When Social Media Is Not A Marketer’s Friend

No matter how wonderful social media is among the marketing faithful, the content can sometimes become the foot that enters the mouth. Toyota tasted foot sandwich when a Saatchi & Saatchi- produced Yaris commercial was seen by Australian Facebook and You Tube viewers as too demeaning to women. Facebook negative reaction — Hmmmm, sounds familiar to the Honda fiasco with Facebook (Read the Zimana blog article When Facebook Is Not A Marketer’s Friend).

It is reasonable that Toyota (and Honda) would run into a troubling miscue, even when compared with Ford’s notable success with the Fiesta Movement. Automakers can be very susceptible to social media mishaps because of the nature of the product — a car or truck — has many features that can provide benefits and sway a consumer to one vehicle vs. another. Trying to cram too many points into a short commercial, short radio ad, or an even shorter tweet can make message recall difficult. Or in this case bring shock by trying to be too clever to convey everything and sounding offensive in the process. The ad does bring pause: how could someone not see the problem with this? At the minimum the ad comes across as a left-over watered down Saturday Night Live ad.

There is an excellent mUmBRELLA analysis on Toyota’s media mistake. The mUmBRELLA article raised great points about giving wide latitude to an agency inexperienced with PR — social media essentially is PR with exponential impact, for good campaigns or bad. Companies have to really be a steward of the message, not just be clever and insulting. What works on Saturday Night Live or Monty Python really doesn’t in the real world.

The ad was pulled from You Tube and Facebook, but many copies have sprouted up.

What do you think is important to know when using social media?

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Lexus LFA – A unique vehicle with unique marketing

One of the most anticipated vehicles in years is the Lexus LF-A, a 550 horsepower, V-10 engined, 2 seat wonder, built from carbon fiber and aluminum. Taking seven years to develop, only 550 LF-As will be built, at a price of $375,000 each.

But the price, far above the most expensive Lexus (the LS Hybrid), is not the most striking aspect of this product. Toyota’s effort to market this special vehicle gives the most pause.

Lexus has one challenge ahead — creating a brand worthy of commanding the $375,000 price tag. While Toyota has been successful with marketing the luxury division, Lexus is not considered in the same league as Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, and Lamborghini, where customers are willing to pay for not only a luxury car but a luxury car maker heritage. Thus the goal of the LFA is to be a halo car for the brand.

First, Toyota released video of the LFA being driven on the Nürburgring race track. The video was meant to display the sporting aspects of the car and reinforce the special development of the vehicle. Nürburgring is a very technical handling oriented race track on which many manufacturers have used for race car handling “cred” for vehicles as well as engineering development (Cadillac’s CTS-V is an example).

Second, Toyota took a few plays from Chip and Dan Heath’s Made To Stick (unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility) by integrating its carbon looming history into the car’s background. Little known fact: Toyota owns one of two looming machines in the world. These looms weave carbon fibers into complex shapes. Toyota has decades of experience. So for the LF-A it used an unexpected fact (Carbon loom) as a sticky point to enhance the technology and experience that is built into the car, qualities that luxury buyers seek about brands like Aston Martin and Ferrari (Hand built quality, racing heritage, and race car-level technology trickled down into production road cars).

Next, Lexus wanted to ensure that its customers benefit from the LFA, not speculators who would only display the cars instead of actually drive them. Having the vehicles seen on the road strengthens the brand, with a special quality given the rare production. So the decision was made to only offer leases on the vehicle (save for Europe), with an option to buy.  Moreover, Lexus will court influential customers to sift out speculators. In Automobile magazine Paul Rohovsky, National Manager of Advance Business Development at Lexus, states how Lexus is relying on its customer database, having a call center asking questions and developing a relationship experience.

If this sounds familiar to segmenting and developing strategy using analytics, you’re getting a gold star. Lexus has created exclusivity and excitement through energizing its customer base to help expose its brand to new customers (for more on an example of segmentation, see the Zimana blog post on segmentation and the Orient Express).  There are also hints of a shared customer-service provider experience —  a leasing program can lead to further customer interaction with specially dedicated Lexus service and sales professionals.  This controlled experience mimics online social groups that discuss specific products, such as Facebook Fans.

You can also see a great discussion video by Editor-in-chief Jean Jenning of Automobile with Brian Bolain at Lexus — Brian’s Lifecycle Manager position implies cross function responsibility for managing a great experience for the customer throughout the product usage.

All in all, Lexus’ approach for the LF-A contains solid ideas of marketing, analytics, and customer service detail from which all businesses can learn.

Start your car? There’s now an app for that!


Place this in the “Yeah, I can see this coming from somebody SOMEwhere” department: Viper, an auto security system company, has introduced a new iPhone application designed to start your car. Priced at $299 if you own a Viper alarm or $499 if you need an alarm and app, the SmartStart will also unlock the trunk and lock/unlock the doors. Granted there is a Zipcar app, plus there are now vehicles like Nissan Altima, Lexus IS, and Ford Taurus that will start when a keyfob is in the vehicle. However, the SmartStart is natural extention of the idea to aftermarket, and one of the first major aftermarket offerings. Certainly not the last.

You can read about SmartStart and see the associated videos here at the Autoblog post

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Another Top 10 at Autoblog

Ragtop memories
Ragtop memories

Wow, someone is following Casey Kasem’s footsteps! After the Top 10 Forgotten Hatchbacks list (see my post), Autoblog has created a Top 10 Forgotten Convertibles list. Just in time for Memorial Day, too!

What’s your favorite car memory? Was there any marketing effort with your fav? If so, was the commercial/ad affect your interest in the vehicle?

Enjoy the list!

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Chrysler Poll — Does Bankruptcy Affect Marketing? (2009 post)

A fleet of Jeep Grand Cherokees awaiting a new home
A fleet of Jeep Grand Cherokees awaiting a new home

Ad Week is conducting a poll on Chrysler’s  advertising in Linked In. The Adweek poll at Linked In centers on if a bankruptcy will affect the message and tone of the effort.   Ad Week also has a related article on messaging value during a downturn.  Take look and see what you think.

One challenge about sending a marketing message during a downturn or a company-wide distress is that associated independent channels have to be coordinated with the message to overcome negative response.  With the recent announcement of closing 1 out of 4 dealerships, plus GM’s choice to eliminate 1100 dealers, public reception for any Chrysler promotion will only focus on Chrysler financial condition and not on the value of the product.  Thus the remaining dealers will have to break through these concerns to gain any traction in sales, even more-so after Chrysler exits bankruptcy and begins to execute a marketing strategy.

Small businesses can learn from the Chrysler bankruptcy by making sure its sales channels and partners are constantly aware of the business status.  If there are negative concerns, such as slowing sales, small businesses should keep its advisors and partners aware of its plan to address the downturn and give progress reports, be it formal report or simple blog post with Twitter announcements. The key is to maintain a coherent message, good or bad.