Monday, August 31, 2009

How Does a Brand Make You Feel? - My thoughts on GM

About a month ago I stumbled across a blog post about New Brand Strategies for GM. The writer gave their thoughts on what should be done with the branding efforts of the remaining GM brands. Being the nerd that I am and a former employee of a major automotive brand, I decided to give my two cents. Thought I'd share it here as well.

Interesting take. The other brands you mentioned, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes (i may argue with you on the brand position you chose for them), and Volvo all cater to the senses and emotion of the brand. Toyota gives a feeling of security and reliability b/c of a history of well built vehicles. BMW gives a feeling of performance, strength and power b/c of the way vehicles drive and handle. Mercedes is a feeling of status and confidence that one has "made it" or is successful (at least in the U.S.) Volvo is definitely a feeling of safety and protection, however, has always seemed to be more niche vehicles because the feeling isn't powerful enough for the masses.

I like to ask, how does a brand make you feel, and how passionate are people about that feeling? Other than the Chevy example, I think what you have described aren't emotional enough, or just aren't realistic enough to become emotional and drive passionate feelings. Another issue is that Ford or Chrysler have a solid position with like feelings as well.

People are passionate about being American, but Ford is a brand that pretty much claims that as well. Can Chevy have the same brand and compete? Buick has, and always will be known, as the last vehicle people own before they die. Even Tiger Woods can't change that emotional tie. Buick screams: I'm old, I'm OK with that, so I drive a Buick. For Cadillac, "Leading Technology" is too niche like Volvo. It's just not powerful enough on the emotions. And with GMC, I'm with you, no reason to hold onto this one. Jeep already has the "Rugged Reliability" brand tied up.

In the end, I think GM needs to create emotion with their brands. I think a Chevy and a Ford can both be "American" brands, so stick with that and be over the top with it. Drop the Buick line and make Cadillac the "Quality w/ Status" line of vehicle. Forget technology as it is expected in this level of vehicle at this point. That brand was built off of "Quality w/ Status" and they lost sight of that. GMC needs to just become a "commercial" line of vehicles as most of their vehicles are the exact same as a Chevy model anyway. So they're down to two lines of vehicle. They have plenty of options to use stylings from Pontiac or some other lost brands for either line, but it's all they need.

Oh, and thin out the number of dealerships. Do some real market analysis and determine where you are going to make the most impact without creating an overly price competitive market. Ask the foreign brands how they do this as they seem to have it under control. Bottom line, make owning an American car emotional again.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I Made a Mistake

Yesterday I made a mistake. It happens, and when it does I want to try and make it right. I wrote a post about The Irony of Revenge in Social Media. While I stand behind that post and understand Lisa's argument, where I made the mistake was by not leaving it in it's entirety as a comment on her blog. Instead, I left just a modified portion of the post that came across as attacking her. Bad form.

Here is that comment:
I really disagree with your post. I don’t care for the way you handled the unfriending, think it’s a bit ironic you chose to blog about the experience, and don’t feel it’s consistent with what you promote in regards to responding to negative reviews and comments. That all being said, I think you now owe the unfriended person a personal message or phone call. In a round-about way you just made a negative comment about someone (even if they threw the first punch). While you didn’t post it to their wall, you might as well have. Not cool. Time to eat your own dog food.
My comment was uncalled for as I did not fully explain my position, but instead just attacked what she did. That was not cool. The post I wrote here does a better job explaining my point, and probably should have been the entire comment on her blog as well. Anyway, I have come across as disrespectful, and for that I apologize. I have a tendency to just be forthright and say what’s on my mind. I have an opinion and I’m not afraid to share it. Sometimes that’s not right, but I always intend to make it right if/when I make a mistake. I consider Lisa a good friend, and good friends don't shoot off crap comments like this. Again, I apologize Lisa.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Irony of Revenge in Social Media

I really disagree with a recent blog post by a good friend, and the idea to unfriend someone on facebook because of a comment determined to be "negative for negativity's sake." I appreciate the candid feedback given and for sharing the story, but from my perspective the blog post basically tells peers, clients, competitors, and readers it's OK to just delete their critics if they want to. I know there is more of a story behind this post, but I still feel the approach is wrong whether it's a customer, peer, or competitor. There is a time and place to "fire" a customer or friend, but I don't believe it is on facebook. My friend didn't even take their own advice and privately call or message the person they fired. Instead, decided to not "give it a second thought", unfriended the person, and then ironically blogged about it.

I'll admit, I'm no saint when it comes to online criticism. I do have a tendency to dish it out, and it could be interpreted as good or bad. A few months ago I chose to call out someone on Twitter for being too critical. I was blocked from their account and accused of "attacking" them. Was it right for me to say what I did? Did I deserve to be blocked? I was being critical of that person being critical. Criticism happens frequently in social media, and even by many of the top bloggers and experts in the space. Maybe I took it too far, and maybe I should have called them or emailed them privately. We did exchange a few messages after my comment, but then the Twitter relationship ended. My bad I guess, but I felt at the time something needed to be said and I chose to do it publicly, right or wrong. We all make mistakes, and, yes, sometimes it's not cool. However, haven't many of us agreed that criticism is an opportunity? Shouldn't we be accepting the good with the bad? I suppose many times it is hard to swallow, but maybe we're often too quick to judge as well.

How often, as voices in our space or online in general, do we have a tendency to be overly critical or critical too often? In reflecting on some of my own comments and looking at what a number of others I have friended or follow say, I can definitely tell you that many are more critical (including myself) than we may view ourselves. Some may be considered hyper-critical, but it's all open to interpretation by others. We all look at brands or people differently, and we all have differing levels of acceptance or tolerance for criticism. This is something I think we should all keep in mind when interpreting a customer's viewpoint or comments, and possibly judging too quickly.

Wouldn't we all love if our customers would pick up the phone and voice their concerns vs. turning to social media commenting or rating sites like Yelp! ? Of course, but the reality is that people can somewhat hide behind the internet and reduce the amount of confrontation they take on. They feel good about voicing their concern, and they get it off their chest whether or not it's in the most appropriate form. So, yes, ideally make a phone call please or send a private email/message if you have criticism to share, but let's not stomp on the people that don't.

These critics (regardless of where they come from or how they communicate) are customers. Someone that has made a statement maybe we don't like. Does that mean the person is wrong? Do we sometimes get too defensive and not put ourselves in our customer's shoes? We talk about responding to negative reviews on ratings sites, so how is facebook any different? It's only different in that we have more control I suppose. What would happen if that person created a Yelp! review page for you as an individual (your personal brand) and decided to post a negative review? What would you do then?

So put yourself in my friend's shoes. You essentially just had a negative review, but instead of responding in an apologetic way or a way seeking to improve the relationship you've decided to fire the person. Then your friend blogs about how he doesn't like your approach, thinks it's ironic that you chose to blog about the experience, and essentially criticizes you for not eating your own dog food. What do you do now?

Friday, August 7, 2009

My Letter to Twitter: Why I Don't Do #FollowFriday

Dear Twitter,

I have nothing against #FollowFriday really, I just don't do it. There's no real content there other than someone's endorsement. Not to say that endorsing someone isn't a good thing, it's just that I'd rather find someone organically. However, since you have changed the rules a bit with filtering @ tweets it's more challenging to jump into conversations and maybe meet new people. While the new rules help filter some unwanted conversations, Twitter is a place for discovery and search. You have even shown us this by adding the search function to the main homepage. So if this is the case, then why not go back to the old format? Or maybe, make filtering an optional setting. If not for the old way, I may not have discovered nearly 1/2 of the people I follow and enjoy following.

Bottomline, I'm not looking for followers, nor I am looking for people to follow. I'm looking for conversation. Conversation that is interesting. I just don't see enough of it anymore, and I want it back. Pretty please.