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.

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.