Category: Marketing

By on June 29, 2020

American Honda has joined a cadre of sizable brands opting to pause advertising on Facebook and Instagram in order to “stand with with people united against hate and racism.” It’s part of a broader campaign, called #StopHateforProfit, in which activists push brands to boycott social media giants until they enact stricter regulations about what constitutes actionable language that should be censored/penalized.

Over the last few days, we’ve seen numerous companies adopt the increasingly popular campaign, yet the reasons for doing so seem as varied as their individual terms and conditions. Multinational consumer goods company Unilever said it will scrap all social media advertising for the remainder of 2020 in the United States. While most attribute this primarily to hate-speech concerns, the company also noted that the contentious political climate on those platforms (including Twitter) having become undesirable for its own advertising purposes. Coca-Cola is similarly pausing social media spending for a few weeks, it’s made it clear that it’s not joining the official boycott, despite claims to the contrary in the news.

While Honda’s involvement in the movement is a little easier to follow, there are still a few twist and turns. Read More >

By on May 29, 2020

Tesla shareholders are scheduled to vote in July on whether or not the brand should start advertising product like every other automaker on the planet. It’s something the board and CEO Elon Musk have long resisted, and not without good reason. As a car brand, Tesla probably enjoys more free publicity than anyone else.

Musk has effectively mastered social media. He knows what buttons to press to earn more attention, and his one-man campaign has helped the company get where it is today more than the slickest ad copy could have hoped to.

Tesla also managed to spin this into a strength against would-be critics. Anytime someone laughs at the brand for not spending on traditional marketing, its acolytes point to the Musk talking point that cash is better used for development — a claim that holds some real weight, thanks to the brand having some of the most desirable electric vehicles on the market. But Tesla’s mystique won’t last forever, and it won’t be able to count on Elon Musk’s upper echelon Twitter game indefinitely.   Read More >

By on April 10, 2020

With no reason to risk going outside and industrial news at an all-time low, I’ve retreated into curiously dry hobbies as a way to maintain my sanity.

A substantial portion of my time has been devoted to parsing through old automotive catalogs and marketing materials. As someone who is notoriously difficult to shop for, dusty paperbacks that can easily be found for a nickel at any estate sale turned out to be ideal gifts… and I amassed a sizable collection. Over the weekend, I found myself going through vintage television spots — noticing they’re quite a bit different from the ads we encounter today.

While automotive marketing has evolved through the ages, there was a long stretch of time where companies basically just filmed a car driving around as a disembodied voice explained its strengths. This was back when advertisements featured voice-overs telling you that “Quality is Job 1” at Ford, or a choir of voices joyfully acknowledging that they absolutely loved what Toyota was doing for them.

Today, I’m celebrating the 30th anniversary of a totally mundane promotion from 1990 called “National Cadillac Week.” While the free AVIS rental and cash back on your purchase weren’t unusual (then or now), I happened to encounter it exactly three decades after it originally aired — as if destined by fate. It was a glaring reminder of how much car ads have changed in that time period. Read More >

By on November 26, 2019

As part of Tesla Motors’ debut of Cybertruck, CEO Elon Musk showed a clip in which the EV pickup yanks a Ford F-150 uphill against its will. The Blue Oval is also building an all-electric pickup, in addition to already manufacturing the best-selling truck model in history. Clearly, Tesla clearly wanted to place both on notice, though the video only provides evidence that Cybertruck can tug a rear-drive F-Series uphill in a video Tesla produced to show exactly that outcome.

Media outlets began musing if this was really a fair fight, apparently forgetting how advertising works, while science celeb Neil deGrasse Tyson offered a public physics lessons. “We all love Torque. But high Torque just spins a tire in place if there’s not enough weight to provide traction,” he said in response to the video. “Fully load the F150, giving highest traction to its rear wheels, then try to drag that up the hill. I otherwise agree: Load both to the max and the highest torque wins.”

Mr. Tyson’s new role as a Ford Truck Man remains unconfirmed, but the more likely scenario is that he’s simply trying to make sure the test is at least mildly scientific. Ford agreed, saying a fair test between brands was just what the doctor ordered.  Read More >

By on November 1, 2019

Cooperation between automakers is a good way to cope with rising costs but, if we’re being honest, it’s much more exciting when they don’t get along. Think about some of your favorite automobiles. Odds are good that they have a counterpart from another manufacturer they’re supposed to be warring with — Mustang vs Camaro, WRX STI vs Lancer Evolution, Camry vs Accord, Gremlin vs Pinto.

The best rivalries are between manufacturers, as those provide ample opportunity for snide marketing. If we had our druthers, automakers would be forced to compete in biannual gladiator-style competitions that open with scored trash talk. But dreams rarely come true; automotive bloodsports probably require a few years of heavy planning, too.

Luckily, industrial-grade insults aren’t something we have to wait for. To our delight, Daimler AG and BMW Group were going at it on Halloween.  Read More >

By on September 13, 2019

Ads for the 2020 Lincoln Aviator are scheduled to drop this Saturday, but those of us with internet access got to see them a day early. Lincoln’s “Fresh Take” campaign is a bit of a misnomer, however, because the person who’s chiming in on the new model is Matthew McConaughey.

Ford has used the Oscar-winning actor to showcase its premium products for years now, and this writer is not ashamed to say that he’s grown to love them. While not particularly substantive, they’re difficult to look away from. McConaughey muses about the vehicle in a calm, dreamlike haze. Occasionally looking into the rearview mirror before casually reapplying his attention to the always clear road ahead, he’s presumably talking to himself — but it’s really for our benefit.

And that’s why I’m so fond of them. In my mind, McConaughey is a polished lunatic — not quite a Patrick Bateman, but definitely unhinged. And it translates into comedy gold. Yet another viewer might see the ad and think, “Boy he’s handsome and calm — it’s like nothing is ever going to go wrong inside that car.” Read More >

By on July 25, 2019

Buick Regal Mistaken Identity commercial screenshot - Image: Buick/Youtube

Encore, not Regal. Regal TourX if you please, not the Cascada. No to the LaCrosse, yes to the Enclave. Regal Sportback shunned, Envision approved.

This isn’t an elementary analysis of the pro-crossover/anti-car trends of the marketplace or GM’s China-centric Buick brand. Rather, it’s the message Buick seems to be sending in its own advertising.

Of course, that’s not the official line from Buick PR. But the more you watch the six-month-old “Mistaken Identity” commercial, the more you wonder what Buick must think of its own cars. Read More >

By on July 23, 2019

Elon Musk certainly hasn’t been kind towards Ford in the past, talking about how the Dearborn truck plant is like a morgue. It’s a bold move considering his cars are assembled outdoors in a tent, but that hasn’t stopped the Twitter man from tweeting. He even recently claimed the Tesla all-electric pickup truck will be as good as Ford’s truck but also be able to tow 300,000 pounds.

Yes, that’s a totally ridiculous number and there’s no way the truck will tow that much in the real world, under the SAE J2807 standard. That’s assuming, of course, the Tesla pickup even exists. While Musk has long teased the truck, we’ve yet to actually see it in any physical capacity. It’s easy to say (or joke) your truck can tow 300,000 pounds when it doesn’t actually exist.

Ford is also working on an all-electric pickup truck. Today the company released a video of that development process, including the vehicle towing rail cars weighing over 1 million pounds. Not only is that 700,000 pounds more than Tesla’s claim but, since it’s a real truck that really exists, we can actually see it do it.  Read More >

By on June 26, 2019

Next year, BMW plans to equip all plug-in hybrid models with a standard function that automatically switches the automobile into electric mode whenever it enters an area designated for emissions-free driving. While the change is universal, the feature won’t get much action in the United States where government-mandated electrification is less pervasive than a Europe or China.

Still, that’s a sizable chunk of the brand’s global market. Hoping to appeal to it, Bavarian Motor Works went on an electric kick for Tuesday, announcing the electrically powered Motorrad Vision DC Roadster motorbike, Vision M Next Concept, testbed “Power BEV” drive units, upgrades to the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, and a bunch of other tech hand picked for the unsettlingly trendy #NEXTGen event.

However, the “eDrive Zone” PHEV geofencing system was one of the few items that has been scheduled for production. Unfortunately, it’s going to incorporate some gamification into the driving experience — making us suspicious of BMW’s ultimate goal.   Read More >

By on February 13, 2019

Lexus unveiled a collaboration with Nike and designer John Elliot at New York Fashion Week, celebrating both human and automotive footwear. The finished piece, titled “Sole of the UX,” is scheduled to make additional appearances across the country later this year, touring with a matching pair of Nike AF1 shoes.

After conducting a bit of research, Elliott appears to be a fashion designer specializing in the least imaginative streetwear ever to enter mass production. His beige drawstring pants, which run about $200 USD, are probably the most creative item in his entire catalog. The brunt of his collection involves plain shirts and lots of faded denim.

While not hideous by any means, it’s devoid of any unique style. The articles of clothing Elliot specializes in are the kind of pieces you’d wear while running errands or relaxing at home. They just cost a lot more. However, as Elliot openly describes his take on fashion as intentionally “basic,” there’s little reason to get ultra salty over how so much of his fashion line resembles a high-quality burlap sack. Instead, let’s focus our collective ire on Lexus. Read More >

By on January 30, 2019

Volvo is taking a very unique approach to its advertising for the Super Bowl this year. Rather than simply have the network air its commercials during the breaks, it has decided to compete with the game directly for viewership.

Called “The Longest Drive,” the automaker’s smartphone game is reminiscent of dealer and radio contests where people have to keep their hands on the car to win it. The difference here is that Volvo is concerned with your eyes. Participants will compete to log the most amount of time looking at stock footage of the Volvo S60 in the hopes of claiming one as a prize.

Mercedes-Benz tried something similar last year with its digitized “Last Fan Standing” competition. In that contest, people were asked to keep their finger on a Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe as the company monitored their cell phone, waiting for them to make a mistake. Unfortunately, mistakes were made long before the contest began.  Read More >

By on December 3, 2018

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid engine close-up

Despite long, grinding years of adulthood, the word “synergy” still reminds this author of the character on the excruciatingly 1980s cartoon Jem and the Holograms, which his older sister would commandeer the TV set for on various mornings. To Toyota, the word is the centerpiece of Hybrid Synergy Drive — the name applied to its hybrid drivetrains since the dawn of the gas-electric era.

Times change and, just as hoop earrings are no longer rad, the word “hybrid” has evolved to mean any one of a confusingly long list of gas-electric propulsion systems. Studies show that a great many consumers are still mystified about hybrids.

Hybrid Synergy Drive needs a makeover. Read More >

By on November 19, 2018

Automakers are obsessed with promoting high-tech concepts in an effort to prove to investors and the general public that they aren’t falling behind the times. While artificial intelligence remains the gold standard, what constitutes A.I. can get a little foggy. However, in the present, the term can be used to describe any machine that effectively mimics cognitive behaviors, like the ability to learn or create.

Car manufacturers want to fine tune specific A.I. examples to be implemented in autonomous driving hardware and high-end, modern infotainment systems. For example Mercedes-Benz wants to use the technology to build a more serious relationship between drivers and its cars by allowing future vehicles to “learn” about the driver. Meanwhile, General Motors decided to branch out to see how such a system would handle marketing by linking up OnStar Go with IBM’s Watson, an A.I. which famously beat Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings.

Watson is now working with Lexus and taking things a step further. The automaker just released a new advertisement it claims was written by IBM’s machine and directed by Kevin Macdonald.  Read More >

By on November 12, 2018

Image: FCA

Some police operations are only made possible by the inclusion of vehicles with 164 horsepower, a (debatably) has-been reggae/pop singer, and the guy from Dune.

The latest marketing coup, if it can be called that, on Fiat Chrysler’s plate involves these three elements, combined with an ’80s-themed, Crockett & Tubbs-like storyline and a hysterical typo that’s still on the automaker’s media site. Read More >

By on November 6, 2018

Dodge recently launched a 30-second commercial as part of Fiat Chrysler’s new “Big Finish” advertising campaign. While a competent bit of marketing, it falls into the trap of deploying holiday marketing immediately after Halloween.

On the surface, it has everything you’d want from a Christmas-themed car ad. Professional wrestler, former NFL player, and American icon Bill Goldberg makes an appearance as Santa while dwarves install a 6.2-liter Hemi into his sleigh. The Butt Rock comes on strong, accented by angle grinders and relentless engine revving until Santa’s new ride is completed. They even put antlers on the Hellcat logo. It’s stupid and awesome but also way too early for this.

We’re willing to forgive FCA. The automaker has been pretty good about not making commercials that make us strangle anyone of late. Frankly, that’s more than we can say about some of the other domestic nameplates.  Read More >

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