Category Archives: Views

Are you a Dragon?

January 23, 2012 marks the Chinese New Year which this year is symbolized by the Dragon. According to infoplease.com, “Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal’s year would have some of that animal’s personality. Those born in dragon years are innovative, brave, and passionate.” I happen to be a Dog.Pause for the jokes…ok, we all can’t be Dragon’s but this year we can act like one. I believe that the dragon is the patron Chinese animal of all great marketers as the charactersitics are spot on. To be even more precise, I found a break down of the KIND of Dragon’s born during the Years of the Dragon. 2012 is the year of the Water Dragon as was 1952.

THE WATER DRAGON 1952 AND 2012

Water has a calming effect on the Dragon’s fearless temperament. Water allows the Dragon to re-direct its enthusiasm, and makes him more perceptive of others. These Dragons are better equipped to take a step back to re-evaluate a situation because they understand the art of patience and do not desire the spotlight like other Dragons. Therefore, they make smart decisions and are able to see eye-to-eye with other people. However, their actions can go wrong if they do not research or if they do not finish one project before starting another.

Interesting indeed. So let’s take a look at some of the best innovations from 1952.

In 1952, Edward Teller and his team build the hydrogen bomb. Perhaps not the most peaceful invention but one who’s science led to greater things. Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver were issuers of the first patent for the bar code. I think all marketers can agree that this changed the face of retail. Very little has changed with the respect to the bar code until very recently with the advent of QR Codes and the like.

Lest we be to serious, I think we can all agree that to get through our day, most of us indulge in a diet soft drink or two or three or four. Well, the year of the Water Dragon ushered in the first sale of the diet soft drink which was dubbed the “No-Cal Beverage”. It was a gingerale that was sold by Kirsch. 2011 saw  DIET Coke surpass Pepsi for the first time so it is safe to say the “No-Cal” beverage has had an impact on business.

The year of the Water Dragon also saw Mr. Potato Head patented. An invention that has stood the test of time and technology and remains a favorite amongst children everywhere. The developers and marketers of this product certainly understood a great deal about human nature and the simple joy of changing expressions and attitudes on an unattractive potato that somehow was both a release and source of joy.

Looking back at these inventions, you can see the Water Dragon at work. The bar code, the diet soft drink and Mr. Potato Head could be described as something more than just interesting inventions but rather thoughtful marketing insights that led to mega industries that have lasted when most inventions have gone by the wayside. In fact, these inventions of 60 years ago have not really changed in that time span. Sure soft drinks use other synthetic sweetners than in 1952 but essentially they are sugar-free, colored, caffeinated (thank God) water. The bar code and Mr. Potato Head are pretty much the same too. How many other inventions of 50+ years ago have remained nearly the same? Very few I would guess. So the calming effect that the water has on the dragon seems to work in that it does require a “step back” for greater insight which tends to have a lasting effect. As for the hydrogen bomb, all I can guess is that it was an invention that was developed in a hangover from the previous years more aggressive dragon. Still. there is no arguing that it has stood the test of time.

What were they thinking? Fiat and JLo?

I am an avid football fan and have to admit that I get excited to see what the marketers will put up during that first week of the NFL games – they are usually pretty good. Also, you may know that I was once the head of marketing communications at Chrysler (then DaimlerChrysler) so I have a soft spot for those guys. But as I was watching the games this past weekend and heard Jennifer Lopez (JLo) start singing, only to pop out the top of a Fiat 500 I was really puzzled. I knew I was not alone when I received a text message almost instantly, from my husband (I was traveling) who was asking the same thing – “What was that?”

Let’s start with the facts. Fiat, the new Italian owner of Chrysler, has recently launched the Fiat 500: A sub-compact and admittedly pretty cute car.  There were many concerns about Fiat’s re-entry into the US market given its former failed attempts (Remember that Fiat once stood for “Fix It Again Tony”). But so far, it seems to have generated some positive appeal amongst those I speak to despite the paltry 14,000 followers on Twitter (@fiatusa). Their initial ad showed a couple driving into a drive-in which was filmed in black and white except for the Fiat.

It had a nice mix of nastalgia and modernity even if you saw the car for only a short time. It has had a decent viral push as well.

And then, last weekend, the JLo ad…ugh…

My initial thought was “Why would they use JLo and completely overshadow their own brand value when they seem to be off to such a promising start?” I mean she is not Italian, so no connection there. Yes, she is launching her branded everything..clothes line, perfume, TV shows, etc. and is certainly a fashion icon, which might fit with Fiat’s positioning but she completely overwhelms the brand, especially in this spot. I have been checking out the online reviews. They are mixed. CarConnection says that Chrysler is on a roll because they have gotten such big names to appear in their ads. My take, when you resort to celebrities, babies, and puppies, you are usually in trouble. Then, Jalopnik reported that the comments from Monday Night Football’s game was running about 2:1 against the ad. Brand tension is a good thing, not everyone can love you, but you certainly want the ratio to be in your favor.

According to Edmund’s Inside Line, “Fiat’s deal with Lopez is just the latest in a long string of partnerships between automakers and artists. Lotus recently enlisted rapper Swizz Beatz to help it sharpen its image. Chrysler also used rapper Eminem to great advantage earlier this year during his appearance in its Super Bowl commercial. That commercial has now been viewed nearly 13 million times on YouTube.” Ahhh…they think that if they get stars for Fiat it will have the same affect as the Eminem ad had on Chrysler. But here is why that isn’t going to work.

First, Eminem was chosen to support an entire brand, the Chrysler brand, that had nowhere to go but up. Chrysler, prior to this years Super Bowl, had arisen from the bankruptcy ashes anew and with promise but was still floundering in terms of where and how to position its namesake brand, Chrysler. The tagline of “Imported from Detroit” is in my opinion genius, and Eminem was a fantastic way to get the emotional point across that transcended a vehicle alone. The continued use of superstars, athletes and fashion icons in its follow up campaign has been merely ok as the concept remains strong but the vehicles are taking more and more of a backseat to the stories of the celebrities themselves. But the fact that they remain true to success stories from Detroit at least makes the campaign continue to have meaning and for the positioning itself to create a unique space for Chrysler – somewhere between gritty steelworker and humble star.

Secondly, Jennifer Lopez is launching her own series of brands. She likely will have more or as much media as Fiat will and it will be all about her. That makes the 500 a prop. And unlike the Chrysler brand that was struggling for an identity, Fiat seems to have foregone creating one and instead is simply trying to borrow one, but not well and not nearly as authentically.

This is the conundrum that success can breed but I think that Fiat should have known better. The formula that seems to be working for the Chrysler brand is not necessarily a formula that works for any brand, any time, any where. The Fiat brand has to be careful not to come across as too superficial and has to worry that in this very early, very fragile time in its re-emergence into the US that it does not minimize its own value in favor of another.

Re-thinking your CV/Resume

As a marketer, you can’t help but watch the latest happenings in Washington and think about the marketing implications of this debt war and the high unemployment numbers. The job numbers may actually result in a huge opportunity for some. That opportunity is the fundamental changing of the traditional job resume or CV (curriculum vitae). If you have been in the job market for any time period and have both tried to be creative with your active word choice (developed, designed, delivered, created, generated) for that tired resume or if you have been on the hiring side reviewing these lackluster documents, you know as well as I do that the time for the CV/resume overhaul has come!

In the marketing industry in particular, I for one am tired by the only variety on the page being font choice or links. WE are the creative class afterall!! Still, how many of us second guess ourselves because of the kind of company we are submitting the CV to? If it is a financial services, pharmaceutical, automotive or government entity, creativity may actually be seen as a negative, right? But if we are truly to present our best selves, our true selves, is it really necessary to conform in a way that makes us part of the “sea of sameness” or can we take a chance and show what we can really do?

It is not a trivial question. This past week, the USA Today had a front page headline touting that half of the non-farm payroll gains in the past two years have been created in the state of Texas. Wow! Texas, as we know is a fairly conservative state yet also touts some of the most progressive start-ups in our industry located in its trendy capitol city of Austin. So, do we adjust our resume for the times? The state? The industry? How many versions do we need?

Then, consider the effort that people put into their own websites, or social sites. Many of them include everything from their CV as well as published articles and even some personal anecdotes. How can a 2-dimensional piece of paper capture all of that and serve all of the constituencies and nuances of the business itself while separating us from the pack without ostracizing us at the same time?

I don’t know for sure but as someone who sees their fair share of CV’s and has created dozens of my own versions, I was intrigued by this article. “7 Ingenious Resumes That Will Make You Rethink Your CV” http://on.mash.to/iW20b0.  If you click on this link, you will see several CV’s that are really thoughtful but some, in my opinion, have some serious flaws. Here are a couple from that blog and my assessment on how they can work to help or hinder the marketer on their job quest.

1. This was called the “Multi-Dimensional” Resume


I give this big points for creativity but for most company’s, at least traditional corporations, this may make Meghan seem a bit A.D.D. I think that the idea here is great but the 3-D attempt can make this seem almost confusing. For an agency or creative company, it may be spot on. For any other company, it may feel like work to figure out or a ruse to hide the fact that there is precious little substance. Too much creativity can bring the skeptic out in some.

2. This was one was touted as Design Being Matched with Style


This to me felt like a reverse evolution of the one prior. It is in black and white and while it has a similar feel to the first, it is more orderly, with greater detail and is easy to follow. I also like the QR code attached offering the reader a chance to “interact”. I think that you could submit this to most companies for most mid-level and below positions in marketing and make a statement, in a good way. But any executive level position will require much more than is included here. I do think that it is distinctive enough to also stand out in the agency and creative company world.

3. This one was dubbed “Video Killed the Resume Star?”


This was described as a video where the reader/watcher could interact with the video and click on words on the screen to learn more. There were sections on “About Me”, Portfolio, Skills Page, Timeline and Contact Info. I give this high marks assuming the company is reviewing online resumes versus printing them out in some big HR file. This is an opportunity to tell the story yourself, in a quasi-interview format. The upside, is that if you have a strong personality and are telegenic, this may get you in the door. The downside is if the person viewing either doesn’t watch the whole thing, can’t find the bit of information they are looking for without several minutes of dialogue, or if they feel that they no longer need the interview because of the format. Chemistry is key in choosing a job so you don’t want to forego that! Still, it is a nice combination that works well in traditional as well as creative settings. I would send a hard copy of a CV along with the link, just in case.

4. Wear Your Resume


‘Nuff said:)

Bottom line, I think that there is definitely room for a CV/resume make-over in the world, particularly for marketers. Still, the whole world is not quite where many of us are in terms of our understanding of the social marketing sphere, nor in the Twitter-esque shorthand of communication. My advice is to spice things up, be visually appealing, but know your audience. Details are important so don’t think creativity is a substitute. And, in general, don’t go overboard unless you have a lifeboat waiting in the water for you in the form of a back-up job:)

TECHNOLOGY (IN)DEPENDENCE DAY

As we head out to buy the fireworks, brats and beer this holiday weekend, we undoubtedly will think fondly on 4th of July celebrations of our past. Remember running around the backyard through those oscillating sprinklers? How about cooling off with those red, white and blue rocket ship popsicles? Remember camping out with no possibility of contact with people back in civilization unless you were willing to driving to the local mom and pop convenience store that boasted the only payphone in town?

As I was thinking about this I stumbled upon an article that was written in June 1982. This 29-year old article spoke about predictions for life in 1998…13 years ago. It made me smile to read this and it made me think about what I was doing the summer of 1982. I was 12 that summer and if I had read this I would have been excited and a little worried, all at the same time. 1982 was the year E.T. and Blade Runner was released after all.

Because the article written in the New York Times in 1982 is so fascinating, I cut and paste it here, which makes the blog long, I know. Below that are a few of my predictions, some obvious, some maybe more outlandish for life 29 years from now, in 1940.

http://www.nytimes.com/1982/06/14/us/study-says-technology-could-transform-society.html

STUDY SAYS TECHNOLOGY COULD TRANSFORM SOCIETY

By ROBERT REINHOLD, Special to the New York Times

Published: June 14, 1982

WASHINGTON, June 13— A report commissioned by the National Science Foundation and made public today speculates that by the end of this century electronic information technology will have transformed American home, business, manufacturing, school, family and political life.

The report suggests that one-way and two-way home information systems, called teletext and videotex, will penetrate deeply into daily life, with an effect on society as profound as those of the automobile and commercial television earlier in this century.

It conjured a vision, at once appealing and threatening, of a style of life defined and controlled by videotex terminals throughout the house.

As a consequence, the report envisioned this kind of American home by the year 1998: ”Family life is not limited to meals, weekend outings, and once a-year vacations. Instead of being the glue that holds things together so that family members can do all those other things they’re expected to do – like work, school, and community gatherings -the family is the unit that does those other things, and the home is the place where they get done. Like the term ‘cottage industry,’ this view might seem to reflect a previous era when family trades were passed down from generation to generation, and children apprenticed to their parents. In the ‘electronic cottage,’ however, one electronic ‘tool kit’ can support many information production trades.”

Privacy Issues Seen Posed

The report warned that the new technology would raise difficult issues of privacy and control that will have to be addressed soon to ”maximize its benefits and minimize its threats to society.”

The study was made by the Institute for the Future, a Menlo Park, Calif., agency under contract to the National Science Foundation. It was an attempt at the risky business of ”technology assessment,” peering into the future of an electronic world.

The study focused on the emerging videotex industry, formed by the marriage of two older technologies, communications and computing. It estimated that 40 percent of American households will have two-way videotex service by the end of the century. By comparison, it took television 16 years to penetrate 90 percent of households from the time commercial service was begun.

Opportunities for Abuse

The ”key driving force” controlling the speed of videotex penetration, the report said, is the extent to which advertisers can be persuaded to use it, reducing the cost of the service to subscribers.

But for all the potential benefits the new technology may bring, the report said, there will be unpleasant ”trade offs” in ”control.”

”Videotex systems create opportunities for individuals to exercise much greater choice over the information available to them,” the researchers wrote. ”Individuals may be able to use videotex systems to create their own newspapers, design their own curricula, compile their own consumer guides.

”On the other hand, because of the complexity and sophistication of these systems, they create new dangers of manipulation or social engineering, either for political or economic gain. Similarly, at the same time that these systems will bring a greatly increased flow of information and services into the home, they will also carry a stream of information out of the home about the preferences and behavior of its occupants.”

Social Side Effects

The report stressed what it called ”transformative effects” of the new technology, the largely unintended and unanticipated social side effects. ”Television, for example, was developed to provide entertainment for mass audiences but the extent of its social and psychological side effects on children and adults was never planned for,” the report said. ”The mass-produced automobile has impacted on city design, allocation of recreation time, environmental policy, and the design of hospital emergency room facilities.”

Such effects, it added, were likely to become apparent in home and family life, in the consumer marketplace, in the business office and in politics.

Widespread penetration of the technology, it said, would mean, among other things, these developments:

– The home will double as a place of employment, with men and women conducting much of their work at the computer terminal. This will affect both the architecture and location of the home. It will also blur the distinction between places of residence and places of business, with uncertain effects on zoning, travel patterns and neighborhoods.

– Home-based shopping will permit consumers to control manufacturing directly, ordering exactly what they need for ”production on demand.”

– There will be a shift away from conventional workplace and school socialization. Friends, peer groups and alliances will be determined electronically, creating classes of people based on interests and skills rather than age and social class.

– A new profession of information ”brokers” and ”managers” will emerge, serving as ”gatekeepers,” monitoring politicians and corporations and selectively releasing information to interested parties.

– The ”extended family” might be recreated if the elderly can support themselves through electronic homework, making them more desirable to have around.

Political Power Shift

The blurring of lines between home and work, the report stated, will raise difficult issues, such as working hours. The new technology, it suggested, may force the development of a new kind of business leader. ”Managing the complicated communication in networks between office and home may require very different styles than current managers exhibit,” the report concluded.

The study also predicted a much greater diversity in the American political power structure. ”Videotex might mean the end of the two-party system, as networks of voters band together to support a variety of slates – maybe hundreds of them,” it said.

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What is fascinating about reading this is the accuracy of the concern over privacy and the notion of how technology will subsume our previous notion of family and work life. Though the predictions had several ideas that are still not quite realized, like the two-party political system going away, the effort seems worthy of our attention in that the consequences, and unintended consequences, are always worth considering even if we only get it half right.

So, here are a few of my predictions for life in 2040.

The overriding theme for 2040 is Self Contained/Self Sufficient:

1. Landline phone goes the way of the typewriter. Ok, this might get a “duh” but still, the impact of this likely truth is pretty daunting.

2. Facebook-Phobia becomes the disease of the century…people have adverse physical reactions when confronted with interacting with a human face to face sans a screen in between them.

This prediction spawns from watching my 12-year old son speak to his “girlfriend” who lives several hours away. To watch them talk on Facetime, you’d think they were inseparable, the best of friends. But then, aforementioned girlfriend came to town. Once here, she was as shy towards my son as if they had just met. That screen of separation acts like a security blanket for many and the prospect of being in front of someone, in the flesh, with no way to shut down takes its toll on some of the younger generation.

3. RFID once touted as the breakthrough idea of the 2000’s morphs into NFC, Near Field Communications. RFID it turns out was a better identifier of product and proximity while NFC is more of a two-way interaction between the mobile applications, consumer, retailer and marketer.

NFC is here but its adoption is still slow. I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting it becomes the norm.

4. Communities will continue to be built not based on proximity but based on interests and industries. The free-for-all “Friending” of the early 2000’s, likened to the “Free Love” era of the 1970’s, will be replaced by thoughtful, purposeful grouping of like interests and intents. Also, the social platforms of these purpose driven communities will be the norm for every person.

Perhaps I am inspired by the intent of the recent launch of Google+ but in general, something has gotta give. I am optimistic that it will be a good thing.

5. Homes and buildings will be self-contained and self-reliant.

We are seeing this already in some of the “greener” towns in America but by 2040, I predict that most new homes, at least, will be almost totally energy self-sufficient.

6. Cars will be manufactured with materials like composites versus steel. The high-strength, low-cost materials will drive efficiency and safety gains in the industry. However, those materials will not become “low cost” for another decade at least.

There will no longer be audio offerings in the vehicle as people’s personal devices will simply “snap in” and provide the office, entertainment and vehicle diagnostics helping to personalize the experience and reduce the costs of audio equipment.

I could not go so far as to suggest we will live in the land of George Jetson but I do think the material development and technological integration will greatly change the auto landscape.

7. My last prediction is that the 4th of July will not change. We will still head out with our families with bug spray and blankets in tow to lay back and stare up at the sky and utter our primitive sounds…Oooh…Aaaah

Happy 4th of July!

Subaru Embraces “Mediocrity”

Advertising Tweaks The Competition, But Will It Resonate?

Subaru has long cultivated its reputation as a brand for nonconformists. Its cars, with their all-wheel-drive systems and boxer engines, have always set the brand outside the technological mainstream, just as its marketing has often spoken to a devoted owner base at the niche level. But its latest campaign, called, “Mediocrity,” stokes the brand’s rebellious image with a scathing and sarcastic criticism of its competition.

The campaign includes TV ads but it’s mostly based around a website http://www.subaru.com/content/static/fightmediocrity/index.html that pretends to introduce the new 2011 Mediocrity, a car so boring that it’s only available in beige. The website may, in fact, set a record for using the most different shades of beige, a perfect complement for the most uninspiring vehicle you have likely ever laid eyes on. But this fake car, the Mediocrity, is actually a thinly disguised, previous-generation Kia Optima. And that’s what makes the whole endeavor interesting, that Subaru is so openly cynical about its competition, and by extension, the state of the midsize sedan market in general.

The website is actually quite funny, with plenty of clever stuff, like a quiz to evaluate whether or not you are right for the car. Questions include: “I think it would be fun to: A. Jump out of an airplane B. Weave a basket or two” and “I would like to be a professional: A. Volcano Diver B. Burlap Sack Manufacturer.” After I completed the quiz, I was told, “Unfortunately, the testing results show that you are not mediocre enough for the 2011 Mediocrity. We suggest the following tips to help take your mediocrity up a notch: Prune a Shrub, Stop Using Exclamation Points, Buy a Rock Tumbler, Detangle a Garden Hose.” Of course all this has to have a payoff for Subaru, which comes in a link back to the Subaru website that’s disguised with this kind of verbiage: “Or click here to drive a car more suited to your lifestyle.” On the Subaru site, there’s a video of the Legacy with the tagline “Fight Mediocrity.” While this is all fun and clever, I have my concerns whether quite a few people are going to get lost before they ever get to the Subaru site itself.

Beyond the website, there are three ads that seem to be in rotation right now. The first is simply called “2011 Subaru Mediocrity”.

The second is called “Designers” and feels like so many other car ads we have seen where the designers pontificate on their brilliance, but this one does it in reverse.

The last is called “Spokesman”. Again, another tried and true auto ad tactic done in jest.

The campaign is really anti-auto industry insofar as Subaru is poking fun at the hype that is typically associated with auto launches. You know what I mean, the ads where the announcer brags about the latest amazing innovation or styling element. (The premise is not entirely new, as you may recall Nissan Altima’s “The Cure for the Common Car” campaign.

But any anti-establishment concept like this is also wrought with obvious risk.

First, I have had more than one person ask me if the Mediocrity vehicle was a real car. Now I have to think that most would see the obvious parody, but one can never make too many assumptions when it comes to what people might believe. (Look at the world of politics if you don’t believe me.) Next is that people might be turned off by the parody itself and feel as though it is insulting. Then there are others who might actually believe that Subaru does not care or is not taking the business of making cars seriously.

Then there is the issue that while it may be fine to poke fun at the big boys — in this case taking aim at Toyota or Ford — it is not very credible when you are not next in line for the sale.

Subaru’s sales have actually done quite well over the past three years with 2009 being their best ever at 216,652 vehicles sold, which was a 15 percent increase over 2008. This year Subaru’s sales increases on a percentage basis are among the strongest in the business. Yet Subaru still barely scratches the top 10 automotive companies. In a market where there are dozens of new car entries, and much discussion of new car companies (think Tesla), Subaru rarely breaks through. And regardless of the clutter in the automotive space, Subaru has little brand consideration.

As marketers, one of our first goals is to get on the shopping lists, we call it the “consideration set,” of as many consumers as possible. The next goal is to get the customer to the dealership or at least to a website where the customer can price and equip a vehicle and hopefully request a quote or find a dealer. Unless you can get yourself on that shopping list, you struggle mightily. Subaru it seems, has been doing a decent job of gaining some traction, but when the competition is outpacing it exponentially, these slight gains may be insignificant. Subaru is not only not next in line to Toyota and Ford, but it is about eight slots away. So the believability factor for a vehicle that is not on that consideration set seems far fetched.

That said, I tend to see more of the positives in this campaign — but I am always going to give credit to the company that is not afraid to step out of the norm to make a statement and gain some attention for their brand. In this case, what does Subaru have to lose? They are admittedly at the bottom of the auto manufacturing pack in terms of sales and awareness. They have seen some gains in sales but are likely seeking far more than the incremental sales they have been achieving so far. They are also probably quite convinced that their current customer base, one that has a slightly higher level of education, disposable income and is geographically located at the edges of the country, will see the humor in this parody and will be all the more emotionally attached to the brand as a result.

At the end of the day, as with all ad campaigns, the success will be seen in the showroom. My prediction is that this will work in favor of Subaru, providing more attention and delivering a brand image of smart, funny, and out-of-the-norm. All of which are refreshing in the sea of sameness — the mediocrity — that we are often subjected to.

Is Ford Really Going To Cut Its Product Line-Up?

The 2011 Ford Edge is one of just 20 models that Ford is continuing (Ford).

Ford CEO Alan Mullaly recently announced that his company was going to dramatically reduce its product line-up. Bloomberg reported the following: “’There will be less than 30, on our way to 20 to 25,’ Mulally said in response to questions on the future lineup of ‘nameplates’ or models after addressing the Confederation of British Industry in London today. ‘Fewer brands means you can put more focus into improving the quality of engineering.’”

That’s an admittedly small number, far less than a high of around 97 models just a few years ago. I counted them up myself just to double check, but getting to that number meant not only counting Ford-badged vehicles but those from the Mercury, Lincoln, Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar and Aston Martin brands as well.

So the headline-worthy quote here is really a bit sensational in that Ford has already shed the majority of the models in question. You may recall that Aston Martin was sold in 2007, Jaguar and Land Rover were sold as a package deal in 2008, and Volvo was officially jettisoned just a few months ago. Earlier this summer, Ford announced that it would be discontinuing Mercury as well, after years of lackluster sales.

So, the only brands the Blue Oval will have left for 2011, at least here in the U.S., will be its eponymous marque and Lincoln. Overseas, Ford sells its vehicles under just the Ford label, and the Europeans have quite a few models we don’t see in showrooms here. But here, Ford’s product lineup has become quite concise:

1. Ford Fiesta
2. Ford Focus
3. Ford Fusion and Fusion Hybrid
4. Ford Mustang and Shelby GT500
5. Ford Taurus and Taurus SHO
6. Ford Edge
7. Ford Flex
8. Ford Transit Connect
9. Ford Escape and Escape Hybrid
10. Ford Explorer
11. Ford Expedition
12. Ford Ranger
13. Ford E-Series
14. Ford F-Series (including SVT Raptor)
15. Ford Super Duty
16. Lincoln MKS
17. Lincoln MKT
18. Lincoln MKX
19. Lincoln MKZ
20. Lincoln Navigator

So, if my count is accurate, we are looking at no more than 20 distinct vehicles between the two divisions – and the Ranger is scheduled to disappear after 2011.

It’s really astonishing just how much the company has changed direction in the past three years. Shedding five of seven brands and nearly 75 vehicles is a pretty big deal. In fact, the company is starting to resemble another successful automotive juggernaut, Toyota. Both have bread-and-butter, mass-market vehicle line-ups that extend from small cars to crossovers to people movers to SUV’s and pickups, and both have one luxury division. A pretty good formula, it seems.

While Mullaly likes to talk about how these consolidation moves help Ford’s plans to standardize features and parts to reduce costs and improve quality, there’s another benefit that doesn’t sound nearly as impressive when you’re addressing business groups — it immediately gives you more money to spend on marketing.

Let’s look at some numbers. Last year, Ford Motor Company (which included Ford, Mercury, Lincoln and Volvo brands at the time) spent $932 million in measured media, of which $750.5 million – roughly 80 percent — went to the Ford brand, according to Nielsen. (And that number does not include online spending, which we know is significant.) That $932 million was actually down from $945 million the year before, of which only $641 million was spent marketing Ford division cars and trucks, about 68 percent.

Given that Volvo and Mercury were getting at least some percentage of that total marketing spend these past two years, it stands to reason that Ford and Lincoln both will greatly benefit from that boost to their coffers. Last year’s increase in marketing dollars going to the Ford brand, along with a great deal of turmoil among its chief competitors – Toyota with its recall woes, and GM and Chrysler with their bankruptcies — helped to grow Ford’s market share by over a full point, from 12.7 percent to 13.8 percent. So, say what you will about marketing, but if the product is solid, marketing helps put butts in seats.

In this attention-deficit-disorder world, where consumers have little loyalty and a “what have you done for me lately” mentality, it is essential that car companies not only keep their product fresh, relevant and made with high quality but that they also keep the customer base informed and aware, consistently, not just when they launch new products.

As a former marketer at Ford and DaimlerChrysler, I can tell you that there is nothing quite so frustrating as the “launch ‘em and leave ‘em” strategy that we would inevitably employ when the funds dry up and other vehicles require whatever cash we have on hand. By eliminating so much internal competition for scarce marketing dollars, Ford should have plenty of cash available to keep its remaining models in the limelight.

Scary Marketing

I love Halloween. I love the smell of caramel apple, the carved pumpkins, the abundant chocolate, and watching old scary movies from my youth. As I was getting into the spirit this week and thinking of what to write for this blog, I kept thinking about the idea of “Spooky Marketing.” Arguably the largest obstacle, topic, area of legislation in the marketing world today is the idea of privacy. This includes behavioral marketing, certain CRM efforts, some viral marketing efforts, and sometimes even loyalty and customer service programs. To many these things are “scary,” they feel like marketers are infringing on their personal space and the government is using it as a platform. To others though, these efforts are a warm welcome in a sea of spam attacks. Many want to be marketed to for products and services that they actually care about or have an interest in while filtering out those that are so clearly off base.

But like so much political propaganda, people are being “warned” about marketers data collection. Some are twisting what is intended to be good and making it look evil. But perhaps there are others that really are evil?

This video on YouTube has been viewed nearly 900,000 times and what is more fascinating than the statistic laden video itself are the comments that ensue. Most skew negative in that they question the information, ask whether we are creating a “Google” society that eliminates real human, face-to-face interaction, and others question whether or not social media is dumbing-down our society by propagating false information.

I am part of a group of digital media experts, practitioners, and owners that was discussing this video this week. The conversation that they engaged in was really interesting and to me, quite surprising. These lovers of digital life, progressives in the world of digital marketing, began to talk about many of the companies that are collecting this data and in some cases, seemingly collaborating with government. One digital guru stated, “The behavioral targeting technology and government incursions into our private lives go hand in hand. Presently, the ‘hottest’ company in the video space uses behavioral data to recommend additional video clips to view. The company is Taboola, an Israeli company that spun out from Israeli intelligence. The department of defense and NSA have invested heavily in this technology. One report had Google receiving a $50 million grant from the NSA years ago to share their technology (this may or may not be true). The one saving grace is that these technologies employed really are not overwhelmingly effective. Orwell was half right…he railed against government intrusion (as he was a staunch anti-communist), but he did not envision the complete collusion between corporate and government power.”

Is he crazy? Maybe not. I was reading a Wall Street Journal article the other day titled “A Web Pioneer Profiles Users by Name.” The article goes on to discuss a company called RapLeaf Inc. that collects personal information, even your name, but uses/sells only the generic version of your information to allow political candidates to better target you. Still, they have the most personal of information on each person they have cookied. So the question is, is this right or wrong? Or is it a shade of grey?

It is not “grey” to many of the conspiracy theorists out there. You remember the former Governor Jesse Ventura? He was on a “Conspiracy Theories” marathon on Tru.TV espousing similar feelings as those above. On yet another site, I found this statement by a well respected marketer, “I interpret the current state of affairs as an amalgam of Huxley’s ‘Brave New World,’ in which he envisioned a society that essentially amuses itself to death (sound familiar?), and George Orwell’s Big Brother of ‘1984’ fame. Speaking of conspiracy theories, I’d suggest that the major media players –in collusion with government at virtually all levels — is a pure and illegitimate cartel, not unlike the Federal Reserve and the IMF.  The major commercial media players wrap themselves like scoundrels in the protective mantle of the First Amendment, but in reality are to free speech what the Federal Reserve and the IMF are to worldwide monetary stability.”

Heavy stuff and more than a little scary. I myself have been a glass-half-full person most of my life so I tend to see the good in what behavioral marketing and appropriate targeting can do, but there is plenty of evidence that there may be those out there that are far more malicious in their intent. So the question is do we stunt the progress of this realm of digital marketing in an effort to stave off the evil? Or, do we do more to reveal the truth in the good that we do in this space to once and for all overcome the paranoia and propaganda? Heavy stuff to ponder as we Trick or Treat.

Saving Chevrolet Means Sending ‘Chevy’ to Dump…REALLY?

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/automobiles/10chevy.html?hp

This was reported in the NYTimes today and I have to say that I am flabbergasted! Shocked that they would call this “branding” and confounded as to why they would choose this as a way to resurrect the brand. Calling your car a Chevy is one of the most flattering things you can do. It shows a personal relationship with your car. Like when people call me “Jules” instead of Julie. Those people know me well, we have a kinship…to make it a penalty ($0.25 in the “swear jar” for those GM employees who use the word Chevy instead of Chvrolet) is ludicrous and shows a complete lack of the emotional connection of the car and its owner.

The story stated that an email had gone out saying that the use of the word Chevy is no longer acceptable…all in the name of branding. The story also made some great points about other brands that have nicknames…Coke (Coca-Cola), Mac (Apple), and KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). All of those are great examples of brands that have become strong enough to warrant their place in personal slang – a sign of real ownership and love by its fans. If this is the kind of work that the “newest” agency is doing, then I really fear for the brand.

But I’d probably feel worse if I actually owned a Chevy…

In Memory of …Birds?

So this Memorial Day, as we reflect on the heroes that have helped make our country great, we are also making plans to kick off our summer properly and for many that means..road trip. But as I was thinking about places my family could run off to this weekend I was sent an invitation for a group on …Facebook that read: XXX invited you to join the Facebook group “STOP BUYING BP GAS UNTIL THEY STOP/CLEAN THE OIL SPILL”. Hmmm..I appreciate the notion but will not buying gas really fix the problem? For anyone living under a rock, there is an oil spill/leak/spew of epic proportions happening in the Gulf of Mexico that is now devastating wildlife homes and impacting fisheries, fishermen and many other trades that depend on that region.
All kinds of reactions have occurred as a result including a survey done on the front page of the USA Today last week that asked what you were going to do differently as a result of the spill. The number one response was…nothing. There were others including, “drive less” and “eat less fish” that were mentioned but I had trouble understanding how we would manage that or how it would fix the problem at hand. I mean, even if I drive less, or if everyone drives less, we won’t stop all together and until there is a real alternative en masse, we still need to pump gas, right? So, I pretty much threw the notion of not driving out the window.

But then I received the invitation to the Facebook group mentioned above. And it was sent to me from someone I know really well. Somehow that made the USA Today survey feel that much more significant. But to boycott gas, or even BP is not to just hurt “big oil” but the thousands of small business, mom and pop franchisee owners that run the individual stations. And what about the tourist industry? Are we willing to sacrifice them too? Or are you and the family going to bicycle your way to your weekend vacation spot?

The answer is obviously in new technologies and the scaling of these technologies. It is in the hope of the Chevy Volt, of the fixes for and continued success of the Toyota Prius, and of all the new vehicles that will use alternative fuels. The unintended consequences of trying to punish oil by curtailing travel without a viable alternative is in many ways, irresponsible. So is the lack of prevention that allowed the oil to leak in the first place. But let’s face it, any of the big oil companies could have been the one in this position. And the real concern should be first, cleaning up this mess and then how to prevent future spills.
Then, let’s decide how best to move forward progressively. Going cold turkey does not seem like the answer as too many people are affected negatively from these rash decisions. Does shutting down oil drilling help gas prices? Make energy cleaner? Make us less dependent on cultures whose business practices we disagree with? Are we best served by punishing, fining, boycotting or even shutting down BP (or an oil co for that matter) or by perhaps using this tragedy to engage BP in development of alternatives that can be brought to bear more quickly?
BP’s public perception has obviously been greatly damaged by this event and they will likely be very open to going above and beyond to correct it. So, can we not take this negative and turn it into a positive by using this public awareness and energy to get BP and their counterparts to the table to not only prevent future tragedies but to figure out alternatives? Or have we become a society so bent on punishment, fining and regulation that we can’t begin to trust that a large company might want to use its vast resources to find alternatives that are good for the environment, the economy and themselves too? Just food for thought as you sit in your car on your way out of town this weekend….