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Welcome!

August 24, 2009

Welcome to my blog!

This blog is an ongoing discussion of how social media is used in the automotive industry. How do car companies stay current in today’s constantly adapting technology? How has Web 2.0 affected the way that companies communicate, and relate with their prospective customers? What social media tactics are effective? Which tactics are not?  These questions simply scratch the surface of this new and evolving means of corporate communication.

Throughout this blog, I will research and discuss the uses of social media tactics and how they benefit (or hurt)  the respective automobile company. I will also examine how some organizations succeed by keeping up to date with social media, and how some companies are hurting themselves by not staying current. In contrast to my focus on the automotive industry, check out the blogroll in the sidebar to read similar blogs about social media in other areas.

For more information about me, check out the “About” tab above.

Thanks for coming by!

Jared

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Nissan Squares Off in Canada

October 31, 2009

Nissan has turned to Canada to deploy its latest social media campaign. Nissan narrowed its target audience to the creative consumers for the new 2009 Nissan Hypercube. They’re campaign blatantly asks for contests who consider themselves to be hip or unique. The contestants are asked to use Twitter to audition for one of the final 50 spots in the contest.
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Nissan narrowed the finalists to 500 people, who were then required to expand on their auditions using Facebook and the Hypercube Site. The thousands of applicants uploaded creative pieces, ranging from videos to illustrations. Voting was based on user ratings, and judging based on creativity and enthusiasm among other things. However, the 50 finalists didn’t get off that easy. In return for the free car, the creative users are required to blog about their experiences with their Hypercubes for a year.

Here’s an example of a contestant entry:
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The Nissan Hypercube seems to be aiming for the same young, creative market that Scion markets to. Scion’s brand image is represented by creative and unique individuals. Nissan has now focused on this specified group with their Nissan Hybercube.

 The 50 Winners blog about their experiences with their new Nissan Hypercubes at the Cube Community
The 50 Winners blog about their experiences with their new Nissan Hypercubes at the Cube Community
How successful was Nissan’s Hypercube contest? In just 3 weeks, awareness among Nissan’s target market increased 87%. The campaign site, Hypercube.ca, has 117,000 unique visitors from nearly 150 countries. Through this campaign, Nissan has established the Nissan Hybercube as a symbol that celebrates creativity and uniqueness. Overall, Nissan succeeded in reaching their target market, and I believe they will become a prominent competitor for Scion’s demographic.
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BMW Encouraging Graffiti

October 31, 2009

The Facebook Graffiti application is a free program available to users through Facebook. The users are able to draw or “paint” on the simply designed program and share their artistic creations with the Facebook community. It seems cool, but how does it relate to the automotive industry?

BMW took the Graffiti program under its wing in order to promote the new BMW 1 Series with the BMW Graffiti Car Contest.  BMW encouraged users to create a masterpiece using a provided outline of the BMW 1 series, basing their creations on “Career,” “Design,” “Digital Culture” and “Destination.

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As creations were submitted, other users were able to comment and rate the projects. BMW Judges selected the best submissions from the highest rated content. The top 5 creators won BMW Art Car models by artists such as Andy Warhol, while the 1st prize winner gets a $100 gift card to Amazon. Personally, I feel that the rewards are weak, and BMW should have shelled out more money for the campaign rewards.

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BMW used this application in order to reach their target audience, which are 30-something-year-olds who are “up-and-comers” in their careers. The 1-Series, which is smaller and cheaper ($28,600) than traditional BMWs, is marketed to this younger audience as BMW attempts to gain new customers. The company believes this audience is technically savvy and will not only enjoy the application, but will spread the word to their friends. The campaign not only invites participation and a positive user experience, it is also a fun and creative means of communication for BMW.

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BMW relied on Facebook’s viral marketing abilities to spread the campaign. The campaign was an instant success. There were over 9000 submissions in the first 7 days. Sales increased over 12% during the 3 month campaign, and the campaign itself was widely complimented through the blogosphere, even claimed by some as the best campaign in the industry. Their engaging style of advertising in noninvasive and actually entertaining, which are some of the recipes of today’s advertising success.

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Jeep’s Driving Adventure

October 30, 2009

Most Jeep owners are proud and adventurous owners. The Jeep company takes advantage of this by exposing the naturally-created Jeep community on their site, The Jeep Community.

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The Jeep Community is a collaboration of passionate Jeep owners where users can share photos, videos and stories of their Jeep adventures. The Jeep Community encourages the use of Flickr, where thousands of Jeep owners share their photos, ranging from off-road adventures to customization jobs. Their slogan, “Have Fun Out There,” is reiterated through these stories, images and videos from real Jeep owners. On top of sharing photos, The Jeep Community provides Jeep related news, events, company history, a calendar, and even a Facebook game. The site also links visitors to other enthusiast groups so the discussions can grow. Throughout this process, Jeep is developing its own marketing campaigns, but also aiding campaigns made by individuals across the globe.

Jeep compiles thousands of Flickr users in one arena.

Jeep compiles thousands of Flickr users in one arena.

On top of their Flickr-powered Jeep Community, Jeep also has Facebook and Myspace pages, both of which contain forums for Jeep enthusiasts to discuss about Jeep products. Jeep’s Facebook page has over 200,000 fans.

Jeep also launched a YouTube channel, yet visitors can see more than new Jeep products or TV commercials. Similar to Volkswagen’s Fun Theory (which I discuss in a previous post), Jeep is taking advantage of the power of the viral video. Jeep launched a YouTube miniseries, “The Urban Ranger.” The Urban Ranger is based on a Jeep-obsessed park ranger who goes out and speaks to real Jeep owners. Although the series only has a few thousand views, the series is funny and promotes their message of fun and adventure. You can check out an example of The Urban Ranger below.

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Through The Jeep Community, Jeep is promoting brand loyalty. In a market where retaining customers is key, Jeep is taking the right approach. They are building on an existent and passionate community of Jeep lovers, which should give them the edge now and in the future.

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Volkswagen Makes Marketing Fun

October 19, 2009

Volkswagen takes full advantage of the power of today’s Viral Videos. Volkswagen’s new campaign “The Fun Theory,” is a subtle approach to marketing. In order to spread their name, Volkswagen has been uploading clever videos to The Fun Theory site. The only time their brand is mentioned is when their logo is briefly displayed at the end of their videos. Each video emphasizes the importance of going green and how making something fun can change behavior. An example of one of Volkswagen’s Fun Theory videos is show below.

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Volkswagen also proposes new video ideas on their site. People are able to submit ideas in order to solve proposed issues such as “Can fun make people exercise more?” and “Can fun make people pick up their dog’s doings?”

Not only do these videos promote a healthy environment, they portray Volkswagen in a positive light. In an age where “Going Green” is popular, Volkswagen has got it down. The only issue I see is this: Volkswagen only produces one Hybrid vehicle in America. Perhaps this is a way to portray Volkswagen in an environmentally friendly light? Regardless, the videos have each gotten millions of hits.

Although they are using viral marketing through videos to spread their brand name, they’ve recently taken a new approach to spread the word of the 2010 Volkswagen GTI. Volkswagen has taken a new approach in the auto industry when they developed their iPhone Application (or App), “Real Racing GTI,” specifically to promote the launch of one of their most popular vehicles. The application is free for iPhone and iTouch users.

The application is a racing game designed to take advantage of the GTI’s primary fan-base, racers and car enthusiasts. Similar to Scion lovers, which I wrote about in a previous post, a majority of GTI consumers customize their vehicles with a number of unique aesthetic and functional improvements. More buzz on the 2010 GTI is generated with a feature that allows users to upload their best race times to YouTube. YouTubers are able to compete with each other’s times, as well as comment on the game as well as the car. On top of this, Volkswagen posts the best times on their site, and rewards winners with the opportunity to win a 2010 GTI. You can get the general idea of the App by viewing any part of the video below.

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Volkswagen capitalizes on their target demographic in two ways. One, the iPhone is used largely by younger consumers, which is who the GTI is targeted to. Two, the game allows players to win up to 6 different variations of the GTI, each with their own customizations. This should largely appeal to their desired audience.

Not only is Volkswagen able to target their audience easier, they’re saving a fortune with their new campaign.  On top of that, the overall user experience blows televised advertising out of the water. In their 2006 Volkswagen GTI campaign, VW spent $60 million on TV commercials. This campaign is estimated to cost $500,000. They are taking a risk by depending on viral marketing. However, their incorporation with Twitter should make that easier. Users are able to send each other messages with the social media tool. How effective does Volkswagen expect their campaign to be? I think they have full trust in it, as they have enjoyed success in similar campaigns in Europe for the VW Polo and the VW Scirocco R.

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Honda Proves the Detriments of Social Media

October 16, 2009

Social media has its pros and cons. Many companies still stay behind the curve in new media, afraid of transparency and negative comments. However, other companies have plunged into new media and embraced the risks that arise with it. So far I’ve discussed the success that automotive companies are experiencing in their shift to social media. However, moving to social media doesn’t mean automatic success.

Honda’s approach to social media seemed to have taken a turn for the worse. Their recently launched Facebook page for the unreleased (November 2009) Honda Accord Crosstour attracted thousands of visitors who posted consecutive negative remarks on the new Accord model. On an Autoblog poll discussing the new Crosstour, only 3.4% of visitors think the car looks good, while 81.7% chose the option to “Kill it with fire.” The page became an area of negativity towards Honda, which eventually spread elsewhere through viral marketing. I’ve posted some comments found on the Facebook page by Mashable.com.

Facebook-Honda-Accord-Crosstour

Honda’s response to the negative comments could be their biggest mistake. A Honda employee, Eddie Okubu, who did not identify himself as such, posted positive comments about the new Crosstour. He was quickly discovered as an employee, erupting in even more negativity. After removing the faulty comments, Honda continued down the wrong path. Honda posted notes on Facebook, defending the design as well as blaming photographers for bad photos. I’ve posted the full Facebook response below.

Hi, Facebook fans. We’re listening, and we want to address a few things you’ve been talking about over the past few days.

  1. The photos: Arguably, the two studio photos we posted didn’t give you enough detail, nor were they the best to showcase the vehicle. There are more photos on the way. Maybe it’s like a bad yearbook photo or something, and we think the new photos will clear things up.
  2. It’s not the European wagon: We’ve seen a lot of comments about the desire for a wagon, but this is neither a wagon nor designed for wagon buyers. We think the Euro wagon is a cool vehicle, too, and we appreciate the feedback… but a version of that wasn’t our intention here. That’s another segment worthy of our consideration, but the Accord Crosstour, built on the larger, Accord platform, is meant to give you the best of two worlds – the versatility of an SUV with the sportiness of a car.
  3. Many of you don’t like the styling: It may not be for everyone. Our research suggests that the styling does test well among people shopping for a crossover.
  4. You want further details about the Accord Crosstour: We typically can’t give you details so far out from when the vehicle goes on sale for a number of reasons, including competitive intelligence and pure availability. However… we hear your frustrations, and while specs on the vehicle aren’t finalized, we’re trying to get some stuff together that we hope will satiate some of your curiosity and give you more to think about.
  5. Honda associates participating in the wall comments: We didn’t remove comments out of embarrassment. We removed comments that were posted contrary to American Honda’s consumer-generated media policy for associates: We must first clearly state that we are Honda employees and that a posting is a personal — not Honda’s — opinion. Eddie forgot to add that, so his comments were removed.

Thank you for all of the interest, and we’ll be in touch again soon…

Sure, Honda responded to the issue, but it was very formal and seemed more like a press release. There is no openness or conversation. Honda’s lack of transparency eventually lead to their deceptive and unethical behavior. Rather than discuss with their customers, Honda ignored the conversation and heads straight for one-way defense. In a world that relies on honesty and social media, Honda’s got it all wrong and is out of the cultural loop.

How will Honda respond? Will they continue down their path and delete the Facebook page? Or will they figure out how to fix this mess in a more ethical manner? Rather than fight and defend against negative consumer reaction, let’s hope they listen and embrace the feedback for future models.  Personally, I think they should adopt an approach similar to Dell’s IdeaStorm, where consumers post ideas for product improvement and fellow consumers vote on them to be implemented.

We’ll have to wait and see.

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Reinventing the Wheel

October 11, 2009

In these economically rough times, many auto companies are looking to reinvent themselves. Most companies use new media in order to keep up with today’s consumers. General Motors is no different. In response to the recession last fall, GM launched their new campaign, “GM Reinvention.”  You can check out the short commercial below.

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While GM’s Reinvention campaign is new, General Motors isn’t new to social media. In 2005, GM CEO Rick Wagoner launched their blog “GM FastLane.” Wagoner was one of the first CEOs to blog, and GM became the first organization to have executive-position bloggers. GM also uses FastLane to incorporate ideas from consumers about GM products with what they call “The Lab,” tagged with the slogan, “We Want Your Opinion.” The blog was an instant success, proving to become an irreplaceable source of marketing information and customer interaction. FastLane receives millions of visitors each month, and thousands of comments. It has even been ranked #3 in Fortune 500 Blogs. FastLane is often referenced as a direct source of GM information and news in the media world.

GM continued to branch their blogging success, launching Cadillac blog “Cadillac Notes.” Cadillac Notes is remarkably similar to Ford’s Fiesta Movement, following and documenting Cadillac test-drivers around the world.  Their other blog, “GM Tuner Source,” focuses more on auto-experts who are heavily invested in racing GM vehicles. Honing in on these smaller focus groups has proven to help GM as well. GM Reinvention is their newest blog.

GM also links to their Twitter, Facebook and multiple YouTube accounts.

GM’s reinvention plan stresses transparency and honesty. GM is looking to regain trust in an industry struggling with this issue. Reinvention stresses GM’s pledge to be open with their customers. This can be seen with their “Blogger Policy” shown below.

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GM Reinvention attempts to connect with the consumer. I think they do a great job. I provided a screen shot below of the homepage and what is has to offer:


Seen on the top left, GM incorporates “Conversations” with their customers. Visitors are able to respond with video comments for a more personalized experience. To increase the personality of Reinvention, GM offers a “Contributors” section, where visitors can find out more about the bloggers. On the far right, GM links to their Facebook and Twitter. GM offers a wide variety of social media communication, all in one location.

GMs success in social media can be attributed to their dedication to the project. It’s vital to remain committed and consistent in the blogosphere, and GM does just that, as they update their blog at least 10 times a month.

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A Momentum Shift for Hyundai

October 11, 2009

In a world where ordinary consumers are trusted more than corporate voices, why not let the public voice speak for your products? Hyundai takes that exact approach in their new campaign, Hyundai Momentum.
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Hyundai allows professional and consumer product reviews to speak for their company on their new website, HyundaiMomentum.com. The campaign slogan sums up the idea of Hyundai Momentum, “Everything you need to know about Hyundai. As told by everyone, except Hyundai.” As of today, the site  links to 73,800,000 results on Google, 372,000,000 results on Yahoo! and 66,700,000 results on Bing. This is a perfect example of transparency, as Hyundai allows other sites and people to speak on their behalf.

As seen below, Hyundai doesn’t say much on Hyundai Momentum. The page simply contains Hyundai’s name and the purpose of the site. All other content is shown in thumbnail versions of Hyundai search results, containing reviews, images, and articles among other items. Visitors can scroll almost endlessly on Hyundai Momentum through various sites related to the company.

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Hyundai is one of the few car companies in America that is still thriving in this troubled economy. They’ve actually increased from 5% of American market share to 7.3% today. Lately, they’ve experienced increased sales, achieved numerous industry rewards, and overall positive publicity. One example is the Hyundai Genesis and its accolade as “Best North American Car of the Year” in 2009. Hyundai takes advantage of this good reputation by gathering all of the data into one place for consumers to see. They boast their reputation and allow others to speak for them. In an industry where consumers must research their options, Hyundai is taking the right approach by allowing potential customers to view millions of reviews, all in one location.

However, there is one issue in Hyundai’s campaign, as they do not post the negative reviews. This could come to haunt Hyundai, but for now the campaign is running smoothly.  As for now, Hyundai will continue to shed light on their new and improved reputation.