automotive 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.

Infiniti // Don't Believe The Hype

Disclosure: I drive an Infiniti and I love it. So, I sort of root for the brand because I like the product, and it benefits me if the car I'm driving is perceived as cool. On the other hand, because the company's marketing is so poor, the car I drive is effectively at a discount. I've seen studies that grant Lexus a $6,000-per-vehicle premium for its brand value. In essence, I'd like Infiniti to do just well enough that they continue making cars for the US, but not so well that I have to pay them extra for it.

Snapshot 2009-08-16 20-31-02

Having just checked out the new, I think I'm safe. The site is beautiful, with tons of well-shot video content about new vehicles and the spirit and inspiration behind the company's design approach. On the other hand, there's nothing to really connect me with the brand.

The main problem: It's all about them. I learned a little about them in the 20 minutes I spent clicking around. But realize that I'm an owner and I write a blog about marketing. If neither of those were true, and even probably if just the latter wasn't true, there's no way I'd have given them more than a minute or so.

There are a few secondary problems, like a complete lack of any structure to the navigation. It's almost as if they want us to just get lost within the site. Good for them if they're being graded on stickiness, but they're not.

Here's what's missing:

1. Don't just teach me about your brand. Use that content as a means of learning about me. The one interactive section I could find was where we're allowed to use a digital painting tool to mimic the traditional Japanese style that informs Infiniti's design. That would have been cool when we were still excited by Flash tools. Not now. Ask me questions about what inspires me, encourage me to submit ideas, find out what I think about what you have up there. Enable me to share it.

2. Don't oversell. There's a section called Living Luxury, which sounds really interesting. When you get there, you find three short paragraphs about what luxury means to Infiniti, and then a shot of a vehicle with a welcome light that comes on when you approach your car. That's it. If this is a big enough concept to have its own section on the site, come through with enough to make the journey worthwhile. Otherwise, accept that you have nothing much to say and kill the section.

3. Take it offline. If your initiative is to connect with people passionate about luxury, design, and performance, the site should be a springboard for events and happenings in the real world. The Events section only has photo and video from auto shows that have already happened. What about lifestyle events? Live exhibits of Japanese painting. Art openings. Private showings of the Essence concept vehicle in architecturally stunning private homes. Something.

As I said, the site is beautiful, and obviously cost a lot of money. It's too bad they didn't use all those resources to shorten the distance between their brand and we the people.

GM Contemplating a Name Change // Random Thoughts


GM is considering rebranding. Apparently someone over there doesn't think ChevroletGMCCadillacBuick will look good on a t-shirt. Maybe they should talk to Outkast before making that decision.

I don't want to come off as the guy opposed to changing your name. As both a Jew and a lifelong hip hop fan, "my people" are big on rebranding. And I'm all for it.

Except that in the big corporate sense, it always costs way too much money. Didn't I read somewhere that GM is having money problems? So if they follow Pepsi's lead (which wasn't even a name change, just a rebadging), we're talking hundreds of millions. And, this is the kind of thing that will get so much press that everyone will realize that it's really the old company calling itself something new. Sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

Oh, and aren't they 4 brands, plus the parent company? So would they rebrand all of them, or just the parent company, which nobody really cares about. Or, maybe we do care about GM instead of Cadillac, in which case, why do they have four separate brands anyway? This is too confusing!

Here's an idea: Maybe the problem all along is that they're General Motors, but we consumers want to buy Specific cars (like, say Prius). Here's your rename: SM.

Okay, you've listened to me ramble long enough. Here's the answer for GM and all of the rest of you who may be considering a quick identity switch to get you out of your current hot water: Fix your brand first. Fix the company first. Fix your screwed up relationship with consumers. Get your culture right, and your business model, and your products.

Once you've done all that, then sure, a new name seems fitting for the new company. I think in the old days maybe you got to be all new by telling people you were "all new." Not anymore. If GM rebrands today, the new name will soon be just as tainted as the old name. Maybe even more, since it will be yet another promise they fail to deliver on.