Friday, February 18, 2011

What your car says about you

Apparently Nissan thinks you are the center of the universe.

At least you are if you are considering this car, the GTR Egoist.

I have no problem with high power, good looking, luxuriously appointed, incredibly expensive automotive expressions of pure passion, but what the hell is with that name?

I guess Jackwagon was already taken.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

You know you want one (or two)

Today is the big unveiling in Miami for Seven Marine's new 557 horsepower outboard engines so the truth can now be told.

There are a lot of firsts here. It's a horizontally-mounted, aluminum 6.2L V8 engine from General Motors with a 1.9L intercooled Supercharger perched atop a ZF transmission (designed specifically for this application) driving a twin pinion gear case.

It's controlled by a fly-by-wire throttle system and a hydraulic power steering system with a joystick control module, a first for outboards.

And it's gorgeous. (Okay, now my bias is really showing)

Seven brought the company I work for on board to do the cowling styling and engineering. It was quite a project. Starting with design research into high performance cars, motorcycles and aircraft, we wanted to create something that not only enhanced the performance of the engine through proper intake and exhaust air management, aerodynamics and cooling, but also looked the part.

Judging by the comments I've seen online already, it appears as though our designers succeeded.

Sorry, for a post that's so self-promotional, but it's not everyday that you get to work on a project that sends shock waves through an entire industry.

My congratulations to the team at Seven Marine for creating a take-no-prisoners product while everyone else seems to be throttling back.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Harley cages its brand

It's official, Harley is Harley no more.

It's clear that Harley SVP and CMO Marc-Hans Richer, the man who presided over marketing for GM as it slid from the global automotive sales leader to number two behind Toyota, has no idea what the brand stands for. That's painfully obvious in this first effort from Harley's new agency, Victors & Spoils, a shop that uses 'crowd sourcing' to generate advertising ideas from both professional and amateurs.

In this particular instance the spot was conceived by an amateur, and it shows.

Yes, freedom is an important part of the Harley brand essence and the promise here is that if you ride a Harley you'll be freed from your cage. Get it? (Added bonus: bikers refer to cars as 'cages.' How clever.)

The spot, however, misses the differentiating essential element of the Harley brand, rebellion. You don't ride a Harley because it sets you free, every motorcycle does that.

You ride a Harley because it feeds that little voice inside you that says, "Go to hell."

It doesn't matter that you have to clean the kitty litter, take out the garbage or coach girls soccer, because when all that's done you can straddle 1200 cc's of rumbling iron, twist the throttle and ride away giving a great big middle finger to everyday life.

Harley has always brought a little Easy Rider and Hell's Angel to their riders' otherwise predictable lives. But now they are giving that up in an effort to broaden their market. They're softening the edges to attract more women and suburbanites, to give it universal appeal. It's an effort that may produce some short term results, but will ultimately kill the brand.

If Harleys aren't bad, if they aren't taboo, if they don't make me feel just a little bit dangerous, I might as well ride a Yamaha.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The power to light up the internet

I've watched with interest for the past few days as a client of ours readies a new product for its unveiling at the Miami Boat Show on Thursday. The client is Seven Marine, and we've had the pleasure of helping them design the cowling to the most powerful production outboard ever built: 557 horsepower.

As you can imagine, the boating forums have been buzzing with speculation about this beast, and their booth will be mobbed at the show.

So how are they getting all this attention?
  1. They created a product that is absolutely remarkable. While the industry leaders, Mercury, Yamaha and Evinrude have raised the bar incrementally 25 - 50 horsepower at a time for years, Seven have blown them all out of the water with over 60% more horsepower than the most powerful outboard currently available.
  2. They're teasing the market with just enough information to get the conversation started. It's fun to watch people try to fill in the blanks. How's it mounted? Who's the company behind this? Is it real or just a gimmick?
  3. They partnered with Intrepid, one of the most respected, high performance boat companies out there giving the product instant credibility.
Unlike the auto companies which announce their game changers years in advance of availability (can you say Chevy Volt?), the folks at Seven Marine were able to keep this under wraps until just a few days before the show so the story won't be old news before the actual unveiling.

Want to know more about these motors? You'll have to wait for Thursday in Miami, like the everyone else (except me, of course).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chrysler wins the battle, but what about the war?

Buying a car is a complex process. If you doubt this, go back and read the posts from the three tortured weeks I spent looking for a new car last year.

A lot of factors influence people's decisions, including advertising. First and foremost, you have to be 'on the list.' In automotive advertising parlance this is called consideration. It was the first step in my process where I chose which brands I was willing to spend my time researching.

For that reason a lot of automotive marketing professionals think the true measure of a car commercial's effectiveness is whether or not it increases consideration for the advertised brand. Using that measuring stick, it appears Chrysler and Wieden and Kennedy knocked it out of the park last week.

Now comes the hard part for Chrysler; converting consideration into sales. Unless the 200 is significantly better than the Sebring it replaced, I doubt that's going to happen in a category that includes the Camry, Accord, Fusion, Sonata and Malibu.

I think I'll take one for a test drive to see if their investment in this nameplate was a smart one.