Apparently, Banner Ads Don’t Have to be Crap!

I can’t believe it, I actually saw a banner ad today that I wanted to click on! This was the first such banner ad, after perhaps the millions I have seen, and it looked like this:

Unfortunately, there is no direct link to this ad for you to try it yourself (if you find it, please let me know!), I can only hope that you find it the same place I did at: I just tried again and another ad popped up, so all I can suggest is to keep trying!

Why is this ad so awesome? Clearly I fit the demographic they are targeting (people who like nice cars) but I have skipped over many such ads by Audi and others many times. I think it was because the ad challenged me to try something where I would not be certain of the result. This leveraged the ‘gap theory’ of curiosity, where the ad created an information gap that I wanted to fill. Once I saw my cursor slide and crash, I noticed the toggle at the top left that allowed me to turn on ‘quattro’ (Audi’s super-grippy 4WD system), which created another information gap: What would this do?

With the quattro system engaged, my cursor slices through the water no problem.

I have never seen such a good example of an ad being able to draw me in, and stay so core to their message (safety = traction = Audi quattro). Also impressive is the TV spot with the ‘downhill skiing’ theme in San Fran (see at end of post).

Kudos to the Audi marketing team for creating the first banner ad that has ever worked on me!!

Brand Police: When Brands Go Horribly Wrong…

I doubt it's a 'Chevy'

There was a time when the marking teams held sway in organizations. When Nike was rising to the top, selling bits of rubber at 5x the competition’s prices, it seemed that a simple logo and marketing campaign was the key to success. But, as the saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The marketing teams –drunk with this power– started enforcing brand etiquette, like some kind of secret police: “Our logo should never be used on a blue background!” or how about “You should never say Chevy, but ‘Chevrolet’!”

The latter isn’t some throwback to some corporate debate from the 80’s, it happened TODAY.

One of the biggest signs that a company is on its last legs (and I, unfortunately, have first hand experience with this), is that it starts flagellating wildly trying to do anything that will right the ship. Some marketeer has convinced the top executive at GM that it is somehow important to call their ‘Chevrolet’ brand ‘Chevrolet’ instead of ‘Chevy’.  It is under the auspice of ‘reducing confusion’ in internal communications:

“I get calls from international colleagues asking me ‘What is a Chevy,” said German-born GM spokesman Klaus-Peter Martin. “It takes quite a long time to explain to them.”

How long does it take to say “You know when you call Alexandre ‘Alex’, it’s like that.”

Instead they waste the time and energy of their employees bringing attention to this ‘issue’, instead of focusing on the key elements of building a brand. I can just imagine the remaining employees of GM rolling their eyes en-masse when –those that still read corporate communications– review this corporate memo. Basically, your executive is telling the world that its employees are too stupid to use your own company name.

Remember guys, your ‘brand’ is your promise to your customer, so how about you quit navel-gazing and BUILD SOME BETTER CARS!

So before you hit ‘send’ on that next company-wide memo, ask yourself: “Is this helping us build a better car?”

This is Gonna Be HUGE!

This started off as a comment on Kneale Mann’s blog, but then I realized that a lot of my regular readers are probably expecting me to weigh in on the iPad, and why not! Ironically, Kneale’s post is about all the free publicity that the iPad is getting.  🙂

There are a lot of people griping about what the iPad doesn’t have, and its name:

iTablet was the obvious (good) choice IMHO, but it breaks the ‘two-sylabble rule’ of the Apple naming conventions, and the recent predilection for the use of the letters ‘iP’ at the start (iPod, iPhone).  Complaints about the name are missing the real story here:

All the coverage I have read misses just how much this device is going to revolutionize everything! Apple has created a huge developer community and worked them into a lather over the potential of becoming rich, famous, or rich & famous developing the next multi-million-downloaded iPhone app.  Now they provide those same developers a new platform to innovate on.

Lots of analysts seem to think that this is about Kindle vs. iPad, but that misses the point too.  The Kindle is a very well executed specialized reading device which will continue to do well in the segment of eBook readers.  The iPad provides the opportunity for innovations of much greater scope.

Expect big revolutions in:

  • Medical charting and visualization
  • Marketing
  • Gaming
  • Graphic design
  • eBook technology
  • GPS & mapping
  • Education
  • Human interface design
  • How you enjoy video and music
  • Point of sale enablement
  • Retail displays

Just as an example: imagine you go into the local car dealership, and instead of being handed the usual marketing glossies you are handed a iPad with an interior and exterior visualization of your new car with all the interior and exterior features & colours, exactly to order.  The same could be applied to making all the selections for a new home, where colour and material choices can be visualized in a 3D rendered world navigated by intuitive screen gestures and/or movement of the whole device.

The tablet itself is a nice piece of work at a compelling price point (especially compared to the capabilities offered by netbooks), but the real monster unleashed here is the rabid pool of developers who now have a completely new form-factor to innovate on. In 6-12 months, the folks at Apple will look like geniuses (again).

The BEST Mechanic in Ottawa

After my OC Transpo rant, I thought it appropriate to counter-balance that with a review of a company I LOVE to do business with.

Apple? BMW? Starbucks? Bridgehead? All good guesses… but I want to talk about Dakota Automotive.

I spend a lot of my free time researching employee and customer engagement.  One of my favourite sources for such research is Gallup; you might be familiar with some of their polls.  Their research has revealed that there is an underlying structure to “emotional attachment” to businesses and it is remarkably consistent from industry to industry.  This emotional attachment model is layered much like ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs‘ and includes the following layers:

  • CONFIDENCE (Do I feel safe doing business with this company? Do they deliver on their promises?)
  • INTEGRITY (Will this company treat me fairly? Do they offer fair resolutions to any problems?)
  • PRIDE (Will I feel good about myself if I do business with this company? Do they treat me with respect?)
  • PASSION (I can’t imagine a world without this company.  The company is perfect for people like me.)

Building customer engagement based on this model translates directly into increased profitability, revenue & customer retention. Just one example of this is a customer with pride or passion in a company who will actively promote that company to friends and family (or even on their blog!).  Lots of business leaders/owners have a hard time believing that their customers actually are ‘passionate’ about doing business with them, especially since they don’t see that passion about the business even in their own employees. Paying no heed to customer engagement can lead to something worse than having customers that are unengaged, you can actually make them ‘actively disengaged’.

Before we go there, lets talk about Dakota Automotive and how Andrew (the owner and mechanic) satisfies this emotional attachment hierarchy:

  • CONFIDENCE & INTEGRITY: Andrew sticks to his quotes, even if he low-balled.  While I actually prefer that he gets paid fair value for any work he performs, this clearly shows he is more than willing to deliver on his promises and treats me fairly.  I reward him the best I can by referring business his way, although he has PLENTY of business.  When he does work on your car he is always looking out for potential future problems which he informs you of, with none of the customary ‘hard sell’ pressure you find with other shops.
  • PRIDE: Do I feel good about myself when I do business with him?  Absolutely, he offers great value for the money and he clearly loves what he does.  It feels good to pay someone to perform a task that they enjoy and do so well.  From a respect point of view, his willingness to hear  what I think to be the problem pays great dividends.  He will always listen, ask questions and actively diagnose the problem with me.  This not only is a sign of respect, but helps build trust. In contrast, many mechanics give you that ‘look’ when you try and describe the problem to them that clearly says: “I am just moving my pen to give you the impression I am listening, I actually have no interest in what you are saying, I am just going to get my guy to plug your car into the computer and that will tell us what we need to know”.
  • PASSION: Well, I am writing a blog about him, so that is a pretty good sign that I am one of Dakota’s ‘actively engaged’ customers.  I won’t go as far to say that ‘I can’t imagine a world without this company’, but I will mention something that is very telling: Whenever I consider getting a new car, I have this pang of guilt in my mind that a new car warranty will reduce the business I do with Dakota.  Can you imagine a company that you actually adapt your behaviour to do business with them… by choice!!  What gets me to this level of passion I find hard to understand, but it has a lot to do with contrasts. Andrew is a rare gem amongst a large pool of average or even borderline-criminal people involved in the automotive industry.  He’s the sort of guy that you give money gladly because you know there is great value, it is well-earned, he enjoys his work and is just a plain likeable guy.

Speaking of contrasts, Gallup on ‘actively disengaged’ customers:

These customers harbour substantial negative feelings towards the company. Most actively disengaged could be considered strong candidates for defection to a competitor [where one exists].  Yet many remain with the company –spreading their discontent to other customers or prospects along the way – because of either high switching costs or a sense that the competitor would be no better [or there is no competition]. Their motto is, “Better the devil I know than the devil I don’t.

From my life experience the companies that quickly come to mind here are: Microsoft, OC Transpo, American Express, HSBC, Bell Canada, just about every NA car manufacturer, and George Lucas as a writer/director since about 1983. For each of these I can think of a defining moment (or many) where I was treated with a lack of respect and/or my confidence in them was severely shaken.  I go FAR out of my way to avoid doing business with these companies.

It is on days that I deal with the likes of OC Transpo that I am so especially glad that some businesses can deliver so well on their brand promise, and make their customers feel like a valuable asset to their business.  Luckily for me, I was taking OC Transpo to go pick up my car being serviced by Dakota Automotive.

Helicopters Aid OPP to Catch Speeders

You may have noticed new white lines painted on Ontario roads patrolled by the OPP. These lines, perpendicular to the direction of traffic and spaced out 1/2 km apart, are used by police aircraft to calculate the vehicle’s speed which is then radioed ahead to waiting officers.

So pay attention when you see these lines, and check the skies to see if you are being watched!

Empirical Analysis: Volvo Drivers Suck?

In response to a good suggestion from Thomas on my earlier post, I decided to do some empirical analysis on the theory of Volvo Driver Suckage.

I found an online quotation tool where I could fix variable like price, security features, mileage, driver, etc. to try and make the comparison as even as possible. I found comparable makes and models, all 4 doors, to get the following numbers:

  • Volvo S60 T5: $1336 a year
  • BMW 328i: $1330 a year
  • Audi A4 3.2: $1317 a year
  • Infinity G35x Sport: $1268
  • Acura TL Type S: $1222 a year

So, assuming all other things are equal (rate of theft, cost to repair, etc.) this data does not lend credibility to the theory, since higher incidents of accidents for a particular type of vehicle should be reflected in a higher insurance rate. While the Volvo is the highest here, it is very close to the BMW, who’s drivers are known for being assholes, nor for being bad drivers (before you flame me, I drive a BMW, so I am poking fun at myself here). This method of analysis appears inconclusive.

I also checked to see if there was any variability for a female driver, but it gave me the exact same quote prices.

Hey Thomas, any theory on how we prove the asshole theory?  🙂

Why Volvo Drivers Suck @ Driving!

I came up with this explanation for what I, and several other people (more than one), have noted about how BAD Volvo drivers are.

Its a theory I would like to test with you:

I was scratching my head over this one, since I actually like Volvo’s, and I know several people who are good drivers that actually drive them, so what gives?!

Well, first off the theory works under the assumption that NOT ALL people who drive Volvo’s suck at driving, just enough of them above the average to make it notable to others.

Here goes the theory: If you are in a relationship with, or friends with, someone that you know is a horrible driver, what kind of car would you recommend or buy for them? I would suspect the recommendation would tend towards VERY SAFE SURVIVABLE vehicles. “My friend/family-member sucks at driving, they are going to get into an accident, so what would I put them in to increase their chances of survival?”

Who has spent more money marketing their vehicles as safe than Volvo? If someone asked you what make of car was safest, I am sure Volvo would be near or at the top of your list!

So this explains the observation… bad drivers are selectively being pushed towards driving Volvos!

What do you think?

Oh, and why this post today? Well, Barry and I witnesses perhaps some of the worst driving today ever from a person in a Volvo!

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