No. 976
December 12, 2018
 

About The Autoextremist

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with Autoextremist.com, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press  witchhuntbook.com). It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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The Autoextremist - Rants


Tuesday
Jan202009

THE AUTOEXTREMIST

January 21, 2009

 

Memo to Detroit auto marketers: Go Big or Go Home.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit. I can see John Belushi giving his “Over?” speech in Animal House right now, and as crazed and hilarious as that moment was, I’m thinking that the Detroit auto companies – at least the two that aren’t looking for an infusion of linguini (Peter’s take on the Fiat-Chrysler “alliance” can be found in “On The Table” – ed.) – could use a pep talk and a swift kick in their collective asses right about now, too, because this hand-wringing and hat-in-hand marketing approach is going exactly nowhere.

All I’ve been hearing since the public flogging in Washington is how these companies are pulling back, how they’re reducing ad spending, how their more sober perspective is giving them new “clarity” as to how they’ll be spending their money, meaning “we’re spending less but since we’re targeting our efforts more it will all work out,” which, I have to say, is complete bullshit.

It’s nice to read how the Detroit automakers are guarding their present and future product programs, because without them they’d be toast anyway, but to pull back on communications and marketing initiatives to the point that they’re becoming invisible? To me that’s as crucial of a mistake and as short-sighted as cutting future product programs.

Yes, it’s a daunting Catch-22, because you can’t promote and market your products when you’re under a severe cost-cutting regimen, but then again you can’t gain any breathing room whatsoever unless you start selling cars and trucks. So something has to give, and these companies need to pull their heads out of the numbers long enough to understand that without visibility they have no future whatsoever. And when they’re barely registering on consumer radar screens as it is, to keep pulling back on marketing, advertising and promotional funding is not helping, to put it mildly.

I sense an overreaction on the part of Detroit marketers right now, especially at General Motors, and it’s not a good look. Any more whining and it will start drowning out the message, which is exactly what Detroit automakers can’t afford. Rather than discussing the “winding down” of their marketing options, or rationalizing how they will still get their message across while abandoning marketing opportunities left and right, Detroit automakers should be upping their marketing presence and going on the offensive. American consumers aren’t going to find out about Detroit’s most competitive offerings – the ones that merit serious consideration – by osmosis, are they?

As if right on cue, a perfectly-timed demonstration of how it should be done is the insert Audi placed in several national newspapers yesterday (Audi also sponsored special network news broadcasts of the inaugural with limited commercial interruption), which was, for all intents and purposes, a “State of the Union” message for the company, reminding everyone of who they are, what they stand for, and how they go about the business of building great cars, all revolving around the word “Progress.” Here’s an excerpt:

“To us, it’s taking what seems undoable and then doing it. It’s discovering what no one else has bothered to discover. It’s turning skeptics into believers. And it’s taking the thinking that won on the racetrack and putting it on the road.

And it’s why now is the time for the company with four rings. Progress moves things forward. Progress changes the category. Progress leaves the others behind.

Progress is Beautiful.”

Now, granted, Audi - the company that has BMW and Mercedes-Benz firmly in its sights - is on the ascendancy, a company that bristles with innovation, confidence and a refreshing swagger that this business could use a little more of, and on the surface, the Detroit automakers have nothing in common with the soaring German automaker. But if there are lessons in Audi’s swagger for Detroit marketers it’s these:

1. Give people a reason to take notice and then give them something to remember.

2. Put your best products forward, and make sure the American consumer knows that you stand for something other than being up against the ropes.

3. Don’t apologize for existing, and whatever you do don’t hide behind budgetary rationalizations to mask your indecisiveness.

Detroit is out of options when it comes to convincing American consumers that they’re worthy. It comes down to product, yes, of course it does. It’s about the product, it has always been about the product, and it always will be about the product. But if you have excellent products and no one knows about them, what good is it?

In other words, if you’re a Detroit marketing maven, thinking about how many things you’re not going to be doing in 2009 to save money is not the answer. Instead, it should be about crafting new offensives and new programs that will create maximum impact for your products and your company.

And the bean counters need to understand that it’s not about first downs it’s about touchdowns, and without promotional impact and marketing visibility their precious line items won’t matter one bit.

Detroit – and its marketers – need to Go Big or Go Home.

Showing up just isn’t going to cut it.

Thanks for listening.