Showing posts with label microsite. Show all posts
Showing posts with label microsite. Show all posts

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Will the “First Online Test Drive” Inspire At Least One Real Test Drive?

Mitsubishi thinks you will be interested in driving their new Outlander Sport using your keyboard. To do this, they have rigged a SUV so that one can control it online.

I kept seeing the ads on TV and received some email from Mitsubishi (I signed up for updates months back), but didn’t realize until I went to the Outlander Sport micro-site that the test-drive is being held November 1-10. To participate in the “Live Drive”, there is a sign-up form that has to be sent before November 1 and those who register will receive an access code.

The drive looks like it will be similar to a consumer ride and drive event where several orange cones will be setup in a large, empty parking lot. The new Outlander Sport will then be controlled by a remote control.

“Live Drive”, “Virtual Test Drive”, “Online Test Drive” whatever they are called it is not something new. Every automaker I’m sure has had a brainstorming session around how can they get consumers to experience a test drive using a computer. If you can’t get ‘butts in seats’ you might have some luck getting people interested in a vehicle while they virtually drive with butts is in desk seats.

Toyota did their version of a Virtual Test Drive with their Yaris launch site a couple years ago. Yaris let users control four different camera angles and added some hot spots to get more information while the car drove through one of five user selected cities.

The Yaris drive highlights key local landmarks for those wanting to learn more about the cities the car drives through. Everything is video based so it is far more passive than what Mitsubishi is attempting to do with the Outlander Sport. The interactivity of changing camera angles or clicking hot spots doesn’t feel like a test drive; it feels more like switching camera views on a video game, not playing the video game.

I have a feeling the Outlander Sport “Live Drive” will be more like playing the game than controlling viewing perspectives. It’s an interesting novelty experiment. Will it move much product? Who knows? If it is executed well then it may catch some buzz and thanks to a somewhat healthy TV ad buy from a minor automotive brand it should get a decent initial audience.

I’m looking forward to my online test drive and will send an update to let you know what I think about the execution and since my family is in the market for a new SUV, who knows, maybe I might go from office seat to car seat as Mitsubishi hopes.

More details from USAToday.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Facebook and the Death of Micro-Site

There is a move in digital marketing to replace the micro-site with a Facebook fan page. The latest casualty is the Nissan Master the Shift lifestyle marketing campaign.

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know this campaign since I previously covered it. It has been around for over 2 years. Nissan has done a great job with the email marketing efforts for the campaign where they are constantly giving away free sports related equipment to contest entrants. Regular email communications are sent as new content is added and contest prizes are released.

Basically, the program is a lifestyle marketing effort linking the passions of running, cycling, and yoga featuring three key personalities: Lance Armstrong, Ryan Hall, and Tara Stiles. The experience includes several videos showcasing different exercise and training tips while also promoting Nissan vehicles, the Nissan Altima was the lead vehicle for two years but now it’s been replaced by the Nissan LEAF.

This year Nissan shifted (pun intended) their micro-site to Facebook where all of the prior website’s content went into various Facebook tabs. This worked pretty well for the athlete content as each person has their own tab and video views seem decent; though, it’s tough to truly gauge as I’m not sure how much advertising was done to drive people to the Facebook page. Also, is some video views were probably done through YouTube and Google search, not all entirely through the Facebook experience.

One wonders though if the move to a Facebook fan page is a better, more effective, decision than keeping the micro-site.

The most significant issue I can see from the Nissan Master the Shift change is how buried the vehicle content is now. One can only get to the vehicle information using the Favorite Pages section of the Facebook fan page. The vehicle content really gets lost in the new experience, but this may be a result of the campaign’s goals having to do more with contest entries (the entry form is the first thing that shows up when one clicks an ad) and driving people to the unique content created for each of the athletes tend to be more primary objectives.

Another concern with moving to Facebook is that the user now has several interruptions that never existed with a micro-site. For instance, if a friend on Facebook initiates a chat, Nissan could lose that person’s attention. Also, any status update or new message information while on Facebook could further distract the visitor. There is of course just the fact that one is on Facebook and may simply and easily return to their Facebook news feed. The usability, call-to-action person in me questions how so many other clicks can interrupt the experience and thus lose the person Nissan is trying to reach.

The whole change from micro-site to Facebook fan page is an experiment. I would love to see how well the change is for Nissan, but without any primary data analytics it’s difficult to assess the strategic decision, but it’s an easy realization for the Nissan team as they can see if their content is getting a higher engagement rate by moving to Facebook.

Nissan is also launching an 18 stop event marketing campaign, as detailed here (though the story incorrectly says the Master the Shift campaign "began in April.") Getting out to events is a great way to reach this target consumer. It also provides another way, besides banner ads, to get the word about Nissan's working with these athletes and an additional way to promote their Facebook fan page.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lexus Goes Dark Green with Its Latest Hybrid

The Lexus CT 200h hybrid hatchback is being marketed under “The Darker Side of Green” campaign and realized by a new interactive online game called “The Dark Ride.” Game players ride shotgun and get a good look around the inside and outside of the CT 200h.

Several action packed moments take place to showcase how cool and fun the CT 200h is provided your idea of fun is driving to avoid bad guys and sharing a car with Tony, Lexus’ star bad boy in the Dark Ride.

“With ‘Dark Ride’ we are creating a unique virtual test drive opportunity so consumers can experience this hybrid, that is like no other, months before it is available at dealerships in early 2011,” said Dave Nordstrom, Lexus vice president of marketing. “In it, consumers play a co-starring role as the fun-to-drive Lexus CT 200h is put through its paces. By guiding the driver and the CT through a series of adventures, customers will be exposed to ‘The Darker Side of Green,’ which is completely different than the way hybrids are usually portrayed.”

The only real issue I have with the site is the time it takes to start the game. Setup involves allowing access to a webcam and talking into your computer’s microphone. Talking into a microphone isn’t very work environment conducive so that causes some delays.

Also the game is really more of a movie where you click or talk to engage decisions. The car is driven by The Boondock Saints actor Norman Reedus who does an excellent job keeping the energy up. As the participant, it is a bit more of a passive experience though still more engaging than simply watching a video.

After the experience is over, Lexus showcases a couple music artists from the soundtrack that link out to iTunes. People can also enter their information up to three times to either stay informed about the CT 200h, win a CT 200h, or if they have whatever a “Dark Card” is they can enter information to get invited to special events that will happen in Miami, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

There are of course the usual social sharing links to Facebook, Twitter and email. I did the Facebook share and the automatic text reads, “Check out my Dark Ride Trailer.” Unfortunately, the trailer isn’t custom to the person and comes off a bit odd. As my little sister commented on Facebook, “Why is this YOUR Dark Ride Trailer?”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Toyota Avalon: Now That's Entertainment!

When the average age of your customer is 66 years old, you have to get a bit creative to get some youthfulness into your marketing. This month’s Car & Driver has a full-page ad for the Toyota Avalon. The ad features three very beautiful women looking like they are going to a 1940’s dance at Hollywood’s Brown Derby.

The ad copy is all about the “Spacious Life” showcasing how roomy the Avalon is. No pun intended, it’s definitely a big selling point for the Avalon and what better way to connect with the consumer than by appealing to their youth, even if it was over a half century ago. Besides, the ad even may capture the interest of those not part of the WWII generation since ads with beautiful women is sure to intrigue any audience (sadly, this is probably what caught my interest if I’m being honest.)

There is nothing wrong or particularly great about the ad. I just found it an interesting way to appeal to your consumption target using some subtle sexiness while hearkening back to the youth of the customer in a tasteful way while still communicating the benefits of the vehicle.

Experience Continues Online

I was more surprised by a launch site that carried the "Travel Avalon Class" message into a campaign website.

Feature content transitions look like something out of MGM's That's Entertainment films. Content rotates to different theatrical stages where features are demonstrated by a host who looks like Ray Liotta and his female product demonstration model. They banter about "the big city", "the big easy", "those are fabulous shoes" and "welcome to the land of stars." It's all a bit cliche but that's the point. This is an attempt to take one back to a time when life was simple and Avalon's customers were young.

It really is a nicely done site though the transition between features takes awhile due to the creative assets loading and I do wonder about the patience of site visitors; although, if they do spend some time with the content it really is effective at explaining some very complex feature benefits that most site probably have an issue getting across to older customers. The Bluetooth and Navigation demonstrations are particularly effective here. Hopefully site visitors will notice the small font of the lower navigation so they can Build & Price and learn more.

Take a look at the site as my words can hardly explain what is going on here:


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mini Owners Logged Their Top-Down Driving to Win

Site reviewed: The Open One Challenge

Mini wrapped up a contest early last February where owners of the second generation Mini Cooper convertible shared their recorded top-down driving miles through a web site called The winner ended up logging 555.5 miles. David Loveall’s Mini is his first car and will doing his traveling sales job he was able to win a trip for two to Oxford, England at the Mini factory.

I originally caught this story in the latest issue of Roundel magazine. For those who don’t know, Roundel is the monthly magazine for the BMW Car Club of America (@BMWCCA on Twitter) that’s for BMW and Mini owners. They had a small blurb about the winner of the challenge that has gone on since July 28, 2009 and ended December 31, 2009.

I’m not sure how this contest was promoted or who it was supposed to reach. There was an event logged by the Mini USA Facebook administrator but it only registered a few participants. The Mini USA website still has an active link to the Open One Challenge under the top navigation Play menu item (see image at left.)

Since this was a contest only owners could participate in, I would guess enrollment was mainly done via email or owner website outreach to get people interested in the prizing.

Mini’s press release stated, “MINI customers who entered the contest were asked to personalize a profile page with photos of their Open Motoring experience. Photos of all the participants’ journeys.”

There was a minor appeal to get non-owners involved where people could create their own photo gallery to post their own “Open Road adventures with a camera.” The Mini press release says their were some 400 participants but from what I can tell only 115 actually logged hours against their top-down driving.

The site is still up even after awarding the prize February 4, 2010; even the link is still live from the Mini USA website navigation. Content hasn’t been reworked to appeal to those who didn’t participate in the contest. Perhaps it will remain live as a site for a while. One wonders though what appeal the site has now that the contest is done? Unfortunately, the content isn’t very interesting to anyone except for those who played the game.

If you want to see several screenshots from site please check out the Behance Network’s site.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Volvo Wants You to be Naughty

The new Volvo S60 is sexy. You heard me right, a Volvo can be sexy with its smooth, flowing lines. I saw the concept car last year here in Detroit and it was the most interesting, beautifully designed Volvo since the P1800. Fortunately the production version of the concept from the 2009 show has remained pretty much intact to become the 2011 Volvo S60.

Yes it is sexy, but is it really naughty? Volvo’s marketing team thinks so. They had some fun prior to the car’s debut today in Geneva with two video teasers promoting the Volvo S60 reveal website: The two preview videos were a good way to build some buzz about the vehicle’s new website and created a mental shift of thinking of a Volvo as naughty. Naughty definitely sparked some interest since it seemed so far outside of Volvo’s normal brand image of family safety.

Michael Persson, director of global marketing communications for Volvo says “The all-new Volvo S60 is a particularly dynamic car with an exciting design and innovative safety features… We are showing what it can actually do and just how much fun it is to drive.”

The Naughty Volvo Cars website features a couple videos of the S60 aggressively driving in some empty road slaloms. One of the tests is an Elk Test that demonstrates “the S60’s amazing responsiveness in an emergency maneuver.”

After watching the tests the website viewer can submit ideas to make the Elk Test “even naughtier, more playful.” Users are asked to submit ideas with the top five ideas going up for a group vote with the top voted idea to be filmed by the Volvo S60 team.

Ideas are shared on a Discussion board on the Volvo brand Facebook fan page. As of today most of the ideas were not ideas at all, but instead Volvo fans asking for the return of a Volvo S60R as several enthusiasts figured a naughty Volvo implied a fast, Type R Volvo that did not happen today.

The site is pretty straightforward stuff. Navigation is clear and the video content is presented in a clean, easy-to-use format. The use of a Facebook discussion board made for an easier development schedule, but it does seem a bit disconnected since it doesn't warn the user a new window is opening and that the Facebook page is there to submit naughty ideas.

It also still isn’t entirely clear what is so naughty about the S60 after watching the videos and reading the site copy. The message feels very disconnected especially when the site asks, “want it naughty?” It just sees a bit odd for a vehicle that is probably going to sell to wealthy, middle-aged, professional men and women who buy a Volvo to protect their kids.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

MINI's Positweets Lacks Positive Consumer Value

“We all know there is plenty of negative news in the world and we think it’s time to start focusing on all the good. Positweets is the destination for all the latest positive news and updates from Twitter. Here, you can see what others are saying and post your own #positweets!”
Positweets is a new marketing experience from MINI. It is a standalone site that lets vistors easily send a Tweet with the hashtag “#positweets”. What positive tweet will someone send? Who knows unless you already have something positive to say when you arrive at the site, there is nothing the site does to recommend a positive comment or thought. The positivity is up to the visitor.

So what is being said from people who arrived at this site?

I ran a tweet cloud for “#positweets” and discovered the most prominent words tweeted were “Noam Chomsky”, yes the liberal professor from MIT. So why was Noam Chomsky the most tweeted from the hashtag? It’s because of an odd ball link from the website about a
Noam Chomsky Garden “Noam” (BoingBoing is one of a few websites paid to be "Positributors".) The words MINI, Cooper, anything car or auto related do not show up in the Tweet Cloud. Of course this is probably hardly surprising to the people who developed the site, since other than a single picture of a MINI Cooper on the homepage of, there is nothing promoting MINI. This is only about being positive and being positive requires one to add the hashtag “#positweets”.

So why would someone decide to lose 11 characters from their already limiting 140 character tweets to append the hashtag? I’m not sure. There really is no incentive other than the incentive of the MINI team being able to run statistics showing how many “Positive Words Per Hour” is being said on Twitter.

With no consumer incentive, this effort just seems pointless. Sure I get it that MINI wants to foster positive words in a negative world and that positivism will somehow make you think MINI was involved. It’s a huge stretch. My guess is that few people will ever return to the Positweets website after clicking on an advertisement that brought them there.

I saw the ad on BoingBoing (sorry I didn’t screen capture it) and thought I was going to MINI’s Twitter page, but no I ended up on this site. It seemed a bit confusing and sure some small percentage of site visitors will Tweet a “#positweet” but after that there is no reason to stay engaged with this effort. Consumer value is very, very low.

And why setup a branded Twitter account called @Positweets? I thought the whole idea was to engage via hashtag not via an account. Seems someone is a bit confused about how Twitter communication works. No one is really engaging with the Twitter account because it’s not clear why one would engage with the account; though, 29 people don’t agree with me as there are a few followers.

So does any of this effort connect to MINI’s primary site?

The site has been around at least since early September. The site has nothing that I could find promoting Positweets. I checked all of the emails I receive from MINI and not one included anything about the site.

Perhaps a few media dollars were left to promote the site and that’s why I saw an ad for it today on After the media spend, I doubt much else will happen since it lacks any consumer value and does little, if anything to promote the brand. Though it did do a lot to promote a certain Garden Noam.

UPDATE 2/13/2010: I tried to see how the Positweets website was doing and not surprisingly the site is no more. It looks like this idea went nowhere and someone decided to pull the plug after 2 or 3 months.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Part I: How Cash for Clunkers Impacted 2009 Sales & Advertising to Attract Bargain Shoppers

There are a lot of articles out talking about a resurgence in automotive sales. As a recent LA Times article claims, “U.S. car sales are out of rut.” While there certainly is some very positive momentum that all started with Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) or more commonly known as “Cash For Clunkers”, Ford posted a pretax third-quarter profit of $357 million and General Motors has improved its market share for four straight months, the market is far from recovery.

All of this talk about improvements in the automotive market has left me wondering what is really going on, since we recently crossed 10% national unemployment and little has changed with economic fundamentals.

Did Cash For Clunkers wake people up and get them interested in car buying? Or was it simply a temporary spike where numbers returned to pre-Clunker sales? Or is something else going. Of course, I’m curious if the sales momentum in late 2009 is advertising or product related or a little of both or not really a momentum at all.


Most of the analysis done by the media is year-over-year comparisons. But if this year is highly unusual and looking back at the tanking of sales in late 2008 is naturally going to provide what looks like a surge in sales, how can we judge sales performance post Cash for Clunkers?

This analysis looks at 2009 only. I looked at sales through the first six months of 2009 (January-June) and then took an average of sales for those months to obtain an average month in 2009.

The chart looks at percentage of change from a six-month average, against the months where Cash for Clunkers was active and the following two months post the end of the Clunkers offer: September and October.

The data also only looks at non-luxury automotive brands for the companies included in the analysis. Why? The legislation applied only to cars priced below $45,000. Cash for Clunkers had a negative or non-impact on luxury car sales, so I decided to exclude it in this analysis.

One company that may seem odd here is Smart. I only included them because they were running a high profile $99/month Cash for Clunkers promotion. I was curious if it had an impact on sales.

Sales During Cash for Clunkers

Honda, Nissan and Toyota saw the most significant increases in sales in August when Cash for Clunkers was at its peak. Honda had a 90% increase while Nissan increased 89% and Toyota 78% over the 6-month 2009 average.

U.S. brands Ford, General Motors and Chrysler saw decent gains, but almost two-thirds or half the gain of their foreign counterparts. General Motors led with a 60% gain, Ford saw a 45% increase and Chrysler performed the lowest across the major brands with only a 19% improvement; though, many Chrysler dealers were caught without adequate inventories.

Truck sales were one area where American brands did fairly well. “The single most common swap - which occurred more than 8,200 times - involved Ford 150 pickup owners who took advantage of a government rebate to trade their old trucks for new Ford 150s,” according to the Associated Press.

Not surprisingly, Hyundai received a nice bump especially with some low-priced value alternatives for SUV traders with significant sales of the Tucson and Santa Fe. The Elantra, their economy car, doubled sales in August as value seekers sought alternatives to the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla which all ran into availability issues.

Smart saw a negative change in July as Cash for Clunkers started, but eventually turned positive, barely, as the program peaked in August. Unfortunately for Smart, their sole product only allows for a driver and one passenger and while the 33/41 mpg fuel-economy at first is appealing, it comes with giving up a lot like interior space and concerns for safety.

The program did what most expected it to do. It increased sales and spurred a lot of interest in new car sales. Who benefited more is really more of a political concern and caused a lot of discussion as it is easy to see the Asian automakers did very well from the program.

Marketing To Clunker Sellers

There were various efforts as automakers tried their best to attract clunker sales. Hyundai was the first out of the gate by offering trades a few weeks before the program officially started, good thing for Hyundai the government accepted the early trades.

Ford Motor Company went with their “Let Ford Recycle Your Ride” site that simplified the process for figuring out if a car qualified and then returned a list of qualifying Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicle choices. The site also included manufacturer incentives. All of this made for a very easy understanding of cost in a few simple steps. Ford was the third most popular car brand that consumers visiting this website have requested calls from a local dealer.

Chrysler had by far the easiest, most effective message with its Cash for Clunkers advertising. Their program simply promoted a “Double Cash” incentive where Chrysler matched the government’s incentive. If one qualified for a $4,500 rebate from CARS, Chrysler added another $4,500 to the purchase allowing for a $9,000 incentive! It was very impressive and a clear, effective way to communicate their offer. Unfortunately, Chrysler is suffering very low consideration due to its bankruptcy and ran into supply issues even if customers wanted a vehicle.

Toyota was “proud to be part of the US government’s program.” They promoted their most fuel efficient and most dependable car company in America message in the TV spots for the program.

GM did a Cash for Clunkers qualification experience from their corporate website. The site was similar to Ford’s where one entered in their car information and it said what GM products were eligible for trade. It however did not include additional manufacturer incentive information.

Smart, as I mentioned earlier, provided a very interesting effort to gain some interest from bargain shoppers. They promoted a $99/month payment when a clunker was traded in for a new Smart car. The low monthly payment was definitely attractive and looked great in large print. Unfortunately, many were quick to chastise the offer as it came with a large $6,667 balloon payment at the end of the 36-month term. The full cost of the deal and the limited appeal of a two-seat car that looks like a death trap next to a Chevy Cobalt, probably caused most buyers to look elsewhere.

It was no surprise to see the small car; fuel-efficient leaders gain the most from the program. Truck sales were strong which definitely helped the home team along with a couple shining examples like the Ford Focus which led the program as the Number 1 buy of shoppers.

To be Continued (Article should be up no later than Dec 2):
Part II: Examining Post Cash for Clunkers

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kia Microsite and Tour Reaches for Gen-Y

“We got together with a group of really cool people to celebrate Music, Film, Design, Entrepreneur Spirit and Gaming. We call them The Soul Collective”
From this continues Kia’s marketing outreach to teen and twenty-something consumers. The Kia Soul Collective was a ten-city tour promoting the Kia Soul as it showed up at concert events where show goers could get more information about the car and if they arrived between 12pm-8pm could test-drive a car. The effort was run by Cornerstone, a full-service lifestyle marketing company.

The site is divided into a various artistic interests: Music, Film, Design, Entrepreneur. All of the representatives for each section are Gen-Y up-and-comers with some established credibility. They all appeal to the creative nature of the target consumer and attempt to bring some coolness to the Kia Soul product. “Each member of the collective was tasked with demonstrating ‘how they roll’ through creating original films, art, music and more,” states the Press Release announcing the series of free concert events and the Kia Soul Collective site.

The Kia Soul is in a battle of the boxes as it launched the Soul at the same time Nissan launched their aptly named Cube and Scion had recently redesigned their xB. Kia picked up some immediate buzz with their funky hamster TV ad, which was one of the more memorable commercials of 2009. They also received some decent blogger coverage from non-automotive writers.

The Kia Soul Collective effort nixed the hamsters for turntables and nightclubs. The nice thing is there is still a connection across all of the efforts – the slogan “a new way to roll.” Roll can apply in a variety of ways and throughout the campaign has brought together rolling wheels and roll as in attitude. Connecting with artists is a natural integration in showcasing interesting people who have chosen a path that is definitely relevant to the target consumers.

There is a Flickr account setup for the event. I browsed several of the photo galleries and couldn’t find one photo with over 20 views. This isn’t uncommon from what I’ve experienced looking at all kinds of event marketing efforts brought online to Flickr. It doesn’t seem to matter what brand or product, but few people ever view these photos and probably for good reason. They only matter if you attended the event. Watching people you don’t know sign in at tables, drive around in a car, and go to a concert you didn’t attend just isn’t that compelling. It’s probably not even worth the effort to put up these galleries for any brand. Unless you have some compelling reason to do so, like they’re the first photos of the car or a celebrity is involved; otherwise, it’s not worth doing.

What is worth doing that is in the Kia Soul Collective site is the “Click Here for Your Event Photo” section where if you did attend an event you can retrieve it at the site and hopefully learn some more about the Soul’s marketing effort.

One disconnect is that there is virtually zero product information on the site. Obviously, adding product information to a hip, creative site promoting concert events could turnoff the audience Kia wishes to reach; however, providing a simple call to action to learn more about the Soul, say in the right side’s Keep Informed section would’ve been an easy way to promote the car a bit more. There is a Soul logo that is clickable to the Kia site, but clickable logos are weak Calls to Action, something stronger would’ve probably helped with what I’m guessing is a very low click-through rate to product pages.

The other question that begs asking is should this effort exist as an unique site, separate from the Kia Soul Launch experience. The Kia Soul launch site is pretty odd in its own expression and the Soul Collective effort probably could’ve lived in the existing site; instead of creating a whole other web site for people to find.

In an article from iMediaConnection called “3 Reasons to Ditch Your Microsites” author Sean X Cummings states, “Microsites are orphans. The URLs are orphans. You have to keep feeding them, housing them and clothing them, even though no one really wants them anymore.”

Looking at all the effort put into getting people to the Kia Soul Collective microsite, I wonder if Cummings is right. There is no point now that the tour is over and the content is old. No one has a reason to go here, yet Kia still feeds the site by linking to it from their shopping site at Why? Why have potential shoppers go to the Collective URL where you may deter their interest in your product and forget they were even interested in a Kia Soul? Internet users are fickle and you are just a click away to the next attention getter.

That’s why it’s often a better move to integrate your marketing efforts into minimal destinations like the shopping site and a launch experience, and even that you may want to combine into one single destination. I’m personally a fan of having a site for the launch efforts that are not convoluted by shopping links. Let your main site be the destination for serious buyers or product researchers. Let the launch site familiarize visitors with the campaign and key messages you want the product to communicate, not everyone is ready to start Build & Pricing and trying to find a dealership.

Anyway, the Soul Collective is another effort to combine creativity, youth and event marketing. There is nothing revolutionary here, but for what it is it subscribes to most of the fundamental elements company’s have when approaching these efforts: microsite, Flickr and a Twitter account. Being more integrated to the online efforts already in place with the Kia launch site would have alleviated the need to maintain a distinct effort, plus integration with the launch experience would’ve brought more of the digital effort into a more impactful singular effort. It still is a decent effort to reach that coveted Generation-Y demographic so many marketers wish to appeal too.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Toyota's Latest Social Efforts Absent of Cars

I was doing my typical evening browsing of the New York Times website, catching up on Paul Krugman’s latest rant about the financial crisis when I noticed a large Toyota ad telling me, “We See Ways to Enrich the Community.” So I did what apparently only 16% of the online population does, I clicked through the advertisement.

The ad led to Toyota’s Beyond Cars website which features a new brand campaign showcasing how Toyota is a company not only interested in building customers bland, reliable cars. No Toyota is all about making a positive difference in the environment, economy, and communities we all live in.

Site visitors are asked to share how they “see beyond today to a better tomorrow” after being told that Toyota has built over 1 million hybrid vehicles.

The “Beyond Cars” campaign commercials talk about urban gardening and about Toyota’s program to educate teens to be safer drivers. It’s your typical good corporate citizenship videos that could’ve been done by any Fortune 500 company. Some additional posts by the company mention other charitable activities by the company.

All of this is typical corporate responsibility marketing. There is nothing really that compelling or memorable about it. Nor is there any communication about Toyota products so it is true to its message; it’s definitely beyond talking cars.

User engagement is typical when there is little to no consumer benefit to share. Visitors to the site shared 29 photos, 2 videos and 22 written comments when I looked a week after finding the site. Since there is no incentive to share content, the content submission numbers are inline with similar examples I’ve seen.

It’s also quite clear from reading most of the comments from visitors, assuming most are not from Toyota employees or the marketing agency staff, that people are sharing ways to impact the environment. Perhaps most of the media buy is targeting green-minded consumers. Of course all of the content is monitored by Toyota so perhaps they are keeping comments from visitors to the intent of the site.

The odd thing is that the interface borrows from the Facebook interface, allowing visitors to “Like” ideas or submit a post to the wall. I wonder why they didn’t bring this implementation into a social community like Facebook instead of creating a custom website. Seems to me the ideas could’ve spread more easily through an interface that provides the behaviors the Toyota site is trying to replicate.

Meanwhile, Toyota is promoting a Prius Facebook application asking people to “Tag your friends on a picture of an animal herd.” Huh? Yeah, that’s what I wondered after installing the latest Prius social media app called “Random Acts of Prius.”

People earn points by accepting and passing on a random act. Acts include “skip once today instead of walking”; “refrain from sad emoticons today, use only smileys”; and “write a poem and put it on the fridge.” I wonder if I can earn my points if I just post William Carlos Williams “This is just to say” to my fridge?

The real question is who came up with these acts and more importantly why would I share it in my social network? Plus I’m not sure how any of this relates back to the Prius.

The one thing that is well done on the application is that it does attempt to be conversational and give Facebook users a way to engage within their network in a method that is natural to the community. And while I may not get the humor in the acts, some others may find the odd acts as a fun way to pass on unusual content.

The application does miss on communicating out to one’s news feed on Facebook. It never asks me to “Publish” anything I do. So that leaves all communications limited to whoever the user selects to send an act to, meanwhile no other friends see the activity and the application loses exposure to the rest of that person's network.

It’s unclear whether the Prius Facebook application and the Beyond Cars site are related. It is clear that both implementations have nothing to do with cars.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hyundai Alleviates Consumer Uncertainty

Hyundai gets my award for Most Relevant Automotive Consumer Campaign. Ok, no such award exists but if it did - Hyundai would take it in a second. The Hyundai Assurance program promotes the idea of relieving car shoppers from the concern of job loss. What with Economists talking about a possible national 11% unemployment rate, it certainly is something very top of mind. Besides, who really wants to buy a car if one is concerned about not receiving paychecks weeks or months after adding a sizable car payment to one's monthly bills?

So, Hyundai came up with a program to let customers return a newly leased vehicle if they suffer a job loss. They teamed up with, a company that insures people from their commitment when "unforeseen life events occur." The "We've Got Your Back for One Full Year" message is concise, culturally relevant, and hits a macro economic issue that has dramatically deterred car sales. It also gets a company away from more money on the hood to try to entice buyers. The discounts going on today have hit $7,000 to $8,000 in December on truck products with tons of promotions across the industry like 0% financing, employee pricing, or both.

Hyundai essentially gets to the root of the problem -- Uncertainty. Price isn't the issue. "The question for consumers right now is what is going to happen to their income in 2009," Joel Ewanick, Hyundai Motor America's vice president of marketing, told Automotive News. "That's what is keeping them on their couches. No matter how big the rebate you put out, the real issue is fear."