Are we still not getting it?

Here is a pic of a new billboard I snapped on my way home from work:


All I can say is “Yea, it swallowed it by first guzzling down a bunch of gas.”

Am I missing something here or do the Big 3 auto makers still not get it? Is this the messaging that we should be using at a time like this? What am I missing?

Ford Friction


[UPDATE – 1/25: Well, it appers this may have just been a misunderstanding of sorts. Ford now says “The Black Mustang Club and other Ford enthusiast clubs are encouraged to take pictures of their own vehicles for use in calendars or other materials as long as they don’t use Ford trademarks in products that will be sold.” Thanks boingboing]

Fresh from our discussion last week about removing friction (or anything that slows down or halts the interaction of a customer with your brand), The Ford Motor Company provides us with a great example of what not to do.

Enter the Black Mustang Club or BMC (you guess it, a club for owner’s of black Mustangs). They all got together and took pictures of their own Mustangs and put a calendar together to sell at CafePress. The Ford Motor Company then asked CafePress to stop making the calendar, as they claimed that the images and the BMC logo were copyright materials owned by the Ford Motor Company.

BMC Owner Lisa said to the other club members:

I’m sorry, but at this point we will not be producing the 2008 BMC Calendar, featuring our 2007 Members of the Month, solely due to Ford Motor Company’s claim that they own all rights to the photos you take of your car. I hope to resolve this soon, and be able to provide the calendar and other BMC merchandise that you guys want and deserve!

Denying enthusiast access to spread your brand is rarely a good decision. In fact, shouldn’t Ford lead the way by encouraging these groups to meet and spreading their brand?

Hat tip to Adrants.

Five things you can learn about a company by its employee parking lot

I think you can tell a lot about a company by its employee parking lot. Below are five attributes of an employee parking lot and what is says about the company:

  1. Clean – The company cares about attention to detail.
  2. Dirty – If the parking lot is dirty but the other outside areas of the building are clean, the company cares more about the perceived customer appearance than the actual customer experience. If both the parking lot and the other outside areas are dirty, the company simply doesn’t care.
  3. Empty at 5:01 PM – Employees are clock punchers and hate their jobs. Time to check the pulse of the company culture.
  4. Contains a lot of out of state license plates – This could go either way: either the company is hiring the best employees wherever it can find them or the company has a bad reputation in its own state.
  5. Cars are backed into the stalls – Employees are preparing for the fast getaway (refer to item 3)

Tip: If you are applying for a job at a company, arrive a few minutes early and check out their employee parking lot. It may tell you a lot about the company before you even step a foot in the door.

Automatic car stereo clock updates

questionmark1.jpgConfession: I still have not reset my car stereo clock since day light savings in October. This particular car stereo clock is very difficult to remember the button sequence in order to change the time. I have pull out the car manual each time and try and figure it out. So basically for half the year my clock is correct and the other half of the year I just remember to subtract an hour (I know, I am lazy).

But this got me thinking. Why doesn’t a company invent a car stereo clock that automatically sets itself to the US Atomic Clock? I mean, some wristwatches and alarm clocks are automatically set to the US Atomic Clock. So why not in the clock in our cars? I hope this is only a matter of time before we start seeing this.

Creating a connected community

While I was driving home the other night in my Pontiac Vibe, I found myself practically crawling to a stop to let someone merge (almost to the detriment of the cars behind me Wink.gif). So why did I make such a drastic move to let the car in? The sole reason was because the other car was also a Pontiac Vibe.

At times we can treat total strangers as friends simply because they have a ring tone on their cell phone of our favorite band, or because they are perusing the same book as us at Barnes and Noble, or because they are wearing a t-shirt of our favorite sports team. Sometimes our beloved possessions bind us together as a tight knit community with other strangers with similar interests.

Are you harnessing this sense of belonging and community with your most loyal customers? If not, provide a forum (a blog, an in-person event, or website might work) to reap the benefits of a connected community. Here are just a few possible rewards of creating such a forum:

  1. The forum allows your loyal customers to talk and bask in the greatness that is your product. (Don’t forget to invite “investigators” to your forum so that they can mingle with your all ready “converted”.)
  2. It reinforces the reasons why your loyal customers came to you in the first place.
  3. It becomes a place for instant feedback. Use this forum to ask your best customers why they love you and what you can do to improve. It will also be a chance to find out why former customers left (also very valuable feedback).
  4. The forum allows your customers to find out how others are using your product or service. Lets face it; most of us learn by talking to others then reading the manual.

What are other benefits of creating a connected community?

Marketers: Avoid “Jumping the Shark” at the Moment of Truth


The term “jump the shark” specifically refers to a scene in the hit TV comedy series Happy Days. The writers for the show created a storyline where Arthur Fonzarelli (a.k.a. “The Fonz”) is on water skis (wearing his trademark leather jacket, of course) and he literally jumps over a shark.

Many faithful watchers of Happy Days have noted the “shark episode” as the moment when they realized the storyline had been forever altered and that the show had run out of fresh, imaginative, and relevant ideas.

Today, the term “jumping the shark” could include any TV show/ religion/ political candidate/ business service/ widget that desperately tries to remain relevant in the eyes of the consumers but the “storyline” has so significantly declined from its intended focus and purpose that the original appeal is lost.

The Moment of Truth

During its natural life cycle, most every brand suffers from a loss of relevancy and begins a downward slope towards mediocrity or irrelevancy. At the beginning of this downward turn is what I have termed the “Moment of Truth”.

Moment of Truth

At the Moment of Truth, a marketer can either inject relevancy back into her brand or she can make a desperate (and often hollow) attempt to regain relevancy by doing something that fundamentally detracts from the brand’s soul and core purpose.

Take, for example, my early post about the Ford executives considering the option to “mainstream” the Ford Mustang for the general population by developing a Wagon model. I believe that if Ford does make a Wagon model of it’s famed muscle car, the Mustang enthusiasts will see this as such a significant departure from the Mustang’s original allure and that it may slip into the abyss of “products past”. (I mean really, does “Wagon” and “muscle car” belong in the same “storyline”? I think not!).

As marketers, we are faced with Moments of Truth all of the time. The moment may be grand and obvious or small and subtle. Whatever the structure or cause of the Moment of Truth, what really matters is that when faced with a Moment of Truth marketers stick with the original “storyline” and purpose of the brand and not desperately try to “jump the shark”.

Mainstreaming the Ford Mustang Brand?

Autoweek reports that the Ford executives held a secret meeting last fall and discussed making a sedan and a wagon version of the now famed muscle car, the Ford Mustang. Reportedly, the Ford execs wanted a “strategy to take the legendary Mustang mainstream”. Brand Managers really need to be careful and defend their brands when “the suits” use words like “mainstream”, especially with a revered, niche-brand.

Wikipedia defines “mainstream” as:

      – something that is ordinary or usual;

I would dare say that many men (and women) have drooled over the Ford Mustang. It is a thing of beauty and prestige. If we start seeing a Ford Mustang Wagon, than that is what the Ford Mustang brand will become..ordinary and usual (death for most brands). A car/book/church that tries to satisfy everyone by going mainstream often only succeeds in satisfying no one.