Steve Laughlin

Dear Bob Lutz

If you sold a car every time someone said, “GM’s got to stop doing business the same old way,” you’d still be working for the largest car company in the world.  The funny thing is those people never offer up an example of what that new way of doing business should be.

I’ll try to be an exception.

I’d like to see people walk into your showrooms (before I add the “and” that would be the objective in and of itself) and see three competing brands: Let’s go with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Chevy Malibu.

Advertising should be created to ask prospective car buyers to “Compare the three best values in the automotive industry to see which is best for you – in one stop.”  While we’re at it, let’s offer test-drives for all three, too.   Want to compare?  Come on down.  We’ll save you time, gas and money before you buy anything.

Follow-up angle:  Remove the badging on the Malibu and take it around the country as a “concept” car.  Record what people think.  This is going to sell for less than its gas mileage – mid 20s, “What do you think?”  Who makes it? Surprise, its General Motors and we make the best car pound for pound dollar for dollar with a great dealer network coast to coast to back it up.

Then make more ads out of the commentary.

Let’s invite everyone to contrast and compare these vehicles on-line, too.  Consumers, industry experts, bloggers – all those people who have been telling you what to do for years.  Let’s have a web 2.0 smack-down.  Go to PoundForPoundDollarForDollar.com to join in.

The whole point:  Push Chevy into a competitive set with Honda and Toyota, a smarter, tighter competitive set than it might be in right now.

It’s time to get America talking about your car and not your car company.

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One Year Ago…

It’s been almost a year since I worked on the PR team for the Harley-Davidson Museum launch.  As I enjoy the start of summer, I can’t help but think back to the interaction I had with my team, the client and the client’s customers around the world.

Having the opportunity to get face-to-face with Harley-Davidson enthusiasts was a memorable experience I’m not likely to forget anytime soon. Everyone always had a story to share and an affinity for the brand that is unlike anything else I’ve seen.  I’m a pretty passionate person and have my specific likes, but I can’t say I’ve gone so far as to tattoo a brand name or image to my body.  These people are hardcore!

Passion can go a long way in marketing.  I love that here at L/C, I’m surrounded by people who bring that passion to work, helping to make our clients stand out amongst the media clutter out there and really make an impact on consumers.

This week, we launched an ad campaign that highlights our accomplishment in garnering more than 279 million impressions for the Museum’s opening.  This is definitely something I’m proud of; but to me, working with the Harley-Davidson Museum was more than a number, it was an adventure.  From working on a satellite media tour at 3 a.m. to months of building relationships with travel writers across the country to late night team meetings, it may have been a long journey, but it was quite the ride.

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Steve Laughlin

Lean Into It

I’m reminded we’re in a recession every time I check my e-mail. Where were all these people who want to turbo-charge our new business efforts a year ago? Employed probably.

Ironically, while there’s a universal shortage of business, there’s no shortage of new business opportunities. According to a contact at AdForum, web searches for agencies are up nearly double what they were a year ago.

While a new agency may or may not be the answer to jumpstart a brand, new thinking is definitely needed. No matter what your business, the competition is starting to look like hyenas around a fresh kill on the Serengeti. Discounts are so deep whatever normal was won’t ever be normal again. A Wisconsin car dealer is throwing in a free used car for every new car purchased. Unreal. The real surprise is, it’s working. He’s trying to hire 50 people to meet the demand.

If there’s a lesson in this, it’s don’t be shy. Now more than ever brands need to get their edge on. It may be harder to afford advertising, especially in the face of incredible consumer resistance and uncertainty, but there’s little doubt those pushing hardest will get fed first.

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