auto industry

Don't Stop the Party Rock

How sick is this video?

I'm a little biased. I've known Red Foo for 20 years. Been to his mom's house. Gave him career advice (which he probably didn't need and certainly didn't follow), when he was a teenager sleeping on the floor of a studio off of Crenshaw Blvd. He produced a track for my first record deal — a demo deal with (then Columbia Records a&r) Randy Jackson for a girl group I managed. Okay, I know a demo deal isn't a real record deal; that's not the point.

The point is I want this guy to win, and he is. Big. People all over the world are unable to keep themselves from dancing to this track. Even the Kia Soul hamsters are in on the fun. So what's the problem?

I don't get Kia. It's obvious that want to be cool so bad. And they're close. The first round of Soul commercials (sock monkey, robot) weren't bad. The hamsters are brilliant. Then they have some half-assed experiential programming — you know, hire the usual guys to do the usual parties, get coverage on the usual blogs. Who cares? They're like Scion-lite with better TV spots.

What if they facilitated these Party Rock flash mobs? Set-up shuffle contests and impromptu dances everywhere? Capture it all on camera and really take that movement to the fullest? Make Kia Soul synonymous with dancing your ass off. Start with the shuffle and move on to other kinds of dances, done in public for fun and profit. That's a brand that sounds like fun.

3 Things I Learned At The LA Auto Show

The LA Auto Show kicked off last week. After spending two days there for the press conferences, including the reveal of the 2011 Mazda2, I went back on Sunday to see what the consumer show looked like. Here's what I noticed:

Attendance looked really light. A casual guess would be about half of what I expected on a weekend day. But I could be wrong about that. I wonder if the pricetag scared people off (although tickets were only $12, once you add in parking and refreshments, it's a $50+ outing. Kind of a lot to go window-shopping). More importantly, Gen Y and Latino and black audiences were especially under-represented. Overall, the show skewed white, Asian, and Boomer/Gen X.

Aside from a couple well-designed booths (Audi comes first to mind), most of the exhibits were pretty boring. Like a parking lot with carpet. Mazda and Scion both made interesting use of augmented reality technology, but that was about it.

What does this mean?

1. Auto shows may not be as important as they used to be. If you're selling to young people or multi-cultural buyers, you may not be reaching enough of them at these shows.

2. Auto companies still don't fully get experiential marketing. Why not program the experience a bit and increase your chances of engagement?

If I were CMO at an automaker, I'd make it mandatory for employees to attend the auto shows. In fact, I'd probably have our full-time employees staff the shows, instead of or along with the usual promo models. You need your people to be interacting with consumers face to face, learning what the market is about and what people want. Get them out there pressing the flesh.

Common x Jimmy Kimmel Show // On The Run

Common onstage at Jimmy Kimmel Couple weeks ago, I went to the Jimmy Kimmel Show to see Common perform. Thanks to Jimmy's sports booker, John Carlin for the green room and backstage hospitality, and to Juxt Interative CMO (and part-time Rebel evangelist), Josh Mooney for making it happen. Mooney brought Paul Sutton from 180 (agency for Adidas, Boost, etc.), and another dude called Duke Fightmaster — his real name, which was a topic of conversation every time we met someone new — who hosts an eponymous variety show online at dukefightmaster.com.

I think I’ve been locked away working for too long, but it really felt like a big night out.

John got us on stage for Common’s set. The curly head in the bottom center of the photo belongs to Danny Masterson, another guest that night. What you don’t see is that as I snapped this picture, Serena Williams is standing directly to my right, and Interscope’s Tim Reid to my left. Well-rounded group.

Common recently remarked that Obama will change hip hop. I hope he’s right. But it didn’t change his set. He brought the same kind of fire he always does, on this night with a live band. He even gave Pontiac its money’s worth, weaving them into a little intro freestyle to acknowledge that they sponsor the stage. I wonder how that’s paying off for them. They’re obviously getting impressions, but does anyone care at all - does it make a difference?

Transparency Is All There Is // Random Thoughts

Left: New way of thinking,  Right: Old way of thinking What exciting times we're living in! For those of us whose values include transparency, integrity, and natural law, it's pretty amazing to watch the chickens come home to roost (I'm really hoping I know what that phrase means). In case you've been too busy, I want to bring to your attention two unfolding stories that particularly stand out to me:

1. The Big 3 are no longer big enough to be worthy of the title, and have been renamed the Detroit 3. They're begging for cash in Washington. While every news outlet, many consumers, and Congress have been debating whether or not to bail them out, the top execs showed up in D.C. in their private jets - three separate private jets to be exact - causing outcry from all of the above. This action obviously did not support their case that their heads are on straight, they're making sound strategic decisions and they just need some cash to tide them over.

2. Zappos.com went through a round of layoffs. CEO Tony Hsieh, an avid Twitterer and (crowned by us) a Rebel, posted updates about the layoffs on his Twitter feed, and even offered up a copy of the email sent to employees on his blog. The outpouring of support from Twitter followers was pretty incredible. Many applauded his openness and commiserated with the tough times businesses are in. Others promised to actually buy more shoes on Zappos and tell their friends to do the same.

Let's consider these two stories as a juxtaposition of old-school and new-school thinking. Both are stories about companies going through hard times. One handles it with bravado, finger pointing, and an air of desperation, the other with humility and humanity.

What I find most interesting about the Zappos situation is not that Mr. Hsieh went public with traditionally private company matters, but that he had previously created an environment in which it made sense for him to do this now. He allowed himself the freedom to do the right thing in tough times, because he lived right when times were good.

Conversely, the problem with Detroit is not that they showed up in Washington in private planes, it's that they were asleep at the wheel so long that they didn't realize they have no business flying private planes. Ever.

Sidenote: New to our blog? Check out the first post here - consider it a map.

LA Auto Show // On The Run

Yesterday I snuck into the industry-only press day at the LA Auto Show to bring you the really real on what's happening with the auto industry that appears to be in freefall. Considering the grim news coming from the right side of the country, kickoff day was relatively upbeat, with an opening keynote from Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. He spoke briefly about the economic problems facing the industry, but was perhaps overly upbeat about the potential of the industry to bounce back.

Some highlights (and lowlights) from my 5-hour tour:

Nissan's booth was the most interesting to me personally, having been a 3-time Nissan/Infiniti owner. I finally got to sit in the GT-R, which is pretty damn amazing. I got three speeding tickets just sitting there.

The long awaited 370Z is beautiful, but the big news for me was the very Scion-like Cube. Just about five years too late to be interesting, the Cube is sort of a nicer, less youth-friendly xB. The Nissan rep told us that the target was "bi-modal," which basically means they want kids and boomers to buy the same car. Sounds like a bit of a recipe for disaster to me.

She went on to say that Nissan's marketing will target Gen-Y through the look and feel of their advertising. When I pressed for specifics, I got a semi-cryptic answer that led me to believe their commercials will contain short codes to enable young people to interact with the brand through SMS.

Sounds like the good people at Nissan need to come to grips with the quote I love to throw around from Anne Busquet, former CEO of American Express: It's not the age of the internet, it's the age of customer control.

VW's presentation was a lot more upbeat. It's Jetta TDI diesel was named "Green Car of the Year," and the presenter said "This (Jetta) model doesn't know there's a recession," citing the company's relatively healthy .6% drop in sales and 14% gain in market share.

Honda emphasized the company's eco-friendly cars, from the relaunch of the Insight — the cheapest hybrid on the market — to the hydro-powered FC Sport Concept, which looks like a cross between the Lamborghini Reventon and a Transformer. Interesting, I just wish they didn't have to tell us it was "cool," because then suddenly it wasn't.

BMW introduced the plug-in Mini E. Very hot.

Mazda made some significant upgrades to the 3, adding in some luxury-level amenities that should appeal to folks who may be trading down. They also gave out Sprinkles cupcakes.

The Ford booth was the only domestic I got to visit. GM and Chrysler decided not to hold press conferences this year. The upbeat presentation from EVP Mark Fields and (former Scion head / Rebel client) Jim Farley emphasized the fun of driving the redesigned Mustang and eco-friendliness of the Fusion hybrid, which along with the Milan, Farley said, will make Ford the #1 producer of hybrids in America.