Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Drive One

At the risk of sounding repetitive, and perhaps to add the final chapter to my previous novel, I was just reading The Globe, and one of the comments left about today's Toyota hearings was "Want a real story? Remember what kind of show Ford and Firestone made to escape consequences of flip overs because of faulty tires and poor vehicle design? That was a real stuff and it didn't attract 10th of attention Toyota attracts now."

Ford and Firestone screwed up in the early 90s. Toyota majorly screwed up right now. So what has changed over the last two decades? Social media and the ability for consumers to become spokespeople for a brand. If these had been commonplace during Ford's bad days, they would have been in the same hot water as Toyota is now. Toyota is getting 10x more attention today than Ford ever did because consumers have real emotions.

And anger is one of the strongest.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Moving Forward

Toyota, oh Toyota. Where once you were the manufacturer to emulate, now you are the butt of lawsuits, jokes and senate inquiries alike. How the mighty have fallen.

It's a long video, but the key elements are at 3:50, 4:34 and 4:48. Ultimately, it is a news story about the issues that Toyota cars are facing. It goes on to explain that Toyota, in the early days of this problem, argued that the acceleration problems were attributed to one of two things: faulty floor mats that were incompatible with the car, or installed incorrectly; and driver error.

At the 3:50 mark, there is a video that was put on the Toyota website from Bob Daly, a Toyota executive, where he states "It is important to know that no defect exists in which the driver's side floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured". With one of the first fatal crashes involving sudden acceleration, Toyota blamed driver error, saying that the driver likely mistakenly pushed the gas pedal instead of the brake. The driver's wife died.

In another, non-fatal, incident (at 4:34), two Toyota faithfuls contacted Toyota and warned them that they had been involved in an accident, because their car accelerated by itself. Toyota said it was likely bad brakes. Then in July of 2009, a California State Patrolman and his family died when their Lexus accelerated through a red light and collied with another vehicle in the intersection. This prompted the James' to start a YouTube campaign detailing stories of Toyotas accelerating out of control. In the video, the James' state "Toyota ignored us", and because of the death of the Patrolman and his family, they were prompted to start this campaign.

The Associated Press recently released documents from a Toyota meeting in July 2009 (the same month the Patrolman and his family died), outlining the $100 M+ that Toyota saved by successfully lobbying to have a limited recall of its Camry and ES350 models regarding their floor mats. The documents released came with the title, "Wins for Toyota - Safety Group".

Backstory now complete, what is the overall ramification for Toyota? Their brand has been democratized - it is no longer within their control. That, accompanied with the fact that they are being pummeled by media and governments alike, translates into very likely tough times ahead for the world's largest automaker. The real question is can Toyota retain its position in consumer's minds? Ford went through a similar fiasco with its tires in the early 1990's, and they've only now gotten back to the average mark.

So, congratulations Toyota, you win again. Your safety record is now on par with Pinto and Geely. You are Moving Forward... suddenly, uncontrollably and unable to stop.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Play. Laugh. Grow.

Puppies are great.

They require you to feed them, entertain them, give them exercise to let them grow. With a little care and attention, your puppy grows up and becomes a dog; an important member of your family that you grow to love. Shouldn't this be the same type of relationship your customers have with your brand? And if you answer no, why not?

In our world of cheaper and cheaper technology, consumers are getting more and more power. The relationship is no longer advertiser - consumer; instead it is evolving rapidly to consumer - consumer. The notion of brand democratization is here folks. How does one capitalize on this awesome phenomena? Allow open communication between brand and consumer; let the consumer become part of the brand.

Entertain them, give their brains some exercise to grow and maybe feed them with information. They'll grow with you; puppies are good like that.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Way I See It #327

Hi team,

What is branding to you?

It is, by definition, the most intangible portion of a business. No one can touch a brand. No one can feel a brand. Yet, at the same time, people become a brand all the time. How can this be?

I suppose the first thing you would want to know is what is the definition of a brand. Traditionally, a brand is a name used to distinguish a product, service or business. But it has evolved into so much more than that.

Let's take a step back for a second, and think on a much lower level than corporate branding. Each of us have a brand, don't we? We all interact online with each other. We all have profiles that put us forward in the eyes of the world. How can we not have a brand? We put forth our age, religious views, political associations and, perhaps most stupidly, our pictures for the world to see. Beyond this, our opinions are also made known through the likes of what we write to each other and the things that follow, such as this very blog - and many others that we have now attached to our brands in the name of higher grades and camaraderie.

So, how can we think that we don't have a brand? Are we really that blissfully ignorant?

Until next time kids,