Posts Tagged ‘positioning’

Deja vu all over again, here comes the VW Phaeton.

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Just yesterday Automotive News had an article that reported that amidst a cost cutting drive, Volkswagen has decided to re-introduce the uber expensive Phaeton model:

“…the “people’s car” maker plans to spend millions of euros upgrading a money-losing luxury sedan.”–Automotive News 1/28/15

The blogosphere has erupted with any number of industry observers pointing out the illogic of re-introducing an Mercedes-Benz S-Class competitor when you have announced that you’re cutting costs and, oh by the way, the Phaeton has been a huge money losing proposition ever since it was introduced at the 2002 Geneva auto show:

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I acknowledge the inconsistency of an austerity plan side by side with a re-jiggered luxo-barge but I admit to being a bit fascinated with the idea of the Phaeton.  The last time we went through the “we’re bringing the Phaeton back” phase was in 2009, right after the end of the great recession. At the time I wrote a post (“Has the VW Phaeton’s time come?“) and offered up the possibility that the Phaeton could be the luxury car for a new post recession sensibility.

I still think that possibility still exists, but the surging millennial generation adds a different twist to the idea.  After all, so many millennials grew up driving Volkswagens and we know for a fact that VW holds a special emotional place in American culture.  In five years millennials as a generation will be driving luxury segment sales. I think about a new generation of luxury car buyers, who are emotionally attached to the VW brand, who want to naturally separate themselves a bit from their parents and their parents’ luxury car choices (Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus) and I say to myself that’s an opportunity!

Boomers were never going to drop $65 large on a VW, they remember the original beetle, and VW as an economy brand.  The millennials don’t have that institutional memory, for them VW is Jettas, Golfs, and Passats that were actually premium priced relative to their competitive set. Is it really such a stretch to think that this new generation of luxury car buyers might consider and buy a large luxury entry from VW? (more…)

“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…)

Top global automotive brands–Interbrand’s 2010 global brand ranking

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Today, Interbrand released their “Best Global Brands 2010″ ranking. Ten automotive brands made the top 100.  The following chart details the ten automotive brands, their ranking in 2009 and where they stand in 2010.

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…)

Audi makes a rare marketing misstep

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

In recent years, Audi has done a terrific job marketing its brand. Sales are up globally and will probably exceed 1.0MM units this year (WSJ 8/2/10).  In the US, Audi came through the recession on a tear and has never looked back.  Great products, great design, with quality that has improved and is now comparable to the best in the business. The Audi brand is aspirational and prestigious in most global markets. While it has lagged its competitors in the US, it has gained in prestige in recent years and many would say it has achieved the vaunted Tier-1 status in this country.

So why would one of the most well-regarded progressive luxury automotive brands in the world make the silly mistake of blatantly copying their nearest competitor?

A few weeks ago I was in the UK and I happened to walk by Leicester Square in London and was excited to see an Audi display in the park. I went over to have a look and discovered that the display was part of the UK’s introduction of the A1.

The display was called “AreaA1″ and it was getting a lot of attention from Londoners.  It was the first time I had the opportunity to see the A1 in person.  It’s a wonderful car and I hope the folks at Audi of America make the decision to bring it to the US.  It was so crowded, that it was hard to get a picture….at least a good picture: (more…)

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…)

Infiniti: From “rocks and trees” to “brush-strokes,” can it become a Tier I luxury brand?

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Yesterday’s Automotive News had a brief piece about Infiniti marketing that struck me as interesting.  In it, they reported that “Infiniti has told its dealer advisory group that it is committing to a five-year run for the new ‘Way of Infiniti’ campaign–a long-term pledge intended to reassure retailers that the brand will have a consistent message.”

I immediately thought to myself “Good for them.”

Infiniti from the very beginning has had a difficult time establishing a brand identity and finding a way to execute it in communications. Introduced in 1989, Infiniti was Nissan’s response to the introductions of the other Japanese luxury marques, Acura and Lexus.  The original Q45 was a sporty performance alternative to the Lexus. Unfortunately, Infiniti got off to a rough start when it introduced the car and brand with the infamous “rocks and trees” campaign created by its agency Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos.

The “rocks and trees” campaign sought to present Infiniti as the result of the unique Japanese culture and sensibility.  The campaign attempted to make its Japanese origin an asset, similar to the way that the German brands have used their ‘German-ness.’  The Infiniti ads were very different than any automotive company had ever done (they didn’t even show the car initially).   (more…)

“Global” Campaigns & The Ultimate Driving Machine

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

My last post regarding BMW’s new campaign resulted in a few conversations with colleagues that were interesting and got me thinking about the challenges associated with marketing a global automotive brand and the concept of a global campaign.

Virtually every automotive brand is global.  Not every brand is marketed in every country but I can’t think of any that are sold only in their country of origin.  That means that every manufacturer must be concerned with what their respective brands stand for in each country in which they are distributed.  Obviously, it is in the manufacturers’ interest to have their brands positioned in the same way from country to country.  Customers and prospects should recognize the brands no matter where in the world they come into contact with them.

Of course the real world is not quite this neat and tidy.  Brands have developed in different ways in different countries, so for some manufacturers it’s a challenge just to get their colleagues around the world on the same page regarding the brand’s core values.  In my experience we do pretty well when we concern ourselves with the strategic underpinnings of the brand, where things fall apart is when execution of the strategy is considered.

There seem to be two basic approaches to execution, each with its own set of plusses and minuses:

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