The Tom Dougherty Blog



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Posts tagged “NISSAN”

Nissan's new Leaf spot is a case study in getting it wrong

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It’s always frustrating to me when a TV spot is memorable, but fails in every way possible. It has a unique approach. It has a subtle humor. And it even prompts an emotional reaction.

Yet, Nissan’s new Leaf campaign, built around the idea of “what if gas powered everything,” gets it all wrong.

There are two basic reasons why. One is simply a pet peeve of mine. When ads are a skit or a story with the company logo appearing at the end, the spot does little to build brand meaning and awareness because the brand is not embedded into the entirety of the spot. It’s single biggest reason why most can’t remember who ads like this are for. They just remember the spot.

The second reason is one all marketers should remember. Are you creating preference for your particular brand or the category as a whole? In this case, it’s for the category of electric cars as a whole. It simply demonstrates, with humor, the reasons why you would want to buy an electric car. There is no differentiation between the Leaf and its competitors.

When you are creating preference for the entire category, you are counting on the rising water to lift all boats, including yours. But what happens more often than not is that the market leader benefits the most.

It’s that reason why you wouldn’t be the only one who thought the ads were for the Prius.




Toyota: A powerful brand may be your undoing

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This may seem strange coming from a brand guy, but investing in a powerfully recognized brand has its pitfalls.

Consider Toyota, which is erroneously considered a powerful brand (as opposed to what I would call it — a popular brand) and has failed to manage the equity (quality and reliability —see my earlier blog about that) that it claimed. If you are going to stake everything on a category table stake like quality, then you had better make sure you have the operational issues in place to prevent slip-ups.

Today, Toyota as a brand name has been besmirched. The head of the company today said, “We allowed growth to outstrip quality control.” As a result all of Toyota has suffered. Not just the Prius. Every Toyota model has suffered.

Contrast this with what happened in 1978 to Ford and the Ford Pinto.

I remember vividly going to a football game with my best high school buddy in 1978 in his brand new Ford Pinto. We pulled up to a traffic light and the guy in the car next to us rolled down his window and asked sarcastically, “So, how do you like driving around in a time bomb?” As some of you might remember, the Pinto was known for its gas tank exploding if you were hit from behind.

What is interesting about this story is that the sneering driver spoke those words from the front seat of his Ford Country Squire Station wagon.

Detroit in those days (and even to a big part today) invested its marketing in branding its models (like Pinto and Mustang) with Ford (the parent brand) in a supporting role. It was a MUSTANG (capital letters) by ford (lower case).

As a result of this inefficient brand model, Ford was spared the brunt of this recall. It was not a safety inconvenience like an “occasionally sticky accelerator pedal” — no. It was a gas tank that exploded, not just a sticky pedal.

What is interesting is that Pinto had the problem, not Ford. Ford continued to sell cars. Pinto faded away (even after the fix).

Am I suggesting that everyone follow the “house of brand models” (like Ford in 1978) as opposed to the “branded house model” (read more about these two branding models here)? Not at all.  I am just suggesting that when you invest in the brand model you fully understand the obligations that go along with it.

Toyota has a problem. It is not Prius or Corolla or acceleration or braking. It is a problem with what their brand promises. Too bad no competitor (except BMW) has a real brand right now. If they did, they could take customers from the world’s largest automaker permanently. As it is, this is just a blip.




Another bullet for Toyota who now has Prius brake problems.

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Looks like Toyota Prius is having some brake problems and this is BIG news? It is news only because Toyota pretended to own “best practices” in the auto industry and built its brand on what should be the minimum requirement to be an automobile manufacturer — quality.

You cannot OWN as a brand, something that is directly attributed to every manufacturer in a category. Does anyone who buys a NISSAN believe the NISSAN automaker does not make a quality product? Does Honda? Does Ford? Well, OK, maybe GM… but that is about it.

Think where Toyota would be right now if its brand was built on “smart” instead of “quality?” Toyota would then have permission to proactively recall cars in an attempt to help the “smart” purchasers of Toyota cars avert a potential problem. Now I am not suggesting that “smart” is the correct brand promise for Toyota or even GM, for that matter.  What I am saying is that brand promises should be built around a customer definition and not simply around a description of the manufacturer. What that promise should be is only found by applying the principles for stealing market share.

The auto industry is a low bar when it comes to branding to win. Shame on any of them for continuing to stick their heads in a hole.




Would you buy a Toyota? Not a chance.

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If I were Toyota, I would brace myself for a serious erosion of its sales. Why? Well not simply because of the recall affecting millions of cars. I would prepare myself for a sales drop due to a mediocre brand promise that says Toyota is only about reliability and craftsmanship.

We see the same exact issue affecting fast food pizza — pizza chains think they can own the mind of consumers by telling us to choose based on what should be the lowest common denominator in the category.  For pizza, it is a battle over “tastes pretty good” (read my recent blog on Domino’s) and for automobiles it is “reliability.”

Answer me this, aside from getting place-to-place, why else would you buy any car? Would anyone actually buy a car they thought was unreliable?

It is no wonder the automobile industry is in such a shambles. Major manufacturers like Ford, GM, Nissan, Honda, VW, Chrysler and Toyota believe they can differentiate themselves by such mundane promises. Promises that should be the minimum requirements to be a manufacturer in the first place.

I would suggest that the automobile industry stop the myopic view of their brands and spend a bit of time and energy in figuring out just what their potential customers aspire to become and own if any of them want to actually steal market share from their competitors (read about a CEO’s role in all of this), build brand preference and increase sales.

Shame on Toyota for thinking that we all aspire to realize basic promises and mediocrity.  Would I buy a Toyota since the recall? I would hope that any car I buy would be at a minimum — reliable. If Toyota promises me only that, no, I won’t buy one because they let me down.

I’d like to think I deserve more than being treated like an imbecile.




TOYOTA needs another recall… its brand.

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Toyota is in the news these days and the auto world is quaking over an accelerator issue that has lead to the suspension of sales and a major recall . I have heard some so called “automotive pundits” wonder how this will affect the “Toyota brand” when they have built their brand around reliability.

Two thoughts come to mind, one is how crazy it is to see such trepidation about product recalls in an industry that has them all the time.  Most drivers look at them as a nuisance rather than a bone-shattering disappointment.  After all, I have had a couple of recalls in my experience with Ford and, with Ford, “Quality was job 1.” So, from my perspective, recalls, no matter how large, are par for the course.

For me, the bigger issue is the brand issue. If Toyota built its brand around customers rather than around themselves (Toyota), this would be explainable within the brand itself. For example, the brand would not suffer at all if, instead of believing Toyota stood for quality (which is about Toyota), it represented “a smart driver” (about the owner). After all, it is the providence of a smart driver to be informed and to get any issues, no matter how small, fixed right away. That way, the Toyota brand would have permission to ask the “smart driver” to get the accelerator issue fixed.

Stealing Share has been telling this story as loudly as it can for as long as we have been around. Brand needs to reflect thehighest emotional intensity of the customer and not a promise of efficacy from the manufacturer. While GM is the “Heartbeat of America” and Ford tells us that “the quality goes in before the name goes on.” BMW promises that the owner has sheer driving pleasure. The category is so poorly branded that BMW is as close as we can get to a real brand.

Wake up and embrace a real brand.