Are you guys still in business?

February 12 - out-of-business Everyone's buzzing about Toyota's troubles. If I've read one image expert's opinion about what the Japanese carmaker needs to do, I've read a thousand.

Lost in all of the Toyota tumult, though, is Chrysler's total inability to capitalize on the opportunity.

Unlike Ford, who grew their January sales by 25 percent and GM, which moved the sales needle north to the tune of 14 percent, Chrysler's sales nosedived by eight percent. Why? According to a recent Ad Age article, the average consumer thinks Chrysler went out of business. Ouch! Selling cars in the Great Recession is tough enough without having to overcome the perception that you no longer exist.

I think I know how Chrysler executives must be feeling. The same thing happened to us (albeit, only for a day or two and within a decidedly smaller universe).

In the early days, Peppercom was known as Middleberg Light. Don Middleberg had built the top dotcom PR firm in the country and our nascent business was seen as a smaller, but rapidly-emerging competitor.

So, when the dotcom bubble burst and clients started falling faster than Autumn leaves in a windstorm, we took a major beating. At the peak of the downturn, we also suffered a very unfortunate service disruption. Our phone lines went down and our web site went black. We fixed the problem within 24 hours and didn't think too much about it. A day or so later, though, I received a few e-mails and calls from friends in the industry asking if we were still in business. Wow. Talk about a wake-up call!

I did exactly what Chrysler is attempting to do now. I over communicated. I made sure we announced promotions, new client wins (no matter how small or inconsequential) and re-marketed existing service offerings as 'new and improved,' I made it my business to make sure the PR universe knew Peppercom was alive and well.

Chrysler needs to continue shouting at the top of their lungs and from the highest mountains lest people continue thinking they're the 2010 version of the Edsel.

Typepad should do communicating as well. Typepad is the company that hosts my blog. They recently changed their model and it's badly impacted the Repman blog. Visitors aren't being permitted to post comments and I'm not being alerted to any comments that manage to appear. We've made countless inquiries to Typepad to get the damn thing fixed but, so far, we haven't heard a thing. Hey Typepad: are you guys still in business?

3 thoughts on “Are you guys still in business?

  1. Repman,
    As Hemingway wrote, “pretty to think so.”
    Lightning won’t strike twice because:
    – Sergio Marchionne is no Lee Iacocca. Rebadged Fiats are not the path to U.S. redemption. With no new product for the next 24 months, it’s like Fort Apache; all out of ammunition and the rest of the cavalry is nowhere in sight.
    – Obama is no Reagan. The Feds just can’t keep out of the way of this company. Given that we own the whole company, and that the greed and ineptitude of Daimler and Cereberus far surpasses Iacocca’s predecessors, I’m not sure we can.
    I think a better view of how this will end up is British Leyland: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/18/business/economy/18car.html?pagewanted=1

  2. Thanks for the kind words, BP. So, you think Chrysler is a dead company walking, eh? They were on life support when Lee Iacocca performed his miracle in the mid-1980s. I’m hoping that lightning strikes twice.

  3. Interesting analysis, but there are too many key differences between Chrysler and Peppercom. You offer a service that is performed well, has a track record, people who hold direct accountability for it, and those services are marketed to stand apart from competitors.
    When people think Chrysler is “out of business,” I think they’re only jumping the gun by 2-3 years at most. Chrysler has the iconic Jeeps and…what? None of their truck products are class-leading, and just about all of their passenger cars are bottom-of-the-barrel in function, design, and reliability. It’s going to take another 24 months before the Fiat-designed product is ready for the U.S. market. The Feds are not going to endlessly fund an Italian-owned entity just to save about 25,000 union jobs.
    How can a company in this kind of shape capitalize on Toyota’s misfortune?