Showing posts with label CTS-V. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CTS-V. Show all posts

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...


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Was the CTS-V Challenge a Marketing Win?

Let me get four things out of the way before my post-game analysis of the CTS-V Challenge as a marketing event. First, I love it that Bob Lutz challenged the media and followed through on it. Bob is a legend and this is why. He is a car guy through and through. Second, I think the event was a marketing success (you can stop reading now if you don't care why I think this.) Thirdly, the CTS-V is a fantastic car. Everyone felt it was competitive and it proved that, even though most race fans will tell you racing is 90% driver and 10% car. Finally, every time a marketing company does a challenge/race it is always tilted in the host's favor. It isn't about racing; it's about promotion.

Now that I have that out of the way, let's look at the CTS-V Challenge in full and most importantly understand why it was a marketing success and what other marketing teams can learn from it.

The "Race"

The idea all started when Bob Lutz made a comment at the press conference launching GM’s latest marketing campaign “May the Best Car Win.” Lutz “told reporters he would challenge anyone in any production sedan to a race around Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway and try to beat him,” What’s interesting here is this wasn’t an idea that started in a creative brainstorming to figure out how to market the CTS-V. This was Bob being Bob and later the automotive blog Jalopnik being Jalopnik.

The event probably would’ve never happened if it wasn’t for Jalopnik egging GM to commit to the challenge Lutz made. GM decided to come through, probably after watching some of the early buzz the social media was lending to the idea of such an event. Eventually applications were being taken at this micro-site.

In the marketing ideation for the event, some things were added that would later annoy most of those looking forward to the event. Sure Bob Lutz would race but GM also decided to stack the chips in their favor. The racetrack changed from Laguna Seca to the Monticello Motor Club in New York, the same track GM prepared for their CTS-V Nurburgring time. This is notable because it is a track the GM Team was very, very familiar with. Just like in golf, in racing, the more you practice on the same course the better you get to know it and improve your game. The other challengers definitely lacked this advantage.

Also, GM showed up with a ton of drivers ready to make sure if someone beat Bob that the CTS-V would still win. Most notable at the event was John Heinricy who set the Nurburgring time and was the ringer of the group. This stacking the deck with several drivers also became a way for GM PR to say things like CTS-V wins 6 or the 7 top spots in the challenge. Marketing at its best.

Where many enthusiasts felt slighted was that it was supposed to be Bob versus the challengers and when looking through the original intent of the challenge the CTS-V placed second to a 20 year old with a BMW M3. The driver, an unknown named Michael Cooper, who certainly had some track experience (everyone is trying to find out how much) but he definitely isn’t a professional or some sort of ringer like Heinricy or some of the others GM brought.

Blogger Michael Banovsky summed up the feelings of many enthusiasts when he wrote:
“While I feel that the CTS-V is certainly the fastest — or at least in the top two — of its vehicle class, the challenge and subsequent assertions that a lap time by a professional driver 'won' sour my opinion of the car.”

Measuring the Buzz

Now that a couple days have passed, it’s time to look at how the Challenge did in social media conversation.

On Twitter the most re-tweeted blog was Banovsky’s followed by GM’s own blog post on their Fastlane site. But a lot of blogs covered the event as we can see in this Buzz Metric’s report.

We can see in the graph that the CTS-V gets a decent lift in conversation with several automotive blogs covering the story. There is even some momentum going into the event. It’s also noteworthy to see the lift the BMW M3 gets and the unknown driver Michael Cooper receives from the coverage.

This is part of the problem with doing challenges. Sure your product gets talked about but so do all of your key competitors thus raising conversation for all brands. The side-effect is that everyone in the challenge sees some positive lift and gets marketed too.

Michael Cooper and his M3 also became the enthusiast favorite, after reading several blogs that covered the CTS-V Challenge, because it won on the merits of the original concept and, felt by many, to be the true winner of the event.

Chatter is the Goal

Edward Boches, Chief Creative Officer/Chief Social Officer at Mullen, shares a perspective on a recent episode of the marketing show The Bean Cast that “social media creativity is about inspiring others to tell stories for us,.. or to invite them to co-create those stories with us.” This is the new creative execution. Cadillac’s CTS-V is a perfect expression of this new creativity.

The Challenge definitely spurred a lot of conversation about Cadillac with enthusiasts. There was a lot of braggadocious talk from brand advocates supporting their own favorites before and throughout the event too.

Cadillac did miss an opportunity in the Twitterverse by not defining a hashtag for the event. Hashtags are a way to thread a conversation on Twitter that everyone can use to follow a topic. In the early stages of the race, Jalopnik defined the event as “#JalopnikvsGM”. Here is a tag cloud showing how that conversation went.

Eventually GM’s PR Team got the conversation more on their topic by using the shorter hashtag “#ctsv”. As you can see the conversation changed more in Cadillac’s favor in the following tag cloud:

There was also some traditional media coverage when NPR’s “All Things Considered” show interview Bob Lutz that afternoon and the NY Times blog picked the story up too. Buzz overall was very strong for the event and they did get a nice lift in the social media space making it a success by Boches definition of creative marketing success.

What We All Can Learn

There are several things that went right from this event. Sure it wasn’t really invented by any ad agency or creative ideation which shows that we can all learn a lot from accepting ideas that maybe spurred on by the blogosphere (GM owes most of this to Jalopnik for pressing to do it.)

What also went very well was the promotion of the event through social media, GM has a significant number of people on Twitter and strong relationships with several blogs to get the word out. Their team was tweeting when the event began at 10am and continued well into the evening after the results. Having a lot of bloggers out on Twitter talking about it helped even more since the idea wrapped a very vocal, socially adept community right from the start by challenging the bloggers. So they were part of the story from the start, whether they raced or not.

The event also provided a lot of different angles for the conversation to go. It was controversial and led to further coverage and conversation. One of the best write-ups came from the contestant from The Truth About Cars, Jack Baruth. Baruth shared his experience in details along with the excuse for his Audi S4 placing so poorly (poor production brakes) and GM being gracious enough to let him drive Lutz’s car. The whole idea of "ringers" at the event really led to a lot of conversation which really got everyone talking.

The best part is the product was front and center. Everyone who covered the event talked about the CTS-V and that's what GM really wanted.

What’s the Next Challenge?

So this got me thinking. How about a drag race with all of the Big Three Pony cars? Lutz can drag the Camaro SS. Ford’s Mark Fields can use the Ford Mustang GT500. Chrysler group’s Olivier Francois can show up with their Challenger SRT8. And this time no ringers.

Photos from the event were used with permission from (more photos from the event)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cadillac's Reality TV Version of Gran Turismo

I am a performance minded driver. I love watching Top Gear, I watch some racing, follow enthusiast magazine and boards, and I even do performance modifications on my own car. From this foundation, I am a bit of a sucker for performance minded marketing efforts. The latest example in this space is a rather interesting site from Cadillac called The CTS-V Performance Driving Lab.

Cadillac took several drivers to Monticello Motor Club from November 7-9. There drivers were given the opportunity to test the new 556 hp, 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, powerhouse from General Motors. The cool thing is the way Cadillac brought the experience to everyone else by posting everyone’s drive on a website.

Pro driver Andy Pilgrim set a benchmark for the track and then novice track drivers took their tries for the best time. The site shows you three camera angles – cockpit, heads up display, and another showing the turn of the wheel close-up on the brake caliper. You also get to see real-time speed, RPMs, and G-Force numbers. It all gives one the impression of some video game like Gran Turismo. The gauges are real-time too along with a GPS readout in the lower left to see position on the track. All of this is some pretty amazing technology integrated into a great way to showcase the CTS-Vs performance credentials.

But it is it compelling as a marketing tool? I would argue yes and no.

Why Yes?

I can see performance minded consumers checking out a few videos. There are tons of videos all over YouTube showing track times, races, you name it it’s on there. Cadillac did post the Andy Pilgrim video on YouTube, so it is promoting the CTS-V Lab site on YouTube through their MyCadillacStory Channel. I can see why they didn’t just use YouTube as a place to host all the content since most of it is video and it would follow a more natural experience leverging YouTube’s place as where to go for video online. The issue is with all the feedback, real-time data extras that make the experience great and unusual. So, score a big YES for Cadillac on showing how to do real-world performance in an interesting, engaging way on the ‘net.

So Why Yes and No?

It is interesting seeing novice drivers take their shot at the track, but it’s far more interesting to see several experienced drivers compete and show that competition in the way Cadillac so beautifully does in this execution. Plus I think it would be more sought out by performance racing fans that like to see their driver(s) take a stock street legal car for a competitive spin. So, it loses some luster by having novice drivers who are a bit guarded in how the push the performance of the car, as seen in many of the videos. There are just a lot of poor laps on the site, though Cadillac did try to solve this, provided one sees the link for “Fastest Lap Times” that is left dangling from the main navigation.

All in all though I think the site is an interesting take on showcasing a performance car and I commend the team who brought in some nice features and feedback data for true driving fans.