Friday, February 19, 2010

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.

Why do they make this so easy?
I really don't want to keep picking on Chrysler. Really, I don't. After all, as an American taxpayer it's in my best interest to see them succeed. But how can I not give them grief when they make what should be so easy look so damn hard?

Earlier this week, Chrysler convinced a high school in Florida to change the school's athletic logo because they clearly stole the Ram artwork from Chrysler. No problem there. Chrysler is 100% right to protect their brand and their intellectual property. If they let Lake Mary High continue to use the Ram logo without challenge, their claim to the trademark would be weakened and all the money they've invested in building the Ram brand would be at risk. So they had to make them change it, but here's where they blew it.

They didn't control the story or anticipate the negative publicity they might get by forcing a school district on a very tight budget to spend a lot of money repainting their gym floor, changing logos on helmets, athletic department stationary, etc. Now I know hindsight is 20/20, but the bad press resulting from this approach was as certain to pop up as a zit on a teenager before prom. So instead of having their lawyers go all nuclear on the school, here's what Chrysler should have done.

Tell the school in the nicest way possible that stealing your logo is wrong and they have to change it, but not to worry because you'll have the Richards Group, the ad agency for Ram, design a new logo for the school. Then hold a big pep rally at the school to unveil the new logo on a new Ram pickup and Sprinter passenger van. At the end of the rally, give the trucks to the school. To raise the money necessary to change logo on all school materials including the gym floor, the school would then hold an auction or raffle for the Ram Pickup. The Sprinter would be theirs to keep to transport sports teams to games, matches and other events, reminding everyone of Chrysler's goodwill and continuing to build some brand awareness in the community.

By giving away less than $100,000 in product Chrysler would have received positive publicity for offering a solution to the school's problem. And they would have moved a couple of vehicles out of their massive inventory, which will probably be even harder now after all the bad publicity they've been getting for this ham-handed way they've handled this situation.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why Hyundai will win.

If you haven't seen the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, be prepared to be shocked. It's artfully designed, well appointed and competitively powered. Now with Toyota's quality in question there's an opening big enough to drive a few hundred thousand of these cars through.

Hyundai's formula for success is simple. Deliver at least adequately on all the key functional areas and knock it out of the park on design. I haven't driven one yet, but given my past experience with Hyundai, it will certainly drive no worse than the Camry I just spent 14 hours in. The 100,000 mile warranty will provide potential buyers with enough assurance of quality. And it has all the bells and whistles we've come to expect in our mid-size sedans. But the difference between this car, the Malibu, Camry, Accord, and Fusion (all excellent cars), is that it takes the design in the category to a whole new level. It's drop dead gorgeous.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this. A few years ago when I was at the Detroit Auto Show, I was talking to a Hyundai exec who said, "most of the industry doesn't get it. Design is the key differentiator, and it's essentially free."

It's a pretty good bet that automotive isn't the only category where this is true.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You might be wrong.

You never know. In fact, in most cases you can't know until you do something.

Some of the most successful marketing and new product ideas could have been killed for one logical reason or another.

Apple's board of directors thought Steve Jobs was wrong in 1984 and tried to kill the most successful commercial of all time. After all, it only mentioned the brand name once and didn't even show the product.

Focus groups hated Absolut Vodka's bottle design because it didn't conform to the norms of the category, yet six years after its introduction, Absolut became the best-selling imported vodka.

At one point, Fred Smith couldn't find anyone to invest in his new delivery company, Federal Express, so he went to Vegas and won the $27,000 he needed to keep the company afloat.

So while all the people who know better are telling you, "you might be wrong." Just remember this: they might not be right.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The dull roar

If you live near a freeway, it doesn't take long until the traffic noise fades away. If you drive past a beautiful mountain vista everyday on your way to work, pretty soon you don't even notice it. We're human. We get used to things, both good and bad, and they become ordinary. The same is true with marketing.

Ten years ago, we talked about people being exposed to 10,000 marketing messages a day, noticing 10 and remembering 3. I wonder what that number is now? With so much time being spent online, the dull roar of marketing is there from the moment we turn on our computers in the morning until we close our eyes at night. It has even invaded our social networks so that we wonder whether that movie recommendation from a friend was honest or was he somehow compensated. A recent study indicates that the number of people who view their friends and peers as credible sources of information about a company dropped by almost half, from 45% to 25%, since 2008. Peer to peer marketing has already become a part of the dull roar.

So how do we stand out? By surprising and delighting; by being and doing different. It starts at the core. Does your company and product have different built right into its very fabric like The Body Shop, Jones Soda or Credo Mobile? These are companies that stand out in their categories and draw people to them with their values as much as their products. And they prove that if you want to stand out from the crowd, you really have to be different.

Monday, February 15, 2010

You knew it was coming

Dodge unveiled their new Charger campaign with an ad on the Superbowl featuring "hen-pecked" husbands and the Charger as their one relief from their oppressive lives. A good spot. A nice position for the car that has all the feminine appeal of a monster truck rally.

Invariably a response has been posted on Youtube and viewed nearly 150,000 times. It's pretty much a scene-for-scene recreation of the original spot with similar statements of resentment from a woman's point of view. It's funny and I think a good thing for Dodge as it keeps the buzz alive.

My question though is this: with no sponsoring brand for this message, what woman's product should this be for? Are there brands other than Ms Magazine and Lifetime Networks that can be positioned so chauvinistically female that they could support this response? Just curious.