Showing posts with label online media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label online media. Show all posts

Friday, August 17, 2012

Confusing Your Models

This is a new one.

Model Carolyn Giles is suing Volvo after the company supposedly ran some ad units on an Australian dating website inviting singles to "spend a night with the Swedish model of your choice."

The issue with the ad has a lot to do with the double meaning of 'model.' Unfortunately, the copywriter's play on words is bringing Volvo into court..

The misleading copy of 'model' is now a $23 million lawsuit Giles has filed against Volvo, Hertz and her modeling agency. It's doubtful the damages are anywhere near that significance.  Regardless, it is a good lesson in ad copy and media buying.

Sure a good play on words can grab the site visitor's attention just make sure you still respect the integrity of your talent.

Source: [Dailymail]

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fiat 500 Reaches the Hip Movie Geek

It's always interesting to see how a low-volume brand uses its marketing dollars when launching a new product. In this case, we have Fiat which is re-entering the U.S. market for the first time after a 27-year brand absence.

As part of their return, Fiat is sponsoring one of The Onion's properties called "The A.V. Club Pop Pilgrims." The popular satire publication The Onion is bringing more content opportunities as it expands its own brand and the A.V. Club is one extension. The A.V. Club "features real interviews, reviews, and other entertainment-related articles," according to their website.

It's pretty safe to say that the A.V. Club is reaching a young, hip audience and is most likely demographically aligned to Fiat's intended audience. Fiat's integration includes a re-skinned website (see image above) and pre-roll ad units embedded within the A.V. Club's Pop Pilgrim episodes.

Also of note is the physical use of an all-new Fiat 500 used for the video shoots where the A.V. Club drives around in 500 to get to all its video vignettes.

Overall it's a decent integration for Fiat and there are some nice touches including some summary parts of the video where the Fiat branding is very clear and unforgettable. It's a great way to expose the car to Fiat's target and I'm sure aspirational audiences.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Toyota Goes Digital to Market Safety Perception Gap

Toyota is in a real tailspin lately after countless recalls and the latest JD Power Quality Rating that gave the automaker a terrifying drop from 6th to 21st place out of 33 brands. Some industry pundits feel Toyota has enjoyed a leisurely advantage from their customers’ perception of strong quality over the years while in reality it has been deteriorating. A recent episode of Autoline After Hours had host John McElroy commenting on how all of the news is finally showing some of the chinks in Toyota’s quality armor that many consumers have known this for years. (As a side note: If you like this blog, you'll love Autoline After Hours it is by far the best Auto Industry podcast. I highly recommend it for weekly viewing.)

Whatever the case with Toyota’s real or perceived quality and safety issues are they have launched a major digital media campaign to respond to the safety issue.

The initial response was Toyota’s Recall landing page, but now they are moving to a strategic response around “Toyota Safety”. The online ads are directing people to the new safety site that communicates some of Toyota’s efforts around building safe cars. They feature their IIHS Top Safety Pick ratings, their SMART Teams who conduct rapid on-site analysis of issues, and their TV spots (online video) feature safety engineers and families that trust the brand. “At Toyota, we’re currently investing one million dollars an hour to enhance the safety and technology of our vehicles.”

Toyota has even branded their five safety features under the “Star Safety System” which is now standard on all their vehicles. What is the system? It’s traction control, stability control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake distribution, and brake assist.

The latest ad buy was one recently used by Chevrolet on Yahoo! Mail that uses a background look to the mail login page (see image at left.) They are also buying several key placements on Facebook to get the message out.

I really like Toyota’s Safety landing page. It provides four clear messages with some well-executed online video explaining the company’s commitment and seriousness about responding to their safety perception issue. After months of news stories reporting unattended accelerating vehicles --some true and some alleged hoaxes -- the company needs to show they make safe vehicles.

The question now is will we see a Toyota Quality landing page after their plunging JD Power Quality rating? If one types in the page is redirected to This page does not look like it is ready for prime time as a destination for online media, but that could easily change if Toyota uses the same formula they have for the Safety and Recall landing pages.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Chevrolet Ad Buy with Yahoo! Brings the Bing

I ran across a very interesting ad buy from Chevrolet, or is it Chevy, this morning on Yahoo! Mail's login page where a Chevrolet Malibu interior is featured taking up 95% of the background of the page. It looks very similar to what the search site Bling does, but it is an ad not just background wallpaper.

I thought I'd share this because it really is well-done and a very interesting ad buy that was something you can't ignore from the car you can't ignore. Plus I like how simple Chevrolet kept it with just one simple call to action: "Learn More". I'm certain the click-through-rates on this buy were very nice; though, it would be interesting to see if it was effective enough to cover what I'm sure was a very pricey ad placement.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Toyota Swaggers Into Effective Product Positioning

A few people have asked my thoughts on the Toyota Sienna campaign, particularly the idea of positioning a minivan as a “Swagger Wagon.” Well I have to say I love it. It is becoming one of the best campaigns of 2010.


1.) It gives the vehicle a distinct personality. This is rare these days. Most marketing today is about showcasing individual features of the car. Here Toyota is focusing on giving their minivan a unique positioning statement.

2.) It mocks the target consumer in a way that even the audience it is trying to reach finds it fun and unoffensive. Anyone buying a minivan has surrendered to a life of sacrificing style for function. Toyota’s marketing team has built off this surrendering by having some ridiculous fun with the parents by blending the hilarity of rapping middle-age parents, focusing on the lifestyle as if it is something to be desirable, and still maintain the product benefits to the consumer.

3.) The two actors are perfectly cast. Someone shared with me that they come off as “asshats” but I think they embody the sense that parenting has become too serious and really needs to relax. After years of parents over nurturing their kids, the time has come to get back to focusing on the needs of the parents and some relief from child rearing.

4.) Oddly enough it creates a sense of pride in the vehicle. The Sienna is no longer just another minivan it is a “Swagger Wagon” and that identity will stick. Good or bad, it will and those who buy one will find a sense of pride in owning it. Imagine pulling up to the next family holiday party in your Swagger Wagon. Now that’s style over function.

To launch the latest music video for the campaign, Toyota bought a roadblock on YouTube’s home page that featured a banner with an integrated video taking people to the Sienna YouTube channel. I looked at the ad unit early yesterday morning and there were around 40,000 views o the video. Tonight there are 466,748 views! A very impressive feat for a one-day home page ad unit; though, it wasn’t only the ad. Toyota received a lot of buzz coverage from the major and minor automotive blogs and some other media outlets because the video is actually entertaining.

The most impressive contribution, I didn’t once think about Toyota’s recall issues while watching it.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

VW Banner Brings the Inside Out

Everyone wants to convince you their small vehicle feels big inside. With car companies moving to more B and C class segment platforms to appease the desire for more fuel efficient cars in America, the marketing must find creative ways to illustrate, through images or words, how roomy all these new small cars really are, even if they are not. Americans like big and small products still need to be sold as such.

One interesting example of creatively showing a "huge" interior from a small car comes from BBDO for their client Volkswagen. The ad markets the VW Fox (not available here in the United States) with the car's interior being pulled inside out to reveal the interior in an interesting fun way.

The banner uses a slider that changes the car from the beginning to end frame shown in the image above. You can also play with the banner at BannerBlog here.

It is a clever execution and maybe there is a way to use this technique in a more interesting way to communicate a vehicle's inner beauty as I feel it isn't really that effective at communicating the interior as roomy or "huge" as the ad copy reads. It is playful, but does one really get the idea the car has decent dimensions inside? Not quite.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Toyota's Digital Communications During
Recall are Well-Executed

A few of my thoughts Toyota's handling of its recall online is yeserday's ClickZ: News and Expert Advice for the Digital Marketer. The article "Toyota Goes Digital to Communicate Recalls" touches on a few points I made in my discussion with journalist Jack Marshall. He did an excellent job highlighting the key points.

Here is the ad Toyota is using in their news network media buy. The messages are very clean and simple without a lot of branding or visual pizazz, which of course is very appropriate in these situations.

A new Toyota sponsored ad unit bringing in top rated articles on the social linking site Digg is also being used by the brand to direct consumers to Toyota recall information.

Also, the Toyota Recall landing page is clean and simple to understand, especially the prominence of what vehicles are recalled. The question of what vehicles are affected is always the first question of any owner. So, it is great seeing the clarity of that message come through on the Toyota recall landing page.

Overall I think Toyota is doing the right thing in the online space. Their messages are clear and the ads are showing up on just about every online news story I read about the recall.

I will add one last thing that is briefly mentioned in the ClickZ article. Toyota UK has some excellent video communications they have posted on YouTube to let consumers know how the company is responding to the seriousness of the situation. The videos come across in a genuine way that removes the hysteria that might of ensued.

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:

Twitter account:


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What Drives Edward? The Volvo XC60

It's highly unusual for a car company commercial to generate any buzz, but team up with this Fall's most buzz worthy film and people start watching and commenting about your ad. The latest movie that uses a car as star in a film is Twilight: New Moon. A Volvo XC60 is driven by the film's protagonist, Edward, and with fans eagerly waiting for the film's debut this Friday, the commercial is satisfying some of that need with over 240,000 views and 160 comments on YouTube. And the hysteria is reaching epic proportions with comments like this from fans, "SEXY CAR DROVE BY A SEXY˛ˇ MAN !!" Way to go Volvo, your SUV is "sexy!"

What's most intriguing about the Volvo promotion is that it extends beyond the normal email or online marketing campaign for a contest. In this case, the contest is further promoted in a TV spot which by most contest standards is quite unique. But with a popular film to tie it all together, it's providing some excellent awareness for Volvo's first entry-level luxury SUV.

The promotion online includes a sweepstakes and contest with the contest requiring visitors to solve six phases, each borrowing knowledge from fans of the Twilight series. The first to solve all six phases wins a brand-new Volvo XC60.

The contest is the most confusing thing about the promotion. I have been getting emails from Volvo promoting each phase of the contest, but every time I click to "play the latest phase" I end up at the homepage of the site instead of viewing the instructions for the latest phase. Some deep linking into the What Drives Edward site would've been very helpful.

Volvo, probably realizing most Twilight fans are in their twenties and early thirties, decided to additionally promote their entry-level car the Volvo C30. Both in email communications and on the What Drives Edward site, there are side-by-side images of the XC60 and C30 for visitors to click-on to get more information about the cars. This is a nice way to extend the product portfolio to a more relevant product for site visitors, since the SUV may not appeal best to the contest participants.

If you wish to try your Twilight knowledge, there are a few days left to get the six contest phases solved or you can just enter the sweepstakes for your chance to win a XC60.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is a Station Wagon Desirable If You Call It a Sportback?

Smaller brands lack the big budgets to develop creative-rich launch web site experiences, but this can be a good thing. There’s an efficiency that happens when constrained and that can evolve into some clever, effective content that a large budget, heavy Flash site may lose in all its clever transitions.

Mitsubishi’s team put together a few clever ways to engage site visitors with the launch site for the new Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback. The primary message for the vehicle is its versatility. To communicate what it can hold, site visitors can drop various “items” into the cargo area. You can move a bike, soccer ball, bulldog, or even attempt a pachyderm if you dare to see what can fit in 52.7 cubic feet. It’s a simple way to communicate versatility. The only issue is that the items themselves fail to communicate what space they are taking up. It might have been a bit more interesting to calculate down the amount of space dynamically showing cubic space left as items drop-in. It still does add some simple engagement that lets the user play around.

There are some nice touches that message the vehicle in some unusual places. For example, the site’s 360 has rotating messaging when you click different angles to view. Some messages promote the engine or stereo system while other messages communicate to the target consumer with “Hello sexy! Lancer Sportback’s European styling makes it stand out on any road.” Cheesy, sure but it also helps put a little fun into something as boring as looking at a side profile of a hatchback.

One of the disappointing things about constrained budgets is the minimal use of product feature communication using video or CGI demonstration. There are a lot of advanced features on the Lancer like RALLIART, their advanced all-wheel-drive system that isn’t effectively communicated in a small paragraph of copy and could’ve benefited from some instructional, detailed video.

The vehicle is being promoted jointly with a VANS shoes Los Angeles skateboarding event showing that Mitsubishi is trying to attract a young, active audience. As a former skateboarder, I would’ve loved a Lancer Sportback, if such a car existed and I wasn’t broke in 1986.

Overall the launch site provides some effective content and tries to find low-cost ways to effectively communicate the benefits of the Lancer Sportback to potential buyers.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Quite the Yawner, Cadillac Yawns at Lexus

What were they thinking? This is what I’m left wondering after seeing the latest online media ads from Cadillac for their Lexus RX challenger -- the all-new redesigned 2010 Cadillac SRX.

The ads feature various middle-aged professionals yawning as they look to their right. What are they yawning at? Apparently anything on the web page I’m currently viewing, but what they are hypothetically yawning at are “boring luxury crossovers.” I wonder how many people really know which cars are luxury crossovers? Why not challenge the looks of the recently egg-ified styled Lexus RX head-on, since this is what Cadillac wants you to think of as boring.

The Lexus RX is boring; I know I drive one. But people don’t buy the Lexus because of its styling, they buy because of its dependability and, in my wife’s case, the great visibility when inside the car. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the new SRX that make it standout against the competition so the team went for the “Curb Appeal” message.

I like the design of the new SRX, it is definitely better than the look of the Lexus. However, this segment just isn’t about exterior design. They buy their SUVs for practical lifestyle reasons and nothing stands out in the SRX product to appeal to this reason, nor is the Lexus an ugly car that is easy to ridicule for its looks. Sure it’s a bit bulbous in its new form, but it still is a good-looking crossover.

Cadillac is obviously hoping its chiseled design attracts the Lexus crowd, but that is the obsession of every luxury crossover vehicle as they try to knock Lexus off the top spot. Going after the standard criticism of Lexus cars being boring, Cadillac has taken to a kind of absurd level with this yawn campaign. Problem is the ads just come off juvenile and unenlightening.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Brand Initiated Automotive Online Communities In Practice

Forrester Research’s Jeremiah K. Owyang released a whitepaper last week titled “Community Launch Checklist: Creating A Pragmatic Approach To Launching An Onine Community.” It covers some strategic recommendations on how a company should best prepare before embarking on an online community.

There really isn’t anything revolutionary in the white paper, nor should there be, since it is meant as a simple checklist. It’s your typical stuff:

  • Define clear business goals and benchmarks to track success or failure
  • Prepare the organization so it knows its responsibilities both time and budget.
  • Research your competition
  • Define a process for participating and/or monitoring the community
  • Find the right technology implementation that fits your business objectives
  • Promote the community similar to how you promote any new product launch

Unfortunately, the article is light on any examples of companies using online communities. It does, in passing, mention Mattel’s “The Playground”, Microsoft’s Channel 9, MGM’s Facebook group, Dell’s support community and MyStarbucksIdea.

The good news for readers of this blog is that I have been actively engaging with three automotive brands that have started some very elaborate online communities. The three are Mercedes Benz’s Generation Benz, Hyundai’s Think Tank and Saturn’s ImSaturn. Here is a chart breaking down some differences and similarities across the communities:

As you can see from the examples, different companies make different content choices -- hopefully based on different strategies. It is also important to note that only one has a relatively significant media buy to promote its community, and that is ImSaturn. The Hyundai and Mercedes communities were promoted (from what I can gather) through invitations from their customer data, email-marketing data, and they allow members to invite friends. ImSaturn is promoted through their CRM data too, but they also have had media placements and promoted their content on social networking sites like Facebook where they also have a related Fan Page and Facebook application promoting the site.

Goals, Goals, Goals

Let’s get this out of the way now. The number one objective of all these sites should be to sell more cars or accessories. That doesn’t mean you measure sales against site membership numbers; rather, the sites should be about brand building by getting people more engaged with the brand through content, relationships with company staff and other enthusiasts, and should energize members through event promotions or exclusive chats. All of these activities strengthen the relationship between the customer and the community’s membership, which in turn should result in more purchases from a brand the community members have built a stronger relationship with thus leading to better loyalty retention numbers.

All three sites are clearly trying to energize their members to become vocal advocates for the brand; though, at different levels. And, by definition, if the sites create stronger advocates for the brand they will share their experiences with others, buy more products from your company, and hopefully persuade their social network to consider the brand.

Other goals include traditional market research objectives. Here Mercedes and Hyundai implementations are more aligned to these activities. They are leading the conversation through polls, discussions, and activities. Much like a virtual focus group, the two communities gather feedback from members and use that research outside of the community or they participate in discussions by responding to member comments. I tend to look at this type of effort as a way to do quick research without all the hassle of having to setup focus groups, which can be quite expensive and time consuming. Instead the benefit here is that you have this group you can bounce questions off of, provided they are the right target(s) you are wanting to engage with and provided there are enough that stay active in the community.

Saturn’s Ning

Saturn has made a stronger push to get owners to communicate with each other by allowing friending, member photo galleries, and most importantly letting members start their own groups and discussion topics. The ImSaturn site is modeled after a Facebook social community approach. Why do I say this, because the site has a very similar layout to a social community site like Ning. It also is big in creating social networks within the community; whereas, Mercedes and Hyundai are more about members being led into discussions with a company’s staff. Saturn is essentially trying to create its own social network that borrows from things that make automotive forums attractive: photo posting, public profiles, comments on member pages, having your own mailbox, and getting members to create friendships with others.

I haven’t researched the level of activity on Saturn auto enthusiast forums but they do exist. I was originally a bit surprised ImSaturn was built the way it was. It seemed to me Saturn could’ve just joined a large Saturn community that already exists and engage that way, basically Listen.

When I joined the community it had 600 members so it seemed like a lot of effort and cost to grow a community to a critical mass. Fortunately, they do have a decent size community that is now over 5,000 members, but it has taken nearly two years to do that and I’m sure at a decent cost. Seems to me they could’ve just plugged into existing communities and engaged that way at a lesser cost; though, they would’ve lost some insights, though that depends on what they were looking to get from ImSaturn and that I don’t know since I’m not part of the internal team.

Going back through my communications from the ImSaturn site, there is really nothing more than some public relations communications and some event promotion. All of this could’ve been done through their Facebook site and by engaging with existing online Saturn fan forums. So, it is unclear what strategic advantage the ImSaturn site really provides.

Consumer Insights at Your Fingertips

Mercedes and Hyundai are clearly building virtual focus groups where they can gather quick marketing insights from their members. This is very different from the social community approach of ImSaturn, where the emphasis is on social. Most interesting, Generation Benz has a particular membership requirement and that is you must be under 30 years old, since they are interested in aspirational opinions about their brand and products. Hyundai is open to all ages. Neither community restricts non-owners; even though, a lot of the content on Hyundai is very owner focused. I’m sure they divide poll results by owner/non-owner as well as other demographic data.

The company’s marketing representatives also lead both communities. The moderators start all discussion topics. When you enter either site, you are required to respond to survey questions that look to get feedback about new products, possible future products, and/or get your thoughts on current marketing efforts.

Even though the two sites are marketing department driven and are really about getting research to help assist marketing plans, they do try to energize their membership. One way that is done is through having fun polls or questionnaires that try to get more psychographic profiles about members. Sure this is used by the marketing team, but it is also a way to make the community appear more fun. Does it work? Possibly, I’m way too much of an industry person to be objective.

What’s In It for the Members?

So what keeps people coming back? Of course there are many reasons, but there are several that exist.

  • First Finder Fame: Getting exclusive information before others outside the community.
  • Brand Relationship Factor: Establish a personal relationship with a brand you like
  • Community Friendship Factor: By establishing “friends” within the community, engagement with like-minded people keeps people coming back
  • Rewards: Special offers. Hyundai recently gave members a special code for buying their cars at discount.
  • Support Reasons: Look to communities as a way to get support information for the product they own or are interested in owning.

It is interesting looking across all three communities and seeing how people interact within. Harvard Business Review did an excellent article on how people interact within communities identifying 18 roles, and those same behaviors exist on all three of these sites. There are a couple roles that dominate these marketing based, company-sponsored communities.

Every community is full of “Learners” who seek out information to improve their knowledge of the products. “Storytellers” permeate membership also as many share their ownership stories through words or photos, especially on a site like ImSaturn that encourages such behaviors.

But it takes regular engagement and the creation of fresh and interesting content by community administrators to keep the conversations going. Mercedes and Hyundai are enabling new conversation topics all the time, the only issue I see is that the discussions are more for the brand marketing team’s purpose and less for the benefit of the members. Most activities involve watching commercials and this of course can get boring quickly and cause member drop-off; hence, the idea of giving content to appeal to first find fame by letting the membership see content only available on the community before releasing it to the public, but this is a rather weak benefit that only appeals to hardcore brand advocates.

To involve more than just the hardcore members, Mercedes’ site will actually send out reminders via email saying inactivity will get you removed from the community and that one needs to login soon to remain a participant. Other sites like Hyundai’s sends out email communication that are less threatening. They simply invite me to see new content or invite me to participate in a coming product chat that hopefully appeals to my interest. I have participated in chats with product specialists on both sites and there seems to be only about 20 or so members on Mercedes chats I’ve been on. Hyundai, because it is open to a larger audience, has a slightly larger turnout, but not much better.

Direct, Responsive Access to People Inside Your Company Is Your Advantage

Engaging with the community is an active process. The people who join a manufacturer’s community expect fast responses and respect for information they seek. One member of the Generation Benz website made a statement after a moderator switch occurred last month. Referring to the prior moderator, he was highly satisfied with the moderator’s quick responses and how he would respond to any question no matter how crazy.

It takes a serious commitment of time and knowledge from the company to find the right people to actively engage with the community’s users. Owyang talks a lot about developing proper processes for positive and negative events that will happen. Knowing how to respond before something does happen will lead to a more effective experience for everyone.

The users expect engagement and this personal relationship with brand representatives is an appeal the enthusiasts’ forums don’t provide, as a brand this is your community's strategic advantage. Use it well and you can build a great reputation with your participants.

In Closing

Before embarking on a community site, brands would benefit from the Forrester article (and the Harvard Business Review article too.) There are some fundamental items you need to consider before engaging with existing communities or starting your own online community space. Oh, and don’t forget to have a strategist as part of your team.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nissan SHIFTs Focus to Passion Integration

Nissan’s Shift campaign has extended to some target customer passion points, particularly exercise in the form of running, cycling, yoga and strength. The content on the Nissan: Master the Shift site is divided by experts covering each topic, they include:
Ryan Hall – Olympic marathoner and record-holder in half-marathon.
Tara Stiles – Yoga instructor and founder of Manahattan’s Strala Yoga
Eddie George – Former NFL running back and Heisman winner
Chris Carmichael – Former Olympian cyclist and coach to Lance Armstrong.
Nissan has messaged the content with their “Durability tested to the next level” tagline and integrated into their brand-level SHIFT campaign. The Nissan Altima was tested through some durability exercises that emulate the riggers of everyday driving: potholes, road debris, and extreme heat; though, the last one we don’t really get in Michigan. Unfortunately, the Nissan content on the Master the Shift site is very limited and only show photos with descriptions instead of video content proving out the durability. This isn’t a bad thing though since the content budget needed to focus more on content for the passion interest and less on the car, since the car can be discussed on the Nissan site.

Upcoming marathon events will having Nissan_SHIFT booths that promote the Altima and the Master the Shift website. People at the event will have pictures taken, I assume the picture is taken at the Nissan booth, that can then be viewed online if they stop by for a SHIFT_performance Passport card that has an ID number for retrieving photos. It’s a typical, but well-done execution to tie event and online marketing together. Besides any online media that is bought, it is sure to be the other main traffic driver for the site.

I learned about the site from an advertisement on Runner’s World website. The online media is prominently featuring the expert appealing to the site’s passion interest, as opposed to pushing the Altima in its imagery. The ad is well done because it is a strong awareness buy that is better placed with a consumer’s interest and through a special interest “celebrity” and I really like this approach versus a homepage takeover on a portal site like Yahoo! or AOL.

This site has content scheduled through March 2010, must be when the budget allocation for the campaign is set to expire or get re-approved, if the program is working well. How do I know this? Well, if you click on various “Channels” within each expert’s Master class, you are informed that various channels are coming in July, September, December, and all the way out to March 2010.

Since it is a staggered schedule for content updates, it would’ve been a nice touch on the site to place a “Sign Up for Updates” button next to the Coming date indicators. Other than entering the Altima Sweepstakes, there seems no way to sign up for future content changes. This approach works very well in the GMC Professional Grade site that is on AOL Living. They actually let you sign up for a newsletter that sends out regular content notifications as things are updated. It remains to be seen if the Nissan contest will do something similar, but there is still no updates link or newsletter you can request; too bad, since it is a site that has a strong editorial content plan.

Hopefully, now that Nissan has my name, they’ll let me know when new content shows up on the site; though, I still don’t know if they are going to do that, even after entering their contest. I could definitely use the content, as I’m about to finish my first month of running. Yet, I doubt I’ll need the advice of an Olympic marathon runner. My running knowledge needs are very modest, but it’s great seeing a site that features running right alongside of my favorite passion – cars, even if it is a rather sedate Nissan Altima.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Is GM Marketing Trying To Kill Two Brands?

First, AgencySpy had someone share a ad placement sponsored by Hummer promoting "Green Is Universal" on Thursday's homepage. Green + Hummer? Okay, that has to be just about the worst sponsorship buy decision, couldn't the GM Total Confidence team bring Chevy Volt into the sponsorship? Or is this a way to further kill Hummer as GM sheds its brands under restructuring? Who knew online media was part of the plan to bury the Hummer brand.

Then tonight I received an email marketing message from Pontiac with the subject line "Pontiac: Drive with Total Confidence", this on the day every automotive news outlet is reporting GM to "Kill Pontiac", not exactly the most confidence inspiring action to lure new drivers.

Maybe GM marketing is not very happy about the announcement of 20% of GM's marketing department to be laid off?

It's a sad time for General Motors and I really do wish them all the best, especially Pontiac as I love the new G8 and feel the brand has a lot of equity in the performance space, when given the right products. Unfortunately, GM doesn't do the brand much justice with products like The Vibe or G3 and the marketing team isn't doing GM justice by associating Hummer with Green and Pontiac with Total Confidence (at least this week.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Toyota Believes the Smart Money is on Venza

Contextual integration is a great way to increase interest in your brand especially when your audience is not in-market for a new car, which let's be honest is just about everybody these days. Toyota realizes this as it is in the midst of launching the new Toyota Venza in a falling market.

So, how do you get people to see your product in a positive financial light?

You link up with Smart Money. Toyota is running online media under the tag line "Planning for Life 2.0" which is a nod that life is changing, at least our financial life after losing half of our retirement, worrying about job loss, or going through foreclosure. Of course, the media is a bit more positive than I am.

The execution looks at saving people money in how they plan their financial decisions, perhaps Toyota is hoping some better financial decisions about my home or my retirement might improve my situation and free up some money to buy a new SUV.

There of course is no financial advice when it comes to your automotive purchase, since buying a $30k plus car isn't the best financial decision when you may or may not have a job next month. And Toyota has yet to follow some of its competitors with a Hyundai Assurance like promotion.

Regardless of the financial decision benefits, it's about getting in people's natural path and people are very interested in better financial decisions.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Banner Glut

Okay, here is a test: Who sponsored this page on Yahoo! Movies? (Insert Jeopardy music) Okay you don't really need 30 seconds to figure this one out. Yep, you guessed it... Acura. Congratulations! You win the Over Sold Online Media Placement award.

Not much to say about this one except that I didn't realize Acura's target consumers had such a passion for The Three Stooges. I would've guessed Three Stooges fans were more Scion xB drivers.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Who has the Biggest Stimulus Package?

Now that the word bailout has been replaced with the friendlier stimulus word, marketers are ramping up on their messaging to work stimulus into their ads. Hyundai and Volvo are the first automakers to adopt the term.

Volvo is running Tier 2 TV spots for regional dealerships with the language “Stimulate Your Stimulus”. Not sure what that means since no one is really getting a stimulus unless you are AIG or a major financial institution, that issue aside, it does seem like a very weak message. They are also using the phrase in their email marketing efforts.

Hyundai is simply adding some stimulus language within their online media efforts to promote their well-received Assurance program.

Unfortunately, there is a logic issue with the stimulus language for marketing purposes. The stimulus effort is a policy effort to help stave off unemployment and foreclosures. Adding a car payment to one’s financial situation is counterintuitive to the whole concept of a stimulus. Of course, I understand the language in the ads is to promote cost savings by putting money on the hood and reducing financing rates, but with so much contempt for buying big ticket items it seems attaching the word “stimulus” to your message to get people to spend $20,000-$40,000 is not a compatible concept.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Measurement Matters More Than Ever

"I know that 50% of my advertising is wasted. I just don't know which half," retail guru John Wanamaker famously quipped in 1886.

It wouldn’t be a marketing blog without quoting Wanamaker at some point. iMedia just released a new report showing how important marketing dollar effectiveness is in this downturn. Clients are more interested than ever about how effective their dollars are being spent. With fewer customers, reduced demand and making the most of every dollar spent in a financial crunch are the utmost importance in every industry, especially automotive.

As an industry, automotive online media teams typically don’t suffer from a lack of data. So now is the time to bring those analysts in to see how media is performing and to move your buys more to behavioral targeted communications that have higher conversion rates. According to Jupiter Research, “When conducted on lower-funnel researchers, behavioral targeting increases online automotive ads’ effectiveness in capturing consumers’ attention—and therefore generating response.” (August 2007 Report on “Online Automotive Advertising”).

For the cost, homepage takeovers typically do not perform well. Why? Because most people are just not in-market and even if you do attract a higher click-through rate (CTR) with your creative, the quality is low when measuring shopping behaviors for an automotive brand. Autos are highly considered purchases. Focusing more on in-market, conquest and segment online media buys makes more sense in a marketplace where active shoppers are contracting. Better to focus your media on impacting these buyers than trying high cost awareness buys.

Also, if your media team is only looking at CTR effectiveness, than you need them to refocus their attention to measure shopping behaviors like build & price, dealer searches, and other shopping engagement activities. Understanding the quality of your click-through rate is imperative to making better decisions.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Toyota Saturates to Annoyance

Maybe it’s the use of 80’s song “Saved by Zero” by The Fixx? Or perhaps it’s just that no matter what program you watched, on whatever channel you had on, whatever station on your radio too, you were bound to catch Toyota’s national sales promotion to get 0% financing in one of the worst auto slumps and the first time Toyota recorded an operating loss.

Apparently you are not alone if you had enough of this ad. It even gathered some negative sentiment when a Facebook group started called "Stop Playing Toyota's 'Saved by Zero' Commercial" recruited almost 10,000 members.

It’s official now the WSJ and voted it one of the worst ads of 2008.

Really? The worst? Sure it was lame and the link between 0% financing and “Saved by Zero” wasn’t the most ingenious connection ever. But is it the worst because of the song choice or the message? It was the relentless buying spree that Toyota went on to promote the offer. The problem was over saturation. Toyota could’ve handled this issue by coming up with a variety of ads for their 0% financing campaign. Rotating ads with different messages could’ve also appealed to different consumers.

I’m not sure “Saved by” is the right language too at this perilous time. The message implies Toyota is reaching out to help people by having them buy a new car with no financing charges. Good luck. The problem right now is too much debt and people are for the first time in years reducing their debt load.

It is a brutal time to sell cars. Unfortunately, the entire backlash around heavy consumer spending in prior years, macroeconomic stress, and most people concerned with just keeping what they already have, all caused Toyota a bit of negative press when they bought a ton of airtime promoting “Saved by Zero.” Unfortunately, they’ll be playing “Red Skies” at their upcoming shareholder meeting.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

When Your "Best Side" Is Under the Hood... You're Ugly

There have been numerous debates about how to properly advertise a car. Some of the most infamous include Infiniti's debut campaign that never showed a vehicle or when Range Rover took a "risk" showing a vehicle caked with mud, at a time when every vehicle was always shown as if it just rolled off the showroom. But I have never seen an advertisement that shows only the engine cover as its beauty shot. Enter the Kia Sorento. While reading the NY Times this evening, I noticed a rather puzzling shot of an engine block cover to the right of the article. Having removed an engine cover or two in my past, I knew what it was. But I doubt most people do, since very few of us open the hood of our cars.

There is no call to action or no message surrounding the engine cover image. Instead, just a price and the vehicle's name. I wonder if many people would even know it was an advertisement for a car? On rollover, a message about the vehicle's horsepower is given. But is this for a car, truck, SUV, or crossover??? I doubt the click through rate on this ad is very high. It is being advertised in an upper funnel spot, outside of an automotive context, with an image that resembles the chest plate of some futuristic robot or some really expensive lawn mower.

When advertising outside of an in-market automotive context, it is best to engage and interest the consumer, but to do so in a way that communicates who you are or gets them interested in what you are saying. A stale image of an engine cover with no engaging copy is the worst thing you can do. Kia has a compelling, low-price 5 passenger SUV in the Sorento that could be much better communicated to a large audience. It's a value product in an financially conscious time, so sell it on it's merits as a good buy without giving anything up (like moving to a small car for example.) Performance is not the Sorento's segment advantage or the care of most 5-passenger SUV consumers: value, versatility, and roominess are. So promote it in a way that interests a larger audience.

Maybe when the Kia Soul gets released will Kia finally show a vehicle from outside its engine bay.