Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Getting it right matters

It's hard to believe someone could develop a product so awful that it could kill an entire category, but GM managed to do just that back in the '70s.

Compared to gasoline engines, diesels are more efficient, more reliable, more durable, can run more easily on synthetic and biofuels, and now are very clean burning.

With all those benefits why aren't there more diesels in American cars? I offer exhibit A: The 1978 Olds Cutlass Diesel.

The 5.7 liter V8 diesel that GM cobbled together for that car in the midst of the energy crisis was so bad it killed the whole concept of diesels for generations of American car buyers.

So while more than 50% of new cars in Europe are sold with diesel engines, that number is about 4% in the U.S. and would be closer to zero were it not for the efforts of VW and BMW who have both spent millions of dollars in advertising to trumpet diesel's benefits.

This is just a reminder that when developing new products, if you do something wrong – really, really wrong – you can, in fact, ruin it for the rest of us.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Love it or hate it, it's brilliant

God bless the British for their sense of humor and bad condiments. They've come together to create this wonderful spot for a jar of their beloved/despised Marmite.

This spot is so wonderful on so many levels.

It's a smart strategy for a brand that is seemingly everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

It actually acknowledges that not everyone loves the product – the young boy's reaction upon taking a bite of his toast and Marmite is priceless.

It's a great send up of the rescue shows that are proliferating across cable today.

And of course, it has some people up in arms, so it's getting even more play in the media.

Yes surprise, surprise, the perpetually offended are complaining that this spot makes fun of animal cruelty and demeans animal rights workers and volunteers.


I have no doubt the spot will stay on the air. After all Unilever, Marmite's corporate overlord, is no stranger to controversy as the parent to the Axe brand.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Honda steps back in time

This is an interesting project.

Drive-ins provide a wonderful, classic movie experience and have for generations. They're certainly a part of my past. I remember sneaking a friend or two and a couple of six packs in the trunk of my old Fiat 124 – clearly I had diminutive friends – into Petoskey's Northland Drive-In Theater when I was 16.

But that's just it. Even though over 300 of them still exist today, drive-ins are a part of our past. Their heyday was over 40 years ago. They transport us to another time.

Are they worth saving? Yes.

Is this a cause I'll donate money to? Sure.

But is it a good idea for Honda to tie its brand to such an iconic symbol of a time gone by? Maybe.

The danger is that while this project may help them connect at a deeper emotional level with American automotive culture, it could also give people the impression that they're stuck in the past.

Maybe that's why, as much as I like the effort, I'm glad Chevrolet wasn't the sponsor.