January 18, 2011

Confession #17: It must be tough to sell cars

I once flirted with the idea of selling cars. Being a journalist isn’t exactly a cakewalk these days and being a new car salesman, minus a garish blazer and greasy hair, seems good in comparison. At least when the economy gets better.

Car companies have been trying for years to get creative with marketing videos promoting their new products. And it’s ranged from the boring to the ridiculous.

AMC/Renault clearly thought the best way to distract people from the box-inspired 1985 Alliance Convertible was to make a very 1980s-ish music video featuring their new flagship. Except they decided to stage the dance routines in what looked like an old John Wayne movie set. And there are mimes for French effect because ... why wouldn't there be?

Now Volkswagen, keen to grab a sizable chunk of the US market in the coming years, has launched the VW Academy, a series of web videos with a trendy looking product spokesperson and “Saturday Night Live” actor Bill Hader.

Fortunately for the viewer, VW’s marketing doesn’t include a flashy dance number and is at least based in reality. Danielle Gumro gives the boring-but-important details of the new Jetta, Toureg and Tiguan while being interrupted by Hader’s funny-but-stupid comments. Like “SNL” these days, the videos are pretty hit-or-miss in the humor department.

Lexus, again trying to get in on the web viewers, is launching its CT200h hybrid hatchback with an online in-car chat show, "Darkcasting." Hosted by Whitney Cummings, whom I’ve never heard of , it takes a different route than VW by focusing mostly on trendy people in trendy areas of Chicago and Miami, among others.

In one video, Matt is a San Francisco chef who talks about organic food for three minutes before anything about the Lexus is even discussed. And then, the CT is only compared to sustainable food, not any other cars. That can’t bode well for the product.

But I’m not a marketing expert and have no idea what focus groups say is the best way to present a new product. That said, ad firms and automakers should to watch what they throw on the web. Thanks to YouTube, we could be laughing at Bill Hader and Whitney Cummings long after the Jetta and Lexus have rusted off.

No comments:

Post a Comment