its brands a priority.  There are some exceptions like Subaru, Mini, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Jeep.  But generally speaking investing in the brand has been the first thing cut by automotive marketers when things get tough.  The brand investment gets cut in favor of marketing efforts that will “make the doors swing.”  Frankly some of the above-mentioned brands have weakened in recent years, but clearly the marketers in charge of them have historically recognized the leverage created by a well-understood brand.
The first step toward having a well-understood brand is being able to clearly articulate it.  This is not a tagline or even a series of “core values,” both these approaches seek to summarize a brand.  The first step is a complete and full articulation of the brand, several pages perhaps, that explain its history, beliefs, behaviors, accomplishments, failures and contributions.  This document seeks not to summarize a brand’s essence but rather to capture it in detail; it describes the brand’s character, what makes it authentic.
The process of writing it down is critical.  A consultant friend used to say that: “nothing exists until it is spoken.”  In this case, if you can’t write this document about your brand, then you don’t have a brand.  Often it can help to have an “outsider” write this document, if you allow that person full access to your company and your people.  Either way, you need to articulate your brand in depth and in full, as it should form the underpinnings of all that you do.  It should drive communications, your use of social media, dealer experience and everything in between.
With this document in hand, you are ready to leverage your brand and give your customers the experience that will differentiate you from the competition.  Without it, you’re grasping at straws, hoping that somehow everything comes together.
In the hyper competitive “new normal” market of 12-16 million units, “guessing and getting lucky” will not carry the day.
VW & Crispin.  It was only a matter of time.
VW of America just announced that it is reviewing its advertising business currently with Crispin Porter & Bogusky.
VW is truly one of the world’s most loved automotive brands. While there have been a number of clever and in some cases intrusive commercials from Crispin there has been little that has built or even sustained the VW brand.
Crispin is without question one of the most talented creative agencies in the country but while they did a wonderful job helping to create the Mini brand, they never succeeded in bringing that power to Volkswagen.
At times the work was startling, stopping you in your tracks…remember the “Safe Happens” commercials.
Watch “Safe Happens”
Last year we saw Brook Shields introduce the Routan.
Watch Brooke
Most recently we’ve seen “Max” the talking Beetle.  In this commercial he introduces the Jetta diesel.
Watch Max
While the advertising has been interesting, sometimes funny, and at times talked about, what has it added up to?  Not much.
In an industry that is hoping to sell a little over 10 million units in 2009 and hopes to achieve a “new normal” of 12-15 million units by 2013, competition for buyers is only going to get more intense.  The manufacturers that actually have well-established brands (there aren’t many) have a leverageable asset that will enable them to “win” in this hyper-competitive environment.
Volkswagen is a brand with a well-defined value structure.  It started in the US with Doyle Dane Bernbach, Arnold nurtured it and now another team will have a chance to articulate the brand’s values to its enthusiasts and prospects.
VW has certainly had its ups and downs in the US but throughout it all, it has been truly loved by millions of loyalists.  That kind of devotion is at the heart of what makes an automotive marque powerful and it’s a good place for the next agency caretakers of the VW brand to start.
TreeFarm Partners: Automotive marketing consulting that makes a difference
We are an automotive strategy and implementation firm that makes a difference for our clients immediately and profoundly. We believe that a few senior level people working as a team can move mountains and make things happen quickly and productively. We’re here to partner with you, help you make smart decisions and get them implemented quickly.

Mini shows us the power of “Brand”

Monday, July 6th, 2009

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It seems the automotive industry does a better job of “talking the talk” of branding than it does of “walking the walk.”  Of course there are exceptions, and Mini is a great example.  When introduced a few years ago the creative work for Mini was widely lauded (see link below) and it set the marque on a path that led to the events of last couple of weeks.

(more…)

Subaru & Mini?

Monday, April 20th, 2009

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In a market that is seeing unprecedented declines in sales in all segments, across all product types, in all parts of the country, two marques defy the slump; Subaru and Mini.

At first blush, you might say to yourself, that makes sense both are smaller more fuel efficient cars, both are far from symbols of conspicuous consumption, both are relatively reasonably priced.  But there are tons of brands and models offering fuel efficiency, are reasonably priced and not symbols of conspicuous consumption.  This logic doesn’t explain why Subaru and Mini have dodged the recession.

I would submit that these companies have gone through the recession relatively unscathed because they have a loyal base of customers and brands that consumers understand clearly.  These brands enjoy an almost fanatical devotion by their customers and these customers are advocates for the brands to virtually every person who happens to ask and probably some who don’t.

(more…)