Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A General Motors exec's view on the auto industry and advertising

With my shiny new RSS feed to the print edition of Advertising Age via ProQuest, I came across an interview with Bob Lutz (subscription reqd), retiring executive vice chairman-global product development.

In the interview Bob state's a few telling points - telling because I think it shows that some organisations just don't get it, from products to promotion. Here are the key out-takes from the article:

The entire industry is almost in intensive care, and we are going to be burdened with very, very, very severe fueleconomy mandates from an administration that believes all we have to do is show a little goodwill and we can easily achieve 43 miles to the gallon. Whereas, in fact, technologically, nobody knows how to do that.

Back in the old days, you had ABC, CBS and NBC. If you took three spots on the "Dinah Shore Show," you had a Chevrolet commercial at the beginning, one in the middle and one at the end, and you knew that about 25 million Americans saw those three Chevy commercials. Today, with hundreds of channels, you don't know where to go anymore. I can go a whole month and not see a GM commercial on TV because I am not watching the channels we advertise on. I tend to watch the channels like American Film Classics or something where I am bombarded with ads for medication.

But by and large, the industrial companies definitely no longer have the budgets to where they can rely on advertising. So you see a lot of very effective viral advertising. ... If you do an extremely entertaining commercial to where people will copy it and pass it on, it comes a chain of progression, and that is a very good way to get the message out.

So what we see from Bob Lutz is even at the very head of the organisation, there is no answer, no ideas, no inspiration. Not on the products side of things and not on the promotion side of things.

Let's now mosey on over to the "Social Media" side of GM's business. By any company standard these people should be the real innovators. And it looks promising, GM has covered its bases: A wiki, blogs, YouTube, Twitter. Well done, you're engaging with the people!

Let's take a look at how GM is engaging ...

Generations of GM Wiki is an historical account based on facts ... it is not a discussion forum.

The GMnext wiki

For centuries, Utopians have dreamed of letting the old world burn and building a fresh new world just over the horizon. In the case of the auto industry, which holds a key to solving the global energy puzzle, such dreams are a dangerous diversion from the hard work at hand.

GM Fastlane blog

@GMblogs you guys are killing Saturn just as it was starting to get interesting. I.e., becoming Opel/Vauxhall North America
4:01 AM Feb 20th from TweetDeck in reply to GMblogs

@buffalopundit if the spin-off happens Saturn will essentially get to cut the cord and go back to it's roots
4:15 AM Feb 20th from TweetDeck in reply to buffalopundit

GMblogs on Twitter

Hmmm... me-thinks GM has a nasty case of corporate communications cough, you know, that nasty bug that infects good ideas with yes-men touting the company line.

Oh, but i did find something that was interesting and did want to make me listen. It was an obscure GM produced video that has received a whopping 718 views in just a little over ... a year and a half!

Dr. Lars Peter Thiesen, GM Europe, manager, Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Development, actually sounds like an engaging, well spoken, and informative man, interested in the work he is doing.

So my big question to GM, Bob Lutz, GM bloggers and wiki editors: Why do I have to suffer the pain of Detroit's bemoaning corporate communicators when I could be reading the inspiring words of people like Dr. Lars Peter Thiesen? Where is the Dr. Lars blog?

Bob Lutz, on your way out, maybe make a recommendation to cut a couple of million from the corporate communications division, get your employees to blog about the great work they are doing (they'll do it for free!) and put that saved money back into worthy R&D.

BTW I did actually learn something useful from the GM Wiki! GM made electric cars as far back as 1912. Makes me wonder what happened for 100 years ...

Monday, February 23, 2009

The difference between shopping in the real world and online

So I've just come back from lunch and a few revelations came to me on my walk around town.

1. The Internet has changed shopping forever. OK, we've known this one for years and years. But it was only today that I actually got depressed about it. I looked at all these great shops with their pretty displays and thought, "I could go online and fine ten times as much of anything you could possibly stock in your little store." The poor shop-owners don't have a chance, there is no-way a bricks and mortar store can ever compete on range. Ever.

The depressing thing was that I like to touch and feel things, the texture, the look... yes I admit it, I like the SMELL of books. You can't get this online. This is the only thing the little stores have over the Internet. They have reality. Real people. Real customer service. All I can say is: little shops, customer service is the ONLY thing you have over the Internet - so used it well.

2. The key is in engagement. Walking down the the street I also passed a large number of pamphleteers. You know the people with a little A5 photo-copy selling you something or telling you about the next rally organised by the socialist left.

Most of the pamphleteers had it all wrong. Chatting to their buddies, casting a strange glare, handing you a pamphlet as if it were a controlled narcotic. It's not a hard thing, it does take a little technique, but shock-horror it's not hard. Smile, be open, say hello, say what you're giving the passer-by.

Conclusion? The traditional shop must evolve. Utilise your best asset - customer service. Leverage the Internet for what you cannot provide - range - affiliates, distribution agreements. And for the online retailers? Take a lesson from the humble street pamphleteer. If your usability is poor, or you don't have an open and welcoming appearance, then people might pass you by. Say hello, put a face to your store, utilise your best asset - range. Take lessons from the real world on the things you can't offer - personal customer service, just because you're online, doesn't mean you can leave the customer in the wilderness.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Taking window dressing to the next level

Big ups to Olivia Solon from Right Brain, Left Brain and her post on the above Coraline ambient media.

It's this kind of imagination that keeps on inspiring me. While the video touts the five technologies it uses, that's just the sales pitch, it is really the execution of them all that makes it an amazing campaign.

Plus it puts Augmented Reality to use in a fun and engaging way!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

International business news - #002

In this installment of International business news, we look at the world in 2020 as envisaged at the World Economic Forum; hear Rupert Murdoch defend free markets and easy cash; watch Al Gore promote the global fight against Climate Change and; find out who in Asia will come to be the dominant power.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Why not?

Why not? on TwitPic

We're living in an age where we don't need to be limited by boundaries, we have the ability to define how we act, what we do and how we do it. It's not about having the biggest, the best, the most expensive. We are now happy to play with the vintage edition, we want to see how far we can push to previous model. The standard edition is good enough, it mightn't flash and spin, but it looks great because it's how you like it. Fun is about how you use it and who you use it with, it's not how shiny it is or who says it's cool.

Have fun with with your friends, and take life as it comes. Find your spice of life.

And most importantly, don't ask why, ask why not!

Who say's so? Lance says so!