October 24, 2012
Mind Manipulation: Nothing will be the same.
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
(Posted 10/23, 5:30 p.m.) Detroit. Now that Chevrolet has fired a two-shot volley (consisting of an emblem reveal followed by a teaser video) out into the mediasphere about the next-generation Corvette, which will make its debut on January 13 in Detroit, I can assure you that we will be inundated with videos, images and other pertinent attacks of Internet information from here on out, all designed to make enthusiasts salivate at the prospect of the first new Corvette in years.
And it will be all wrong, and on so many levels too.
Over the years, this business has completely lost its sense of drama and surprise. Yes, consumers these days are completely jaded and the Internet has turned over the proverbial information anthill, but that’s no excuse.
The prevailing mindset proffered by sparkly image wranglers these days (and when I say “image wranglers” I am referring to advertising, marketing and PR operatives) is: 1. You must manipulate the playing field. 2. That means that absolutely nothing can be left to chance. And 3. Only we know the what, where, when, why and how of it all, and we will manipulate and orchestrate to a fare-thee-well in order to accomplish our mission.
And what is that mission exactly? To leave consumers – enthusiasts or otherwise – so bored with the relentless tease shots, videos, Internet leaks and other cosmic mind manipulation that by the time their particular Belchfire 8 makes its debut it does so to a collective yawn?
They will of course insist - but we are positioning our information flow! We are managing the message! We are making sure that all of the important stakeholders on our side of the ball are comfortable! (Translation: We don’t want any key executives wigging out about a misguided bit of minutiae that gets their nose out of joint, now do we? After all, ass-chewing must be avoided at all costs.)
In Chevrolet’s case – and I’m reminded of the immortal words once uttered by VP Joe Biden to the President – The launch of the seventh-generation Corvette is a big fucking deal. And it most definitely is a big deal. The Corvette is one of the most iconic nameplates in automotive history and the new car will mark just the seventh generation in 60 years. But I’m afraid “the book” on modern image wrangling leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to truly understanding the momentous occasion that the launch of a new generation Corvette is.
And it’s easy to see why. The image-wrangling mindset in this business is too often dominated by the need for control rather than the need to create real, honest-to-goodness excitement. Hell, marketers these days can’t even keep their collective pants on long enough to keep from unveiling their Super Bowl commercials before the actual game; it has gotten that ridiculous.
Chevrolet’s operative theme for the pre-launch of the new Corvette – as opposed to the pre-pre-launch, the long lead, the short lead, the day before, the day of, and the day after – is Nothing will be the same.
Okay, we get it. This Corvette is an all-new car, inside and out. Voila! And I would certainly hope so and it should go without saying, since the current car was long in the tooth five years ago.
But if I were tasked to lead the launch of the new Corvette, I wouldn’t allow any teases of any kind. That means no early discussion of its content, no hints at what it will or won’t do, no emblem reveals, no engine spec disclosure, no design reveals in the shadows, no n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Remember, this is the Corvette we’re talking about here. It is one of exactly two automotive nameplates in this business – the Ford Mustang being the other – that transcend all consumer groups in this country. Nearly everyone has some sort of personal Corvette story, or a remembrance of the car from some point in his or her lives.
It’s understandable, for instance, that Ford would do extensive pre-launch campaigns for the Fiesta, Focus and Fusion, heavily skewed to social media, but do you really need to beat the anticipatory drums for one of the most iconic sports cars in the world? Do you think there’s a chance that a.) Someone with even a shred of automotive curiosity wouldn’t have heard something about a new Corvette coming? Or that b.) It wouldn’t be instantaneous news across the mediasphere the moment it was unveiled?
It’s far too late now, because Chevy’s image-wrangling minions are locked and loaded with a vast array of communications aimed at all of you out in ConsumerVille, including the new car’s very own image-wrangling website www.one13thirteen.com and its now-ubiquitous presence on twitter and facebook.
But I would venture to guess that if Chevrolet operatives had completely kept a lid on the new Corvette and released zero information to the media of any kind, wouldn’t the anticipation and buildup before its reveal on January 13th be at a fever pitch? And wouldn’t the media explosion upon its reveal dominate absolutely everything on that Sunday night and all day Monday?
I’ll answer that one for you, yes, it would. The resulting media frenzy would be spectacular, and if the new Corvette lives up to its billing, even more so. But the image wranglers and their mind manipulation games will not allow that to happen, and it stinks. Because they’re operating under the flawed assumption that it's all about control, excitement be damned.
Nothing will be the same, indeed.
Let this be a forewarning to the enthusiasts over in Dearborn who are feverishly at work on the next-generation Mustang. Pay attention to how Chevrolet is setting the table for the new Corvette and use it as a road map on how not to do it.
Remember that creating excitement does not mean controlling every last shred of information.
It means letting people’s imaginations and emotional connections run wild with anticipation.
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.
See another live episode of "Autoline After Hours" with hosts John McElroy, from Autoline Detroit, and Peter De Lorenzo, The Autoextremist, and guests this Thursday evening, at 7:00PM EDT at www.autolinedetroit.tv.
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