ethanbeute

Marketing | Environment | Culture

Tag: commercial

Toyota: Lost in the Wilderness?

What a great ad. What a great message. What a great brand.

I loved where Toyota was with this:

The automotive branding textbook example is “Volvo = Safety.”

A runner up: “Toyota = Reliability.”

Once the darling of the automotive world for its efficient production, fantastic sales and extreme reliability, however, Toyota‘s taken quite a hit over the past year.

3.8 million cars. 8,000 trucks. 600,000 minivans270,000 luxury vehicles just last week.  That’s a lot of recalls (and that little recall rundown’s far from complete!).

Reliability ratings have fallen, too.

Result: a hard tack away from reliability toward

Wow!  That’s a ton of “safety.”  A quick count has them at seven mentions per :30 spot – nearly one time every four seconds!

On the upside: message is loud and clear, yet casual and clean.  Also, safety is not wholly separate from reliability; I consider the two concepts quite compatible.  It’s also timely and topical, if not a little bold given the state of all things Toyota.

On the downside: if you’re a Toyota owner (which I’ve never been), you may not buy the message – especially if the recalls have been particularly inconvenient.  This “safety” onslaught (I’ve seen several full-page print ads to match these spots) is not even fresh on the heels of the safety and reliability problems – it’s amid them.  I feel strongly, though, that something often enough repeated comes to be believed (for better and for worse).

I feel like this direction could really work … but they’re already giving up on it.

“They’re Already Giving Up” Exhibit A:

In short: “smart, young go-getter gets a helping hand from a good corporate citizen.”  Two notes: “Erica” does say the word “reliable” and it’s the same voice as the safety campaign.

The “safety” sell, though, seems to have expired.  They must have research that suggests their problems with perceived safety and reliability are over – or that those perception/imaging problems were never too deep.

If not, I’m considering Toyota lost in the wilderness.

Disclaimer: Toyota is obviously a highly sophisticated marketer.  My observations are based strictly in mainstream television and magazine messages.  I expect fully that they’ve got many targeted, niche campaigns striking exactly where needed that are beyond my view.

Too Little, Too Late for Kindle?

(((Disclaimer: this is not a technology review or product comparison.  This post is about product positioning in prospects’ minds.)))

They’re the best commercials on TV right now … but they’re probably too late.  The first of these hit the air in March.  The iPad dropped on April 3.

Amazon hit up Ithyle for these fun, imaginative and insanely stylish ads for their Kindle reader.  Between the visual technique, music, props, scenes and transitions, they sing “the simple pleasure of stories” to me.  The feature or benefit sell is strictly limited to “books in 60 seconds,” which is subtle and sound.

Too bad this effort wasn’t undertaken a year or two back.

Check out the first three:

The Kindle has a very specific purpose.  It’s uniquely focused – no apps, no color, no video, no internet, just reading.  3G wireless provides access to a huge library of books, each of which can be downloaded in a minute or less.  That 3G access requires no subscriptions or monthly fees.  The battery life is very, very impressive.  Quite simply, it’s the best e-reader currently available.

Despite all this, I feel strongly that the iPad takes Kindle’s place in the mind of prospective buyers of e-readers.

That said, this isn’t a zero-sum game.  For the sliver who only want to read books and who do a rational side-by-side comparison, the Kindle should come out ahead.

For a couple years now, Amazon has done a nice job profiling Kindle on its homepage, particularly around holidays and other gift-buying times.  They have end-cap displays at Target complete with a live device that you can pick up, hold and explore.  They continue to roll out beautiful ads on television.

I hope it’s enough.

Link: previous post on iPad’s potential value to magazine publishers

The Reconstruction Begins: Tiger Woods & Nike

I’m as tired of the Tiger Woods story as you are.  Really.

However, I’ve seen a ton of nonsense about the first Tiger Woods ad to appear since the revelation of his extensive sexual indiscretions.

Two main categories of nonsense:

  • The ad is an expression of greed by Tiger Woods and Nike
  • The ad is a personal message from Tiger Woods himself

First: of course it’s greed!  The primary reason any athlete signs an endorsement deal and the primary reason any company extends one is, not surprisingly, profit motive on mutually acceptable terms.  The athlete provides associations the brand, product or company wants in order to increase sales.  The brand, product or company provides the athlete money in exchange.  It’s really that simple, so I won’t go any further with this ridiculously easy criticism of the ad and its existence.

Second: an agency (Wieden+Kenney) carefully created this message on behalf of Nike and Tiger Woods.  It’s not a personal message to you from Tiger Woods; do not accept it as such, narcissist.  It’s not a public acknowledgment of indiscretion by Tiger Woods – he’s provided one (sadly, by force).  It’s not a public apology by Tiger Woods – he’s already provided this, too.

So what is it?  It’s polarizing.  It’s talked-about.  It’s the beginning of the reconstruction of Tiger Woods’ image by a brand that stuck with him through the debacle.

Most of the negative remarks are the rightful result of Tiger-fatigue, so nonsense gets a pass.

Here’s the ad:

Here’s a transcription:  “Tiger … I am more prone to be inquisitive … to promote discussion.  I want to find out what your thinking was.  I want to find out what your feelings are.  And did you learn anything.”

Though it would have been the safest option, the absence of a Tiger Woods ad altogether during The Masters would have been quite conspicuous.

Since Nike decided instead to be present, their agency was presented a serious creative challenge.  Nike needs to turn back on as soon as possible the Tiger Woods cash machine they’ve built over the past decade or so.  The challenge: where and how does the reconstruction of the TW personal and brand images begin!?

A few thoughts about this execution:

  • Took the situation head on (did not gloss over it, ignore it or jump past it)
  • Visually simple and clean (no amazing shots, cheering crowds, triumphant victories)
  • Audibly simple and clean (no music, a couple bird chirps, dad’s voice)
  • Dad-as-conscience device works (no one wants to hear from Tiger or generic voiceguy)
  • Message is vague, curious and sensitive (no bold statements or declarations)
  • White logos over black vest and cap absolutely jump off (clearly present with being in your face)
  • All things considered, an above-average starting point (where would you have started!?)

I personally abhor Woods’ selfish and unfaithful behavior.  Though I know nothing about the science behind it, “sexual addiction” strikes me as a weak excuse for weak-minded, shameful behavior.  Climbing down off my moral high horse, as too few are wont to do, I accept this commercial message as the start of the reconstruction.

The commercial doesn’t “speak” to me.  It does not feel to me significant, impressive or provocative in any way.  It does feel a bit human, which is a good start.

Bottom line: Tiger Woods is a living case study that will eventually be published in formal marketing texts.  I don’t know how it will read or how I will feel about this commercial a year or two from now, but today it feels OK.  Nike’s got to fire back up that cash machine slowly and carefully.

Related: I’m quite curious about the original context of the recording, as Earl Woods passed away in 2006.

Also related: considering the financial stakes, “Brand Tiger Woods” moved far too slowly as the PR crisis rolled out and built up.  They had no control over public perception as more and more women emerged with allegations.  The online, print and television tabloids went burned wildly with the story.  To control the flames, it’s always best to be first and to be honest and to in times of crisis.

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