GM Ford’s woes

All the advertising in the world can’t fix GM, or Ford for that matters problem. No one is buying their cars. Yes they concentrated on what was successful for along time, gas guzzling trucks and SUVs. You can’t fault them for that. Americans wanted them and when it came to trucks and SUV’s Chevy and Ford owned the road. Ford’s 250 was THE force in their sales for years. Now we have $4 gas and of course we have folks looking for gas sippers, not guzzlers. Part of GM/FORDs problem was they focused only on what sold at the time, and now that trucks are like rocks, they don’t have much to offer. Actually they do, but they never marketed anything but trucks well. The Malibu for instance gets 30mpg, not bad in this day and age. They tried and failed to market it well (see an earlier post), but their paultry atempt failed to make the Malabu a winner. I could go on, but I’ll get to the point. GM and Ford need a simple solution to fix their problem. They need outside help. No, not a single man, but a team. Basically both are too old and too entrencehed in the old way of thinking, two egotistic to make the dramitic changes needed to turn themselves around, to narcessistic to see the issues and the dire needs. Basically both are too attached to old ways of thinking to make rational and relalisstic changes, teh types of changes needed for a real turnaround.  They don’t need to hire a new pitcher. They need to trade the team, get rid of the apple pie, and to do that correctly they need ot bring in folks from the outside, lot’s of them. Folks who don’t mind eliminating what doesn’t work, and aren’t afraid to break tradition. Basically they need people that aren’t emotionally attached to the names. If they don’t they will not survie their situations.

Ford… Did you loose interest just hearing that word?

Ford has a new man at the helm and a new campaign to turn things around. It’s called “Drive one”.

Ford will fail terribly with this campaign. Why? Ford’s new catch from Toyota, Jim Farley says it best:

“We’ll have fancy TV ads, but the essence is one human being talking to another human being about Ford,” Farley said, adding the reality and perception of Ford’s products don’t match. “It’s that gap between reality and perception that this whole thing is designed to close.”

One human being talking to another? That great sense of humor is running in the family. Chris Farley was really good on SNL. So Farley admits the ads will not work, it will be word of mouth that will? I think Ford has an almost insurmountable hurdle to overcome, and this is not the way to do it. Dealers have already been trying to tell folks about Fords. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because every bit of research on car buying says people DO NOT believe car dealers in advertisements. EVERY BIT OF RECEARCH!!! And now Farley is looked at as some magician that is going to pull a Taurus out of his hat. When Elliot Spitzer had his problem, the girl he had the problem with suddenly became a celebrity. She went from hoar to every persons fantasy for a talented singer, model, etc. Because of her one ‘suc-cess’ (pun intended) suddenly the world thought the world of her.

Farley had success at Toyota because Toyota did well while he worked there. I’m sure he made some great decisions but he also had a lot of things going for the company that were beyond him. Now suddenly his one lucky position has him as some sort of guru. History writes that few in any field carry their great success to other arenas. If that was the case than all the sequels would be as good if not better than the original. Only a handful are. I hope Farley knows that his success at Toyota in some ways had less to do with him and more to do with Toyota s product. Basically, people told other people about Toyota. Word of mouth made Toyota into a brand that is the leader today. The same story can be said for Target. They found word of mouth made them into the chain they are. Saturn started out as a great company too. Not because of anything but word of mouth. Of course they ruined the company by not taking advantage of this. And all the examples above were organic word of mouth. It happened because it happened, not because you want to use some sort of astro turfing to make it happen. Astroturfing doesn’t work. Sony tried it as did Panasonic with some of their electronic products. People just have to find out on their own, not because you told them to.

Now Farley thinks he can kick-start word of mouth for Ford. But word of mouth is a much harder reality than telling people that word of mouth makes success. A lot of conditions have to be right

It was right for the Japanese manufactures when they did it because they offered NEW quality when American cars lacked it. Target offered unique presentation, nice variety, and quality all for a fair price. Target spent a lot on ad campaigns but in the end even their marketing people admitted they did far less than the stores buyers who simply got the stores layout and merchandise variety right and that is what drove people to Target, and what made them tell others about it. And Ford does not have those conditions and can not make them with advertising the way they are approaching it.

Okay, your own research shows that 41% of people like the name Ford. But telling folks your product equals a better product only means you admit your product wasn’t as good to start with. Why not just buy the original and not the imitation? Have ten customers tell folks that they used to drive Toyota and now realized how Ford was better and switched and folks will perk up their ears. Have dealers tell you how good Fords are and you’ll have spent money on ads only to watch no one continue to come into dealerships. Ford can now say they have the same quality, but it’s not unique enough. Distinguish yourself or die. Match your opponents and its a tie. Ties don’t win games.

Speaking of good marketing… well almost

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Starbucks recently closed for three hours to ‘re-train’ their associates how to make coffee. And every single press outlets in the US went with the story. Some said that they’d loose millions in revenue shutting down to do so. No, it was simply genius marketing. Use the time to do standard training and make it an event so big that every outlet in every area of media made it a story. What’s that worth? A billion dollars in advertising, all free. Close down at night on your slowest night. Retrain your associates. Tell the press and put bright yellow signs on your door saying you will close three hours before closing time to retrain your associates. And the results of this marketing gimmick is you garnish new brand loyalty and solidify your old customer base. In the publics eye, and what they want to portray is that Starbuck’s cares and they must be making that coffee I remember being so good since they are being re-trained. Better go down and try it now. They lost nothing doing it and gained a heck of a lot of beans… well almost.

They forgot one thing. While they got press story after press story, they didn’t make it clear that they were closing to improve the quality of their coffee and bring the chain back to its roots. Aegis Group’s research arm Synovate found in a survey of 1,000 consumers that 75% of respondents knew of the closing. BUT… less than half knew why it had closed. So much for a great idea that had more press than Britney Spears going to Starbucks for a Latte. At least we know why she goes… or do we?

ZERO, and that’s all they had to do!

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Coke comes through with an amazing marketing campaign. Take diet Coke and call it Zero, make a new label and put it on the shelf. It worked. Zero is selling real well. Marketing wise, you don’t concentrate on peoples old problems of needing to loose weight and ‘dieting’. No, the new generation is not into that anymore. They have given up and obviously diet Coke didn’t help them loose weight. So you take all the diet Coke and peel off the labels.  Then you you simply say zero calories as your new mantra and not only get all the ‘dieters’ to drink, but healthy folks who don’t want added sugar. Look to see diet Coke phased out conveniently when Zero has enough solid market share. It’s a great way to update a brand and all it took was a new label and a bit of advertising.

Twisting the Knife

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If the infamous Super Bowl ads are any indication of the state of todays big-box advertising, based on what I saw this year, we are in one of the worst creative times I’ve ever seen.

Wendy’s isn’t in the wig business

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Like many agencies who are confused about what advertising is and when to use what technique and to what degree, Saatchi & Saatchi recently found out once again that humor is nice but means little to sales. In this case it was Wendy’s Red Wig campaign. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It involves real life scenarios with the added humor of someone wearing a red wig similar in look to the Wendy’s logo. In fact I bet it made you chuckle. But as I say over and over, people want to know what is in it for them and what connection does it have to their lives. But disappointing sales results and the December departure of the campaign’s champion, Chief Marketing Officer Ian Rowden are signs that once again big budget spots waste time and forget the #1 rule of advertising, sell the product. Funny, all they had to do was listen to one franchisee who in a recent interview in Ad Age said it better than I could. When asked about the campaign and it’s failing grade he said:

“The red wig has become an excellent icon. People see that red wig and they think of Wendy’s, but to that you have to attach an emotion or rational link, and that’s what we’ve been lacking.”

They should have simply hired him. He could have saved them a lot of money and made a spot that was spot on, not wigged out. But it’s also tough when you are an agency and have to go with your clients creative.

A new year but I can’t get over some of last year’s worse

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I mentioned this campaign earlier. It is Hyundai’s new direction in branding. I think it’s the equivalent of taking bags of cash and throwing them out a window. Even worse, no one finds the bags because they get caught on a ledge on their way down. This probably gets my vote for worst campaign of 2007.
UPDATE: Published: January 17, 2008 NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — In what seems a most unlikely ploy to drum up pre-Super Bowl buzz, Hyundai Motor North America today ended its Hamlet-like indecision and said it is committed to keeping the ad time that it has bought for the Super Bowl.

http://adage.com/article?article_id=123159

My comment: Even if it is a ploy, you can’t make up for a horrible ad campaign.