Friday, November 27, 2009

Free Idea Friday

Ideas are easy. Execution is hard. Every Friday I will share an idea that's been rolling around in my head that I have neither the time nor the where-with-all to execute. Remember, it's free, so take it for what it's worth.

When I was a kid the seatbelts in our Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser had a logo on the latch that read "GM Mark of Excellence." I've always wondered why that stuck with me, but now I think I know. It meant that GM stood for something. Which prompts the question, what does GM stand for now? (Insert bankruptcy joke here) No matter what they say GM stands for, it's meaningless unless it's manifested in the products. So, what can GM stand for that ranges across Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, GMC and, if they choose to keep them alive in some form, Pontiac and Saturn?

Here's a thought. What if GM stood for "est." No, I'm not talking about the crazy, quasi-religion founded by Werner Erhard in the '70s. What if every GM car and every GM brand was the "__est" of something? What if every Chevrolet model had the highest fuel economy in its class, every Buick the boldest styling, every Cadillac the latest technology, every GMC the strongest construction? Sure these may not be the right things, but the fundamental principle is the key. Each brand has to stand for one thing and then execute it flawlessly across all models. Right now their strategy feels like "good/better/best" and anything goes within that range. You don't get famous by being anything.

You get famous by being something.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Do More Than Give Thanks

According the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the United States at Thanksgiving. That number represents one sixth of all the turkeys sold in the U.S. each year. Yet, even with so many turkeys being cooked, people still go hungry.

Please take a moment to help those who don't have enough and donate to your local food pantry or soup kitchen. Another option is to donate to Feeding America, an excellent national organization dedicated to helping people in need.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Toyota Makes A Withdrawal From Its Brand Equity Bank

Toyota announced a recall of 4 million vehicles today for sticky gas pedals and excessive frame rust. The good news for Toyota is that unlike GM or Chrysler, they have a ton of capital in their brand equity bank. So while this is a huge recall with some very serious safety implications it will have little effect on their overall brand image.

A strong brand can give you cover for a multitude of sins and Toyota certainly has done a lot of things right to earn it's reputation as a leader in quality and efficiency. It's interesting though, that in the 2009 JD Power study, Toyota was not in the top 5 of brands in initial quality behind both Cadillac and Hyundai. And while it boasts the Prius as a leader in fuel-efficiency, the Toyota Sequoia and Camry are no more efficient than a Chevy Tahoe and Malibu.

Toyota's strong brand will help them weather this storm. The question is, how many more hits can their brand take before they are seen as just another car company?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Must Not See TV

An article in yesterday's New York Times featured advertisers who are sponsoring web-specific entertainment developed by the same studios that create shows for the leading network and cable outlets. Likening it to the early days of radio and television where companies provided direct funding for name sponsorship, the premise is that these shows delivered through a branded portal will somehow increase consumer engagement with the brand. While in theory, this may be true, the practice as demonstrated by the few samples referenced in the article leads me to believe this model may not be ready for prime time.

I may be in the minority in this opinion, but a lot of the programming on network and cable TV isn't very good. (Can someone please tell me how Two and a half men is still on the air?) And pushing more bad content out to a public, no matter how captive, isn't going to help advertisers. Just how does a badly written, poorly acted, three-and-a-half-minute sitcom about an insurance agent who can understand what a dog is saying help American Family Insurance "engage with our consumers in a broader way, on a deeper level?"

Quality matters in every consumer interaction, whether it's your product, your customer service, or your communications. Rather than create their own mediocre entertainment (I'm being generous here), why not find something interesting and original like Chad Vader and sponsor it?

Frankly, if anything this made me feel worse about AmFam. They took three minutes of my life that I'll never get back.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Recipe Rut

A recent study in the UK has found that the average household has a rotation of just nine dinners that are prepared on a regular basis in each household, and that the nine most popular dishes are...
  1. Spaghetti Bolognese
  2. Roast Dinner
  3. Shepherd's Pie
  4. Pasta Dish (hmmm isn't Spaghetti pasta?)
  5. Meat and two vegetables
  6. Pizza (home made or frozen I wonder)
  7. Casserole/Stew
  8. Sausages and chips/mash
  9. Curry/Indian
It's not surprising that people lean on just a few recipes given the time and attention crunch in today's households. I wonder how long this list would be here in the States, what the key regional differences are, and how easy it would be to add or replace a dish on the list?