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Showing posts with label Blog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blog. Show all posts

Friday, December 24, 2010

Would You Pickup this Hitchhiker in Your Benz?



I love the truly bizarre marketing ideas. One of favorites was last year's An American Werewolf in Yaris. It has been replaced by an even stranger idea - this one from a Berlin street artist and photographer Stefan Gbureck for Mercedes-Benz. It's called "Tramp a Benz", and for those lacking a German to English dictionary "tramp" is basically German for "hitchhiking."

The idea comes from the German advertising agency Jung von Matt. The travels of street artist Gbureck are captured digitally via a blog and Facebook fan page, and what blog doesn't have a Facebook page these days - except my blog.

I wonder how this would translate in America. I'm guessing only hitching rides with Benz drivers would involve a lot of walking and wondering if hitching a ride with a Chrysler when Mercedes owned them would count.

The only time I ever picked up a hitchhiker was in high school at 16 when I saw two older girls (probably 18-20.) I cruised up in my '76 Chevy Vega and they giggled a lot at me, but fortunately didn't kill me and throw my body in a vacant lot which is pretty close to what my mom said would happen if I picked up a hitchhiker again.


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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sponsorship Marketing: Ford's Activation at BlogWorld



I’m at BlogWorld this week. As an avid blogger and someone who has experienced the amazing impact blogging has had on my own professional career and personal relationships, I love what blogging means to social media and in an age where everyone talking social media usually talks Facebook and Twitter we are all reminded, here at BlogWorld, that blogging is a major, major part of social media.

But this is an automotive marketing blog and like any good blogger I better know my audience and you didn’t come here to hear me wax poetically about social media; instead, I’m going to talk about a brand I have an affinity for – Ford.

As a Gold Sponsor, Ford is everywhere. They are one of three Gold Sponsors with the other two being Mandalay Bay and Kodak. Of course Scott Monty (@scottmonty) is here and so are some people from the Ford social media team including Brian McClary (@brianmcclary). The brand is present with large Ford logos throughout the building on several posters that communicate the way to rooms and featured behind speaker panels. The program everyone carries also has a healthy Ford logo on the cover.

Where it gets interesting is with Ford’s experience approach to social media. One of the things Ford does very well is create experiences with their products in a way that gets people talking – and blogging – about their immediate reactions with the brand. To do that at BlogWorld, Ford is hosting test drives with a full range of vehicles. Yes! I finally get to drive the new Mustang GT 5.0.

BlogWorld brings together an audience that loves to publish, by definition everyone here is a self-publisher, and here Ford is tapping into that natural instinct with conference attendees and they don’t need to do it with win a free trip or here is $5,000 for the best uploaded YouTube video; instead, the community responds by participating and then sharing their experience. This is true User Generated Content.

Ford is using a couple tools to promote their test-drives. The hashtag #FordBWE (BWE – stands for Blog World Expo and is being used by the conference as #bwe10.)

The test drives are being done via registration using the social media tool PlanCast and Tungle.Me. Both are simple applications that use existing social media log-ins (Facebook and Twitter) where people can “Count Me In” or sign-up for a specific date and time appointment.

I’ll be there tomorrow at the driving event and hope to share how Ford setup the event Mandalay Bay Casino. So, expect some impressions from me about the new Mustang GT 5.0 if you follow me on Twitter (@cbaccus.)

UPDATE:
Unfortunately I attempted to drive a Mustang GT 5.0 but failed. When I went down for my allotted time someone took another half hour in the car and I was tired of waiting so I decided to come back the next morning, but didn't get a chance then as the morning ended up being fairly busy.

Ford did one other thing I noticed Saturday morning. They decided to use a Promoted Tweet in the #bwe10 Twitter search thread. What this does is anyone following the hashtag #bwe10 (BlogWorld 2010, in case you didn't get the meaning) will see the Promoted Tweet on the top of all Twitter searches for that hashtag. I personally liked this approach since conference attendees are the ones most likely following the hashtag and it gave Ford an easy way to remind event goers that they were holding test drives at BlogWorld.

Full disclosure: I used to work for Ford at their Agency of Record Team Detroit doing Digital Marketing Strategy, but left there three months ago. I was not involved with this event or any of its planning before I left.


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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mini Throws Down Its Little Gauntlet



Public manufacturer versus manufacturer challenge invites are just plain dumb. The latest one is a marketing effort from Mini asking Porsche to race its 911 against a Mini Cooper S at Road Atlanta.

As Porsche’s President and CEO of North America Detlev Von Platen (or “Det” as I like to call him for short) puts it so well to Mini, “We welcome you at Sebring, Le Mans, Daytona or any other sanctioned race where there is more at stake than T-shirts and valet parking spaces.”

The Porsche President and CEO and anyone else with half a brain knows that if Mini really wants to race another manufacturer they have a couple real options:

Why Mini's Challenge Is Weak

Do as “Det” says and enter your car in a sanctioned race. Commit yourself to racing, don’t just do some lame publicity stunt. If you do want to do a marketing version than just do it. Here is how.

Take your car and buy a manufacturer’s car and race the two cars at a track. Even better use the same driver to man both cars and race for times to see which car really performs best since any true racing fan knows the person driving has a huge impact on winning. (By the way, we did this with the Lincoln MKS 6 versus 8 Challenge and yes we did it at a high altitude for a reason.)

Copy General Motors and do something similar to what Bob Lutz did with the “May the Best Car Win” that became the CTS-V Challenge.

Now this effort was a bit more organic than say Mini’s boardroom marketing idea. See Lutz just made an open challenge that of course was rightfully ignored by the manufacturers, but interestingly not ignored by a Wes Siler from the blog Jalopnik. Wes’ pressing of GM led to a competition where the manufacturers opted out and owners and bloggers showed up to race Lutz. Unfortunately they also raced a heavily loaded track of CTS-Vs and one manned by professional driver John Heinricy - to make sure a Cadillac won.

What worked so well for GM is that they got the online community involved and the trash talking was instantaneous. A manufacturer-to-manufacturer challenge just doesn’t have the same appeal. If a company really wants to challenge another brand, get some competitor vehicles and go at it.


A public challenge is a cheap way at an attempt to generate buzz. It didn't do much as buzz dropped to nothing after the June 9th when mini announced their challenge.

Facebook Response

Mini USA posted the Porsche response letter three times on its fan page. I’m guessing multiple people are administrating the page and failing to check what's posted. That aside, the response from the fans was an overwhelmingly positive rah-rah for Mini mainly saying that Porsche is chicken. So it did rally some already pumped owners or fans of the brand. A few people actually wondered why Mini isn’t responding by entering Mini into the racing circuit. We all know why that isn’t happening…

UPDATE June 16, 2010: And it keeps getting weird...



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Monday, April 5, 2010

Did Mazda Canada Start Leasing Due to Twitter?



Tino Rossini is very interesting person I have come to know through social media. He is part of an automotive blog based in Canada called Strada: Energize Your Automotive Experience. The blog covers a lot of aspects common to most automotive blogs: reviews, thoughts on the industry, some motor-sports but what makes this blog a bit more unique is Tino who is a retiree with a lot of interesting perspectives and historical knowledge of the industry and also someone very engaged in social media.

Why am I sharing all this on an automotive marketing blog?

Well this morning Tino shared with me a post on his blog that shared an example of how a brand (@MazdaCanada), a dealership (@AchillesMazda), a user forum (@MazdaForums) and an automotive blogger (@stradablog) all conversed on a review of a Mazda 6 that possibly contributed to Mazda Canada offering leasing on the 6, which it wasn't doing until shortly after some exchanges on Twitter.

All of this could've just been coincidence, but it is an interesting tale and probably had some impact on the decision.

Read the article here for the full story.

This is interesting because it demonstrates a couple things 1) how brands are engaging online 2) how dealerships are actively participating 3) how forums are getting outside of message boards and on to Twitter 4) how social media can impact marketing sales strategy.
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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Punchy Campaign from VW Complete with Foul-Mouthed Senior Citizen



Volkswagen’s new advertising agency Deutsch is proving it can be as irreverent as Crispin Porter & Bogusky with their first ad campaign for the VW brand featuring a foul-mouthed senior citizen named “Sluggy.”

What's this all about? It's derived from the game of "Punch Buggy." Punch Buggy supposedly started in the 1960s and according to Wikipedia is "a car game generally played by young children in which participants lightly punch each other in the shoulder upon first sight of a Volkswagen Beetle while calling out 'Slug bug!' or 'Punch buggy!' in reference to the Beetle's nickname, the Bug."

Sluggy is fabricated as the person who started the game of slugging a person every time a VW passes by. It goes something like this: If a VW car, of any model or year, drives by you get to punch a person. Hopefully, the person being punched understands what you are doing and no one loses a tooth.

Sluggy's Videos, Tweets and Blog Posts

The videos are definitely entertaining. The concept reminds me of a popular cultural icon on Twitter called @ShitMyDadSays that features quotes from a curse ridden old man who makes outlandish comments about life.

The game comes with some rules developed by Sluggy with a companion blog and Twitter account (@SluggyPatterson) to assist people who want to learn the game. Rules include where to hit a person, three hits when seeing a VW with Hawaii license plates and many other tips for extending interest in the game.


Making the game real with evolving rules and the ability to ask questions that may spawn more rules is an excellent way to extend the online experience. First of all, it brings life to the game for people who want to play. So watch out if someone slugs you as a VW Jetta drives by.

The use of social media to ask questions, clarify rules and interact with the personality of the concept is interesting and better than most of the social media campaign outreach we usually see in the automotive industry. Here VW can have conversations with fans of the campaign instead of just simply pimping the website or YouTube video links. There is a natural conversation that exists with this idea and it lends itself well to platforms like Twitter and Posterous.

Obtuse Online Media

One area that could use some work is in the online media marketing of the campaign. I found the campaign from a banner ad on Yahoo! mail. The ad had the confusing message of "PunchDubDays" with a circle and a fist next to the text and copy saying "We're taking a hit for you."

The campaign’s message is a bit difficult to comprehend. Perhaps it's designed to be obtuse as a way to get people to learn more about PunchDubDays, but this seems weak compared to doing something a bit more playful in the ad placement. Creating some visual interest instead of the logo and campaign headline might be more compelling to draw people into the fun of the concept.

Other than the minor messaging issue, the campaign is well executed in the social space, it taps a cultural trend of listening to old men with no filter, and the writing in the videos is stronger than VW’s sister brand Audi’s Green Police campaign.

Campaign website: http://www.vw.com/sluggy/

Twitter account: http://twitter.com/sluggypatterson

Blog: http://sluggy.posterous.com/
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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

In Defense of the Automotive Industry: How a Fast Company Blogger Misses Years of Engagement


This post is in response to a Fast Company blog post “Why Going Social Can Make or Break the Automotive Industry”, please read it first to gain some context: Read This First



"The automotive industry has lagged behind" in adopting social media, according to a blog by Fast Company community contributor JD Rucker. Really? Slow compared to what other industries? Tech? Well of course the tech industry is going to be the first to adopt social media, because they create the tools that make up social media. But hasn’t the clothing industry been slow to adopt social? Or the airline industry? Or the restaurant industry? I’m just not sure why this author is so quick to slam automotive for being slow to adopt, when in fact the auto industry has been very active in the space for some time.

The Industry is an Early Adopter, Not Slow to Start

Auto companies have been engaged with blogs and forums for quite a long time. One of the earliest successes of corporate blogging is General Motors with their Fastlane Blog. In fact, back in 2006 when one of the first corporate blogging books came out from author Debbie Weil, GM was prominently featured where Bob Lutz shared, "I just love getting the direct, unflitered feedback. But I also love radiating my personal opinion." Back then, GM had over 10,000 customer comments a major feat for any brand back then.

Jeep is a brand that has been at the forefront of engaging in user forums, communities and blogs. I remember back in early 2000 how Jeep was regularly working with bloggers and forum administrators on getting them to Jeep events and firing up the brand’s owners through social outreach long before any of us called this stuff “social media.” Jeep engineers did chats with forum members through round table discussions and paved the way for demonstrating social outreach, now many brands host consumer chats giving access to people inside OEMs.

Engagement from brands on Twitter has been very strong from companies like Ford, as the Fast Company post mentions, but the article overlooks Honda who has Alicia at Honda who is often cited an early example in the space mentioned along side Comcast, Dell, JetBlue, Zappos and others who were early to showcase some strong PR case studies that got other brands interested. In fact, over the past year just about every automotive brand has a presence on the site (see my automotive PR list on Twitter.)

And what about social community sites? Facebook has been a hot bed of innovation from automotive brands as Ford launched a widget for Sync back in 2007, Saturn had their I am Saturn widget in 2007, and Scion had a widget in 2008. Now there are Facebook applications across several brands in the social space over the past couple years from the Ford Fusion Speak Green app, Everybody Loves a Honda app, and Meet the Volkswagens. These are just a few and there are many, many more. Sure these are marketing efforts but they engage brand loyalists and others to attract them to brand fan pages.

Automotive fan pages do engage fans through interaction with the brand via communication of news, events and other forms of outreach. As someone who regularly watches this space, I see examples every day of brands talking to consumers on fan pages and facilitating discussions. Automotive has been engaged and continues to learn, like many industries, how to make this space more effective for consumer opinion, customer service and influence to sale.

Some brands have even taken very active steps to establish their own social communities. Here is an article I did highlighting several examples from Saturn, Mercedes and Hyundai.

The Fast Company blogger overlooks how a lot of brands, across many industries, have been slow to adopt Social Media. In fact, I’d argue most industries, outside of those in the technology field, have been much slower than automotive in this space.

What’s strange about Rucker’s article is that he should know better. He is currently the Chief Marketing Officer for TK Carsites, a company that helps dealerships with search engine optimization (SEO) among other things.

Perhaps his knowledge of OEMs and purchase cycles is not as strong has his involvement with dealer marketing? Unfortunately, his article misses how pervasive the industry has been in the social media space.

Sure not every brand instantly created a Facebook fan page, started a Twitter account on day one, talked to bloggers five or ten years ago, but neither has any other industry and just like other industries, various brands have been engaging in social media in a multitude of ways through the years. I’d argue the automotive industry has been a leader that many industries have followed, not the other way around.

So, Is the Article Right About Dealers?

As I just demonstrated, the brands have made a strong play in social media over the years, but what about Rucker’s argument about the more customer facing segment of the industry – dealers?
“Still, the one thing that every manufacturer is missing is engagement at the level that bridges the corporations with their customers -- the dealers themselves. Nobody has demonstrated an understanding of how to help their customer facing, front-line stores capable and equipped to engage with customers through social media.”
Purchase cycle from consideration, research, and purchasing is much longer than most purchases. Cars are considered purchases and take around 6-9 months on average, according to CNW, a leader in automotive marketing purchase behavior research.

Social media is designated as an awareness play by the manufacturers because it’s a great way to get people talking about your products early and may lead to interest through word of mouth in online communities and social communication.

For dealers, the question is more convoluted. Many dealers I’ve talked to are concerned about the amount of time it takes to turn engagement into a sale and feel other methods like email marketing and SEO have better Return on Investment results. Plus as Rucker should know, Internet Managers at dealerships are quite busy already handling email leads and other activities that make being regularly engaged on Twitter and Facebook hard to find time for.

Many brands I have worked with have made recommendations to dealers about social media engagement. Manufacturers can’t force dealers to do social media, but they can educate and it’s promising as social media gains notoriety that brands and dealers are actively talking about what works. Could they talk more? Of course, but it is happening with many brands.

It does sound like the new partnership TK Carsites is part of should help dealers get better in the social space and I’m sure Rucker’s expertise in this area is very valuable for those dealers willing to invest. And like a lot of industries, the investment will lead to some solid examples others are sure to notice.

The Recommendations

The article makes a few recommendations at the article’s end. Let’s take each one-by-one.

Social Networks and Blogs: The author makes a typical assumption here, but I’d argue, as would most experts on corporate blogging, that not every company should do a blog. What you have to do is determine if your company’s culture and leaders are right for engagement and if it is best for your brand to start a blog or instead engage with bloggers (of course many do both.) But there are lots of corporate blogs around from companies like Subaru, GM, Chrysler, just to name a few.

Social Network Engagement: Just about every automotive brand is on Twitter and Facebook in various capacities. Just like any industry, some companies are doing better than others. Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and GM really stand out on Twitter. Jeep, Ford, GM, Honda, and BMW stand out on Facebook. Of course, engagement is key here and all brands are figuring it out still. Automotive is definitely not behind as an industry and brands are very actively engaging with consumers, advocates, and critics.

Videos: Auto manufacturers have long been producing videos online that share how products work, showcase new technologies and educate consumers on many levels. I’m not sure what Rucker searched for when browsing the web or YouTube but much of his recommendation is already massively available online and growing every day.

Search for Customers on Social Media: This is happening too, but like other examples I’ve shared above, it is happening in pockets. Of course, everyone could be much better at this; however, there have been significant changes already showcasing some great examples. One of my favorites is the @VolvoXC60 Twitter account that regularly engages with Volvo considers and owners. They are not doing customer service online but they are reaching out in the car-shopping experience, as are other brands like Ford and GM.

In Summary

I think JD Rucker probably knows most of what I’ve laid out here as he has a pretty decent blog called Soshable covering automotive and social marketing. I’m sure his article had more to do with lighting a fire under a few companies or dealers who are slow to adopt and hopefully drum up more business for the partnership he mentions.

My issue is that articles like Rucker’s do a disservice to the industry and further propagate the illusion that the automotive industry is not active or innovative in social media. Hopefully, I have demonstrated here a defense for an industry that is very engaged in social and will continue to show other industries how to do it.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bob Lutz Challenges Lead-Footed Automotive Journalists… Buzz Ensues


Back when GM launched their May the Best Car Win marketing campaign, Bob Lutz “told reporters he would challenge anyone in any production sedan to a race around Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway and try to beat him,” reported the automotive blog Jalopnik who immediately were interested in taking on “Maximum” Bob.

It has been a challenge Jalopnik has been pushing GM to follow through on. Eventually, GM accepted applications from reporters and recently announced they accepted 6 entries including one from Jalopnik’s Wes Siler.

GM eventually created a micro-site to promote the challenge. The Cadillac V-Series Challenge site promotes the event and informs about the challenge rules and process. It also communicates the attributes of the Cadillac CTS-V.

GM selected the challengers and submissions were accepted from October 13-16. The Cadillac V-Series Challenge website does not communicate who was selected or what they will be racing. It simply states that Bob Lutz will be racing the challengers at Monticello Motor Club in New York on October 29, 2009 at 10am EST.

The preliminary lists of challengers are communicated at the Cadillac blog. Wes Siler of Jalopnik, Jack Baruth of The Truth About Cars and Lawrence Ulrich who freelances and writes for the NY Times are the three journalists in the challenge. Four private car owners are also participating in the challenge; though, one is a CTS-V owner who “wants to learn more about his car’s capabilities.”

The best part is that the challenge works to GM’s benefit in a couple ways:

A Competitor Races: If they race against the CTS-V and lose well that proves the CTS-V is a winner. If they beat the Cadillac, Cadillac can say sure X car won but it costs thousands more than the Cadillac and the performance numbers are not that different. So the value ratio is still in Cadillac’s favor.

Competitor Chooses Not to Race: Jaguar did this today and now they are getting called chicken for not wanting to pit their XF-R against the CTS-V. Lutz commented today saying, “think it means that the European high-performance sedans are excellent, even superb cars, but quite possibly not ready for racing laps right out of the show-room.”

Either way GM wins.

Meanwhile, Wes needs a car. Unfortunately for Team Jalopnik they don’t have a car to race Bob with. The site that pushed to get GM to own up to Bob’s original challenge to reporters may not be in the race, since they are now quickly waiting for some brand to show up and help them beat Lutz and his Caddy.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

FTC: Bloggers Not the Target, Advertisers Are


If you are a follower of social media news, I’m sure you didn’t miss all of the discussions about the FTC announcing guidance for bloggers having to disclose any freebees they receive from companies. It’s been a hot discussion topic across blogs, the advertising industry and major media outlets. In fact, if you want to understand the topic better than I can ever describe it, checkout the New York Times article discussing not only the impact on bloggers but what it means for traditional media too.

A lot of this issue has surrounded bloggers being singled out for receiving swag, while magazines, newspapers and TV reviewers get all kinds of products free to review from manufacturers. With the new rules, many bloggers feel the FTC guidelines (they are not laws) unfairly make bloggers the target of government regulations for a practice traditional media has taken part in for decades. This is a valid concern, but what does this mean for the automotive industry and its use of bloggers?

Is this passive compliance?

There is a $16,000 fine associated with each violation, so the threat is real but is it likely to be levied? The Silicon Alley Insider reports, “FTC assistant director Richard Cleland tells Joe Ciarallo at PR Newser, the FTC would never go after a blogger. It would only go after the advertiser.”

After a couple weeks digesting the FTC rules many feel they are meant as self-policing regulation to show that the government will take violations that mislead customers seriously, but most of the change will be an industry understanding of how to behave with consumer interests in mind. Doing proper disclosure is a good thing as is properly making well-informed statements about products being reviewed.

In a recent addition of the marketing Podcast The Bean Cast, host Bob Knorpp shares his email exchange with advertising lawyer Michael McSunas about when such a fine would occur. Many feel, as reported in last week’s Agency Spy blog, that the FTC sets up these rules as a guideline and never enforces the compliance with a fine. McSunas feels a fine would only be sought if the violation was for "deceptive practices or maybe a complaint." This is probably correct but of course it’s an educated assumption until we see the FTC take action or no action.

Disclosure is Easy, Inaccurate Statements More Complex


Regardless of when or if a fine will ever be levied, the FTC rules have caused a bit of a panic for bloggers who don’t want to face government fines after possibly inaccurately reviewing the latest hybrid car or family minivan.

It’s also caused concern for marketers who don’t want to be a case study for the FTC and want to make sure no inaccurate statements are made about their products, so it creates an issue for them to now review everything written about them that they send for review to a blogger. This issue is fare more concerning than the disclosure rule a blogger is supposed to make for receiving any item to review.

Marketers more likely the target

One issue automakers may worry about is statements casually written by bloggers that could be construed as competitive claims. To quote the FTC Rules directly:
"The Commission believes it is reasonable to hold the advertiser responsible for communicating approved claims to the service (which, in turn, would be responsible for communicating those claims to the blogger).”
For those who may not know, automakers must legally confirm competitive statements like best mid-size sedan fuel economy or roomiest third-row. Of course, some claims are utter nonsense since companies choose who is in their segment, though it does have to be within reason. Also claims can select what they want to compare against, like using highway mileage instead of combined mileage or vice-versa to show a competitive advantage.

With bloggers, the concern is a possible lack of depth within a particular industry of products where a blogger may claim something like “wow this car has the most roomiest interior of any SUV.” False claims like this now have federal oversight from the FTC that may cause reluctance from a corporate lawyer reviewing a blogger outreach campaign.

So, the big question is will fear of inaccurate statements by bloggers reduce company participation in social media? Don't know. Maybe in the near-term, but I doubt long-term since companies and bloggers will learn how to comply with the FTC rules and some initial hysteria may dissipate over time.

It’s about consumer protection... really

If this is about consumer protection and less about collecting fines, the FTC rules should be welcomed as it shows blogger importance has reached a level worthy of attention. There have been marketers like Sony who have created fake bloggers to write about the PSP. Other issues have been companies outright paying for positive reviews. Something had to be done to handle the few violations of public trust.

My experience in automotive is that it is quite clear when a blogger is given a car to review and from where that car came from. So disclosure is already being done. Claims are the more pressing concern and may lead to additional materials being presented to bloggers at the time a vehicle is offered for review.

In conclusion

Hopefully, the FTC rules will remove any suspect social media campaigns that create fake bloggers or do payola deals. Also, I believe we’ll see the rules in action by their inaction and how this may do very little to change what is going on today on most blogs. Sure we’ll see some more emphatic statements about how a blogger received a product, but beyond that the impact should be minimal and the working relationship with bloggers and auto manufacturers and dealers a continuing positive experience for all.

For more information about the FTC Rules:

Truth in Advertising, Offline or Online from @NYTimes

Episode 75: The Monopoly on Crappy Work from @TheBeanCast

IAB Says FTC Blogger Rules Trample Constitution from @AdWeek

FTC Publishes Final Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials from FTC.gov

Finally, this blog post was sponsored by Gas Station Coffee for when you are too lazy to brew your own or walk 1 minute to the nearest Starbucks.
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Monday, August 17, 2009

Chevy Traverse Entry into the Mommy-sphere


There is a lot of data showing the engagement of women online, especially highly desirable family oriented professional moms who have considerable influence in automotive purchases, women influence 85% of all the car buying decisions.

A recent report from eMarketer shows the following impressive social interaction from female social network users:



One key category that is getting a ton of attention is the “Read Blogs” statistic. With all the hype around mommy bloggers who are showing up in all kinds of traditional media outlets with stories showing highly successful bloggers getting perks from companies and, more importantly, having influence on other female consumers, it is no surprise that automotive brands want to reach out to these influencers.

With all this attention, it would seem a mommy blogger outreach would be a slam-dunk for any automaker with an impressive new product that is perfectly targeted to cool, trendy mommy bloggers and their readers.

So the marketing department develops a profile showing some hip, trendy mom who can flawlessly juggle life via Blackberry, running a bunch of kids around town and finding time to hit the spa between soccer and dance classes.

Chevy Dealers Reach Out to Influencers

North Texas Chevy Dealers took their new family hauler, the Traverse, to moms by giving the SUV to them for 8-weeks, plenty of time to write and create stories around the Traverse. All the while, the bloggers were competing for a prize and readers could also win a prize in a drawing.

Some details about the contest element:
From April – June, readers were to visit the mommy madness local sites (two in Dallas and one in Kansas City) where the voter is entered into a contest to win a resort trip and vote for their favorite mommy blogger who would also win a prize if they were voted the top spot.
I love the idea of giving bloggers the car for such a long time. Eight weeks really gives the women some quality time to experience the vehicle and write about their use and share their honest feedback. It's a great way to gain some consumer insights from a customer perspective.

One mommy blogger, and there are several examples showing the same results, had no engagement on her site when she wrote about the contest or SUV (no engagement = no comments.) Bloggers were directed to post the reviews, not on their blog, but on a separate site. That’s due to Chevrolet and CBS Radio, the two sponsors, creating sites to host the blogger articles and videos. Funny thing is that all of the content the bloggers created, minus a few videos on YouTube, all went away and are no longer viewable on the web since the sites have been shutdown.

YouTube videos from the contest show on average 47 views with the top video getting a whopping 126. Seems engagement was very low with the content, probably partially due to the contest creating sites outside of the very blogger audiences they wanted to reach.

Three-Month Life to Content

Why on earth would you reach out to mommy bloggers who have established audiences, have them post your product’s content on some separate contest website and then delete all the content when the contest wraps up? This has to be about the crazyiest way to tap into the built-in audience a blog has.

Didn’t anyone say, “Hey we should let the content live on the bloggers’ sites because that’s where the bloggers’ readers are.”

Instead the result is that there is very little content on YouTube (think needle in a haystack) and very limited reviews on mom blogger websites from people who lived with the vehicle for 8 weeks. Chevrolet spent all this time and money to create user-generated content only to have it live for three months. Huh?

A Blogger Kept Her Reviews on Her Blog

Fortunately, one blogger recognized that keeping her posts on her site would be of value, beyond the contest. The “Dinkypops No More” blog kept the engagement on her site and included a lot of information about her experience with the Traverse. The articles are actually pretty good and included some nice pictures and a few video reviews (though video metrics show rather minuscule results 70-120 views per video.)

The good news is that the blogger’s readers did engage with some posts, mostly cheerleading about how awesome it is she was selected for the opportunity and comments about the mission not the car (e.g. riding roller coasters, getting a haircut, and other family activities.)

So even though the product is aimed right at the busy mom target, it doesn’t mean mommy blogger readers care enough to talk about a $30,000 plus vehicle. What is also interesting is how few comment on the attributes of the car (one post I found finally had some car related comments, because it focused entirely on the driver’s favorite things.) Leaving me to wonder is a car too much of a considered purchase that few mommy blogger readers care about as they do with day-to-day consumer goods like food, sundries, and child-focused products?

Metrics

The metrics allude to my question about the blogger's readers not really wanting to find out more about a shiny, expensive new car. One insight into the metrics of the separate Mommy Madness sites is a post showing results four days into the contest in April:

Dallas
884 Unique visits
3130 Unique page views
3:32 average time on site

Houston
520 Unique visits
1926 Unique page views
4:31 avg. time on site

Is this good? Tough to know if media buys also drove visits or was traffic only from the mom bloggers the source. My guess is that media buys were limited, if any at all, since the contest was lead not by Chevrolet the brand, but by the regional North Texas Chevy Dealers.

Conclusions

When leveraging a blogger's audience, don't have the readership go out to your marketing website to read reviews about your product. Drop off has to be huge and loses the whole point of engaging that blogger - her readers.

Hosting content on a marketing site that you intend to shut down after said contest also loses all of the great content the bloggers created for your product. This great content is no longer available when others are researching your product.

The contest element is interesting and will entice some readers to jump to an unfamiliar website, but as one friend of mine once said, "contests should read: Enter for your chance to lose..."

Finally, there is a big question of whether mommy blogger engagement is right for automotive brands. Sure the appeal of the demographic is there, but do people visiting sites - mainly focused on parenting and household dynamics - really care to engage with a highly-considered purchase like a car/SUV?

One thing is certain, the mommy blogger community is too intoxicating to ignore for marketers and future examples of blogger engagement may prove more compelling than this regionally focused one from a dealership group was.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

MINI E Ignored on the Street But Not Online


The MINI E is “an experiment of sorts”, according to MINI’s own website. 500 people were given the opportunity to lease a fully electric MINI E for $850/month for 12 months where the cars are undergoing a real-world experiment. The field trial was limited to only California, New York and New Jersey dealers.

Like most experiments, some things go according to plan and some do not. From USA Today, one owner had a major glitch. “The car's motor shut down on his wife, Suzanne, while she was driving on the freeway, apparently having overheated. The car restarted a few minutes later.”

The idea of getting vehicles into consumers hands is an admirable one and one that will help BMW, who owns MINI, get a solid understanding of the challenges involved with supporting an electric vehicle (EV) product.

A Hurried Experiment?

Some wonder though if MINI rushed their experiment. BMW had to meet a hard date to obtain the important California Air Resources Board (CARB) credits earned from a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV). To meet this date, it seems the vehicle wasn’t ready for primetime and some bad press has ensued around two key EV topics: vehicle mileage range and charging time.

It was taking a full day for MINI E owners to charge their new cars due to some issues with the 120-volt cable that comes with the car. Estimated charging time was supposed to be in the 4-hour range.

Estimated range on the vehicle was 156 miles when released, but MINI USA has been re-stating the range as 100 miles. Some owners are of course seeing lower or slightly higher mileage ranges, but well below the initial estimate of 156.

Combined these issues were best summed up by an automotive enthusiast friend of mine, Mike Juergens, who commented, "they are like the RC cars I had growing up. I'd wait all day for it to charge to play with it for 10 minutes."

Getting the Word Out

There is some significant coverage of the MINI E in the blogsphere, especially when compared against a similar social media effort like Ford’s Fiesta Movement; though, the Fiesta Movement is more Twitter, YouTube and Facebook and less about blogging. The graph, at left, does show the MINI E is getting its message out in the blog community.

With so much attention, the MINI E is an important test for all EV cars. It is a test to see how consumers enjoy them on a day-to-day basis and what issues may arise for all EV manufacturers. Releasing the car too soon to consumers is a gutsy move and one wonders if this trial will negatively impact the marketing of the MINI E going forward.

One lesson MINI is sure to learn is that green vehicles need to be unique to be considered differentiating to the public. Even with some decals and other visual cues from a gas MINI, the new MINI E doesn’t scream look at me.

One of the things I have found most interesting about the MINI E blogs out there are the number of owners concerned that the MINI E car itself is ignored. It isn’t the visual status symbol a Prius is. And considering that a MINI E is fully electric, it should be a level up in Green status from a hybrid car but no one is noticing the full electric merits of the car.

CNW Marketing Research has an interesting finding on top reasons customers bought a Toyota Prius. "Makes a statement about me" ranked as the highest reason owners bought the car (granted this is Q2 2007 data and I'm sure fuel-economy has surpassed it but its very telling how significant this reason is.)

MINI E drivers also are doing it for the self recognition and other more altruistic reason too I'm sure. How do I know? Here are some quotes from various MINI E leasee bloggers:

“It’s been almost a week and a half and hardly anyone noticed I’m driving an electric car. Not even other MINI drivers acknowledge the MINI E.” - stuartistry.com

“I've been disappointed that no one seems to notice there is anything special about this car so I added some vinyl lettering to the car, "100% Electric" for over the front window, and "Just Say No to Gas" for on the rear.” - mini-e.blogspot.com

“I get more questions when I walk my labradoodle.” - minielectricandme.com

So perhaps the first lesson is to make the car look entirely different than its gas counterpart.
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