Jun 11

There’s dumb, and then there’s GM’s decision to drop the nickname ‘Chevy’


June 11
Every
now and then a corporate marketing decision comes along that is so positively stupefying
that it stops me dead in my tracks. GM's decision to drop the word 'Chevy' in any
and all sales and marketing materials and replace it the more formal
'Chevrolet' is one of those landmark blunders. This is a
train wreck before it even happens. 
Late
Thursday, Chevy tried to clarify their marketing misstep with this video which,
sadly, only further confuses the matter.

Citing
the consistency that other leading brands such as Coke and Apple have employed
in their communications efforts, Alan Batey, GM's VP for Chevy's Sales and
Service and Jim Campbell, Chevy's VP of Marketing, say opting for Chevrolet
will make the brand name more recognizable with consumers. Yeah, sure. And, I
want a pound of whatever drug Messrs, Batey and Campbell are consuming. It has
to be totally mind-altering.

Chevy,
as the
Times article rightly points
out, is an American icon. It's right up there with baseball and apple pie.
People won't stop using it because the brand decided to formalize the name.
Talk about change for the sake of change.

If
Batey and Campbell had their way, FedEx would go back to being called Federal
Express, ARod would go back to being Alex Rodriguez and erstwhile Peppercommer
Stein would revert to Andrew Stein. And, trust me, the latter just isn't going
to happen.

Regardless
of the inanity of their move, the Batey/Campbell dynamic duo will now pour
millions of dollars into a re-branding and re-positioning effort. And, for
what? To get people to say Chevrolet instead of Chevy. That won't happen
either.

Corporate
America never ceases to amaze me. Just when it seems as if smart and
sophisticated marketing campaigns from the likes of OgilvyOne, Crispin and
others are starting to change the way we engage with consumers, something like
dropping the name Chevy comes along.

There's
dumb and dumber. But, this may be dumbest. Period.

May 06

Traditional print advertising is nothing more than white noise


May 6  
As
I engaged in my daily mental exercise of flipping through the pages of
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, it occurred to
me that I never, ever stop to read the print ads. In fact, I ignore them
completely. They're physical versions of white noise.

Knowing
the average full-page ad in each paper runs about $100k per and that each
contains 40 or so full-page ads, I realized that marketers are probably burning
upwards of $4 million a day on this shotgun approach.

With
the exception of affinity publications (mine would include climbing, fitness,
running and outdoor trade press), I never read ads. And, I know I'm not alone.

Print
ads are increasingly irrelevant because we live in a society suffering from
what Richard Edelman calls 'trust deficit' (See Richard's interview with new
PR Week Editor-in-chief Steve Barrett at
www.prweek.com). Edelman's 100 percent
correct. Thanks to the shoddy behavior of such brands as BP, Tylenol (the
once-fabled gold standard), Toyota, Tiger, Goldman, the Catholic Church and
countless others, we simply don't trust what organizations tell us.

And,
that's why PR is so beautifully positioned to fill the trust gap. We're all
about engaging in conversations with trusted sources
such as reporters and
influential bloggers who vet our messages first before putting them in motion
.

But,
back to the utter irrelevance of mainstream print advertising. To test my
theory, I scanned the ponderous, premiere issue of
Bloomberg Business Week (now, there's a catchy name) and selected
three print ads at random. I wanted to see if they caught my attention,
communicated a clear and credible message and, critically, contained a call to
action. Here are the results:


May 6 - fish  
1)
Headline: 'Is your business in shape to compete'? Visual: a school of fish
aligned in what appears to be the outline of a shark. The advertiser? Accenture.
My reaction? Ugh. Talk about bad timing. Who wants to see a school of fish when
we know millions are dying in the Gulf of Mexico as we speak? Plus, the message
is mundane, trite and overused. I'd grade it F.

2)
Headline: 'NEC gives the Peninsula Shanghai what it needs – seamless service.'
The visual depicts a smiling Peninsula Hotel IT manager with some
happy-go-lucky bellhop in the background talking into his cell phone. My
reaction: I want a clean room, good service and palatable food from my hotel of
choice. But, since I'm not a hotel IT manager, I'm not interested in NEC's
message.
I'd grade this one a C+.

3)
'In my world, not connected means not in business.' This one's from Panasonic
and depicts a pretty angry-looking
businessman who, it would seem, can't get
his wireless connection. I sure hope he's not using Pa
nasonic's new Toughbook
computer. The problem with this ad is its total lack of credibility. I should
buy this Toughbook because Panasonic says so? Sorry. Not happening. I'd give
this print ad a
D.

I'm
sure the marketing powers-that-be justify shotgun advertising in an age of
one-to-one marketing by arguing that it only takes one or two sales to offset
the wasted spend. I disagree. And, I think you'll see less and less print
advertising as social media, mobile, digital and other means with which to put
one's messages in motion become more mainstream.

As
for me? I'm buying that new pair of Sauconys I just saw advertised in
Men's Fitness