Posts Tagged advertising

VW gears up underserved segment

Every now and then I come across some really great advertising and when I do I try to make a point of calling it out. Though usually just post it on Facebook, occasionally I may also blog about it. This is one of those times.

Volkswagen has over the last several months put out a handful of really good commercials, a couple in particular that I would say are great. That said, before I make my case, I’ll let you decide for yourself.

OK – so here’s why I think these stand out in particular…

VW tells a compelling story in under a minute. And it’s a story that resonates with a generation of parents across the nation. StarWars, yeah we get that. Heck, that particular commercial could have been filmed in my house, it was so close to home (minus the VW in the driveway). And the parental fear of a kid sneaking off with the car… again, we get that. But they told it without the tired father-son speech about someday this car will be his, blah blah blah.

Besides a great story, and perhaps more importantly, VW demonstrates a clear understanding of their target segment and show cases the brand in a context meaningful to that segment. Affluent suburbanites, Gen-Xers with kids, above average tech savvy, who want functionality as well as aesthetics.

VW doesn’t try to go after BMW here or any other “performance” brand. I mean, it is German engineered and no one would have been surprised nor faulted them if they had. But the car never even leaves the driveway!!! Much less fly around some curvy hillside with the disclaimer of “professional driver, closed course”. Instead, there was a clear focus on NOT being BMW. VW is “your” car… you, the hard working, white collar, family-values parent that clearly has a desire for something above average, but without being extravagant or superfluous.

I love what VW has done. Some might perceive this as a risky route. They’re not talking performance (BMW), they’re not talking safety (Volvo), they’re certainly not competing at the entry level value segment (Hyundai). And yet, I’d argue they’ve captured a valuable segment, one that has long been overlooked.

Well done, VW. Das marketing.

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When does a sponsorship make sense?

Watching an NBA game last night, an ad for Kia motors came on. It claimed that the Kia Sorrento was the official vehicle of the NBA. The commercial itself was visually appealing with compelling music, but at the end I scratched my head thinking, what does an entry-level SUV have to do with the most competitive basketball league in the world. As hard as I tried I could find no connection between Kia and/or the Sorrento with the NBA, other than the NBA needs sponsors and Kia has money to be a sponsor.

So the next time you’re contemplating sponsorship opportunities for your brand, consider the following…

1) What does your product have to do with the event or entity in question? The classic example is beer (or chips or other snack items) and football. That makes sense to me – friends gathered around the tube, putting back a few cold ones and routing for their team. But again, to reiterate, what does an entry-level SUV have to do with the game of basketball. Players don’t drive them; it’s not a highly tuned performance (read athletic) vehicle, its not going to make me a better baller. Where’s the connection?

2) Would your brand benefit from exposure to the target audience? Here’s where Kia may pick up some points. NBA basketball is a mass market, largely watched sporting event… but then, why not just advertise? Why pay the additional funds to be a “sponsor”? So I would caveat this by also adding that there should be added value by associating your brand to the product in question.

3) Is there a clear consumer insight to you being a sponsor? I’ve watched this ad multiple times and I’m not sure how Kia has made my enjoyment of the NBA better. This partly goes back to point #1 but the other half is simply that I was not compelled to action nor did it push me to view Kia in a different light. The one glimmer of insight I could see was that Kia was trying to position the Sorrento as a hip urban vehicle (which might have some ties to NBA culture)…but that message did not resonate with me, and I doubt it dd with other viewers.

So can sponsorship dollars be wisely spent? Of course, beer and football, auto parts/accessories and NASCAR, brands in related trade shows…I just think that in today’s world where the mediums with which to touch your customers are ever growing – sponsorships become increasingly more costly on a relative scale. So lets make sure we assess the true value of a sponsorship and more importantly the opportunity cost of that investment when compared with other opportunities that more closely align with our customers’ preferences. 

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CEOs and Brand Identity

Ford, Chrysler, GM… besides all being in sweltering financial distress, all three at some point in the last several years have put their CEO’s on a TV ad campaign. Most recently GM has put their newest CEO, Whitacre, behind the camera .

Let’s just say it didn’t work out for Dr. Z or Bill Ford, both of whom handed over the reigns shortly there after. I’m not suggesting this is a curse in the magnitude of the EA sports cover spot, but potentially a trend.

These companies struggled to identify a message and voice to the consumer so they put their CEOs behind the camera…but what has that really done? I dont know the answer to that question and I don’t know the analytics behind these campaigns, but I do know this:

A CEO has NOTHING to do with a consumer’s experience and relationship with her car.

OK…obviously, the CEO should play a role in setting the tone and strategic direction of the organization but to your average consumer, the CEO is likely of little significance. Take a look at the video spots below from each of the big 3 and tell me if the CEO contributed to the compellingness of the brand and/or value proposition?

Starting with the last one, I don’t think that Ed Whitacre was believable or genuine in the slightest. He’s not an actor or an icon. He’s a guy in a suit and he acted like on. There was not an ounce of me that believed he cared about my driving experience. Not an ounce of me believed he knew what American’s value when it comes to an automobile. And that’s in part because I don’t know what GM stands for, a midst all their brands, whats the value proposition of the GM umbrella? And where does Mr. Whitacre communication fit into that?

Bill Ford at least carries the name, so on some level I believe he’s passionate about cars, particularly the mustang featured in the spot. Still, it didn’t do a whole lot to secure his job. Worse still, his replacement lasted only 4 months. And we all know what happened to Chysler. I will say from an entertainment standpoint, I liked the dr. Z spots…but I think again Chrysler struggled with an identity problem…no one really bought the whole German inspired nonsense. I mean, has anyone SEEN the PT cruiser? I think its safe to say that nothing about that car says “German engineering”.

So at the end of the day, I don’t think making your CEO the public face to the consumer is ever a wise move unless they are truly iconic. And even then, I don’t see the value add. Afterall, we don’t see Jobs pitching for Apple, Gates for Microsoft or Laffley for P&G. The CEO should be behind the seens, developing their organizations…not pitching me their products over mass media.*

*Note the exception in the B2B space, where the CEO can be iconic by virtue of her position, where she is respected by other key business decision makers/influencers.

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Nike Ad is "Unstoppable"

So I love the Lakers and I love playoff basketball. I also love a good funny ad. So when I saw this commercial air lastnight, I felt like a kid at Christmas. My natural biases aside… Nike really strikes big with this campaign because it dos a great job of fanning the flames in the Kobe v Lebron debate while ALSO reminding us that they both endorse Nike.

Well done Nike.

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Retreating in a downturn

eMarketer recently published a story on marketing budgets, and surprise surprise, the majority of marketing budgets are getting cut globally. From traditional advertising all the way to social media.  Obviously no one is going to criticize  a business for shedding costs in this environment, but it has always struck me as counter-intuitive that we choose not to take the offensive while our competition retreats, and then when brighter days finally arrive, we shake off the dust only to compete with more opponents for a smaller piece of the pie.

Now is the time to get out there! Now is the time to win the hearts and minds of struggling consumers and small businesses; customers who just need a little TLC.  Now is the time to claw our way back into favor, to earn back a little bit of the trust that big business has lost. While hiding is certainly a safe play, it will never be a winning play.

I recently read about a restaurant in Europe that, in response to the downturn, was not charging patrons for meals. Instead, patrons were encouraged to leave whatever they felt was a fair price for what they consumed. Mind you, probably not a long-term strategy, but in times of hardship that’s a service that resonates with people and builds reciprocity. Never underestimate the power of reciprocity! No doubt this move has carved out a prime piece of real estate in the customers’ consideration set.

To be fair the study went on to say that spending will be flat to up in online categories like paid search and email. That’s understandable – those tactics are inexpensive, measurable, and have a clear line of sight to revenue generating activities. Both are also more targeted than mass media. But in my experience online budgets are also relatively small pieces of the overall marketing pie to begin with… which means even with minor increases in budget we’re still underinvested when it comes to online marketing.

With that in mind I challenge you to be bold – to think long term. The field will always be cluttered, but as companies pull back, the field is becoming less cluttered and you have an opportunity to vie for a bigger piece of  the customers’ mindshare. They may not buy from you today, but they also won’t forget about you tomorrow.

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