Sunday, December 21, 2008

Communications in the Time of Crisis

As part of their communication strategy in the auto bail out controversy, General Motors has a website - GM Facts and Fiction - addressing facts and myths about the company.

The home page starts laying out plain facts: "General Motors is the best-selling automaker in the U.S., "M’s brands [...] are ranked above industry average as measured by 2008 J.D. Power Initial Quality", etc.

Then, another section of the site follows the scheme myth - fact. Myths about GM are grouped into 5 categories and for each of them there is a response, backed up with data ("GM doesn’t make cars that people want to buy", "General Motors has far too many people working for it","GM designs are uninspiring", etc.). The site even allows visitors to submit myths they might have heard.

It is not available anymore but some weeks ago there were messages addressed to different audiences. I might not remember it perfectly but I think there were specific sections with answers for auto workers, consumers and suppliers. I am a big fan of profiling users in order to increase relevance in the message, so i do not understand why this technique disappeared from the site.

To complete the picture, there are FAQs, latest news and general information on the auto industry.

There are twenty seven (27!) myths. Obviously they are all highly detrimental. Given that the firm refutes them, it would be interesting to know what triggers such amount of bad perception amongst the general public. My point is, what is the role that this fact - widespread negative consumer perception- plays in GM having to recur to a bail out. Twenty seven (at least) false and extremely harmful beliefs have been lurking who knows for how long before the firm started giving facts to counter attack them...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bus shelters come to life...

This weekend I have experienced Chicago's extreme temperatures. While waiting for the bus in Michigan Avenue I had the chance to take a close look at one of those marketing gimmicks that press and magazines inevitable write about - just like this article in the NYT -.

Inside the bus shelter, above Kraft's Stove Top stuffing poster, there was a set of lights supposed to provide heat to bus passengers while waiting for their ride to arrive. It didn't work that well although, as I said temperature was quite low...

Some call it experiential marketing, others categorize it within guerrilla marketing. Although there might be interesting implications regarding the user experience (for example, the fact that brand attributes might be projected out of their natural environment), for me these gimmicks are just that. Ways of obtaining free media coverage. It is a quite effective technique I must admit: it is an unexpected event, crafted around a story ... good raw material for journalists. Good ROI for the product manager. Good PR for the brand. Good PR for the agency.

The following picture is a previous summertime iteration made of artificial lawn. Also spotted in Chicago, in 2008. Who would have told me I will be blogging about it? :)