Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer

I distinctly remember the moment at General Motors headquarters when those underhanded competitors from the East (read: Toyota) launched an aggressive marketing campaign on GM’s home court.

The first wave began with an avalanche of Toyota truck promotions and sponsorships in Texas. "They can’t do that," said one GM executive. "We were first to sell trucks in Texas. That’s our turf." Well, Toyota did just that and quickly supplanted GM as the top truck in the Lone Star State.

Then, adding insult to injury, Toyota announced it would be the number one car company in the state of Michigan. And, sure enough, the Japanese carmaker was soon outselling its arch-rival in the Wolverine State as well. Imagine the reverse. Imagine seeing more Chevys than Camrys in Tokyo. The mind boggles.

These are just two great, regional market examples of quality and service always trumping customer loyalty.

The Toyota/GM mismatch came to mind the other day as I boarded my NJ Transit train to the city. A group of nautically-attired, New York Waterway street gangs were handing out pamphlets that read, "This Summer, imagine having two extra hours a day." Hmmmm. "Sounds appealing," I thought. "What up with this?"Ferry

The pitch: the ferry saves commuters up to two hours a day when compared to the onerous, chronically late and overcrowded train.

I loved the fact that NY Waterways was marketing right on NJT’s home turf. It was Toyota and GM all over again, but this time, it was happening right in front of my eyes.

I’m a big fan of "enemy market marketing." It sends a statement and can also have a powerful impact on the morale on both parties. Toyota was on the upswing and aggressively gaining market share when it assaulted Texas and Michigan. GM was reeling back on its heels. The "in your own backyard" strategy by Toyota applied a powerful, psychological coup de graces to the GM mindset.

Will the NY Waterways ploy work? Maybe. If the ferries were closer to my house and the schedule more flexible, it would be a no-brainer. Until then, though, I’ll have to live with NJT and their well-earned moniker: "Just train bad."

One thought on “Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer

  1. Toyota truck ads demo feats that seem crazy – from driving really fast and stopping at the edge of cliff to dropping something the truck is towing off the cliff and it hangs on. One night by boyfriend is like my truck can do that – I don’t know what the big deal is. Well, to a new truck buyer – not one caught up in Ford/GM loyalty – they may not know. But now they think Toyota is superhuman. Great marketing.