Friday, April 16, 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. 

Pain-free car buying
Nobody likes the experience of shopping for a car (the attached ad might give you an idea of why). The whole dealership structure, designed a century ago, adds cost and takes advantage of uninformed consumers while adding as little value as possible to the process. Pretty much everything I can do at a dealership, I can do online -- configure the car, figure out the price, arrange financing, etc. The only thing I can't do is actually buy the car.

Maybe there's a better way.

Rather than having lots full of cars on high value real estate all across the country, the manufacturers should set up regional distribution centers where cars can sit until ordered. People can order the car they want through an online portal and have it delivered prepped and ready to go to a small storefront branded delivery center or even their home.

But what about test drives you say? Fine, it's easy to keep a small fleet of demo cars at the retail center. You don't need acres and acres of land for that.

What about service? Two options. Create stand alone branded service centers (some of these already exist) or license service to existing automotive service centers like Sears, Firestone or Pep Boys.

I know that dealer contracts and laws in several states designed to protect the status quo prevent this. But I guarantee you with today's information technology, no manufacturer in their right mind would set up their retail and service centers as they are now.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sobe, so smart

Ad Age reports that Sobe is the latest Pepsico brand to break with the Arnell group.

I for one am not surprised. After producing ridiculously expensive Super Bowl ads with little or no effect on sales, I wonder what took the folks at Sobe so long to come to their senses.

Having produced the disaster that was the Tropicana packaging relaunch, the embarrassing support document for the Pepsi logo redesign, and the train-wreck of a campaign for Chrysler featuring Celine Dion, I'm a little surprised Arnell has any clients left on their roster.

But ditching Arnell was just the first step of what hopefully will be a successful marketing reclamation project for Sobe. They've brought their PR, Digital, and promotional firms together in partnership and hold what they call "workshop" sessions where they come up with a big idea for the brand to execute across various communications platforms.

So far, they're saying the right things. "The key to success is we're not starting with 'Here is our TV plan, and here's what we're going to create for it.' As opposed to creating advertising, we're creating content." Angelique Krembs, director-marketing for SoBe was quoted as saying.

The right process won't necessarily guarantee great communications, but it's certainly more likely to achieve success than listening to a charlatan.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Different not better

It was a big story back in January. Chevrolet moved its car advertising from Campbell-Ewald to Publicis.

The campaign featuring Howie Long (not my favorite) was dropped for one described by Publicis Chief Creative Officer Bob Moore as using "very human, intimate, family moments--those that often happen in the enclosed environment of the family car--to capture the spirit of the Chevy."

Here's the problem. Those little moments are completely invisible and unmemorable. Chevrolet sponsored Glee last night running multiple ads and I honestly can't remember one of them. (Yes, I actually watched that show. Don't ask me why.).

Sales don't seem to be responding incredibly well either. In March GM's car sales were up 5%, while Ford's car sales were up 52%. Toyota, even with all its troubles, saw sales increase 29%.

Chevrolet changed advertising agencies and all they got was a different campaign, one that doesn't seem to be working.

What they really need is a new approach to marketing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The age of alignment

Planning is a monumental waste of time.

Every year thousands of executives and managers spend millions of hours developing plans that are scuttled the minute a competitor offers a rebate, a new technology emerges, or the CEO reads a best-selling management book.

Rather than developing detailed plans, spend time defining your company's vision, mission, values, goals and objectives – those things aren't (or at least shouldn't be) subject to the vagaries of the daily business page – then communicate them with every member of your team to ensure they're in alignment.

If your team truly understands your mission, values and goals, they can act within their areas of expertise to do the right thing when new challenges and opportunities present themselves.

By not hamstringing people with a list of tasks and timelines, while holding them to specific measurable goals, you're allowing employees to initiate action and take a deeper level of ownership in their jobs and the company. You'll create more commitment, more satisfaction and a nimbler workplace that can rise to meet challenges in a moment's notice.

It all starts with knowing what you stand for. And making sure everyone else knows it, too.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Are you engaged or just dating?

Nielsen has released a report measuring what it calls "Fourth Screen" viewership. This is all those people watching TVs at places like health clubs, elevators and gas stations. While it's important to know how many people are watching at those places, it would seem silly to treat them all the same way.

Context is as important as content. How engaged is a viewer who's running late for a meeting, pumping gas while talking on the phone and reaching for his wallet? My guess; not very.

I don't really care how many people are watching. I want to know if the right people are watching and how engaged they are. It would seem that viewers who make a conscious effort to turn on the screen, whether it's a TV, computer or mobile device, and dial in a program would be more engaged than someone who stumbled across one.

There's too much accidental advertising out there. Stuff placed in hopes I'll come across it and buy something. I really don't have time for it. Tell me something relevant in an interesting manner at a time that I'm receptive and you'll probably be successful. Otherwise it's just background noise.

And if you really, really want me to watch your message at the pump, take a few cents off a gallon of gas as a reward. That just might get my attention.