The Death of the Hummer Brand

February 26, 2010

hummer The Death of the Hummer BrandUnless a buyer steps up to the plate very soon, General Motors plans to retire the Hummer brand.  Given the fact that the Hummer brand has been ranked as the brand with the least value by consumers, is anyone really surprised?  The bigger surprise would be seeing this brand rise again.  Instead, sales dropped to just 325 units in December 2009 — down by 85% from December 2008.

The death of the Hummer brand can be partially attributed to poor strategic planning and a lack of basic foresight into consumer behavior and the cyclical nature of not just marketing, but of world history.  Symbols of excess typically lead fleeting lives.  Society embraces them and eventually turns their backs on them.  It’s not a new phenomenon.  Add in the negative perceptions of the Hummer brand related to the environment (those things use A LOT of gas) and struggling economies, and the brand was positioned for failure.  But again, foresight and an acceptance of the fact that the good times could not last forever at the executive level could have made the difference between death and life for the Hummer brand in the long term.

The most interesting question right now is not just what company might be capable of saving the Hummer brand but what company would actually want to save it.  This is a brand whose reputation has been tarnished on many levels.  Could that negative perception be turned around? Is there a white knight out there for Hummer?

What do you think?  Is there still value in the Hummer brand?  Take the poll below and share your opinion. If you can’t view the poll below, you can follow this link to do so.

Image: Flickr

Top 10 Branded Sounds

February 24, 2010

An important part of marketing and branding is appealing to consumers’ senses, and sound is just as important as smell, touch, taste and sight.  I was particularly interested in an article I read on the Fast Company Web site today that revealed the most well-known sounds, including the top 10 branded sounds.  Believe it or not, the Intel sound that’s become so recognized that it’s now part of the company’s advertising campaign (check out the ad below), is second in terms of popularity only behind the sound of a baby crying.

The list is based on a small study done by Buyology Inc. and Elias Arts with 50 people and used neuroscience research methods to evaluate participants’ reactions to a wide variety of sounds.

According to the Fast Company article, the top 10 non-branded and branded sounds are:

1. Baby giggle
2. Intel
3. Vibrating phone
4. ATM / cash register
5. National Geographic
6. MTV
7. T-Mobile Ringtone
8. McDonald’s
9. ‘Star Spangled Banner’
10. State Farm

And the top 10 branded sounds are:

1. Intel
2. National Geographic
3. MTV
4. T-Mobile
5. McDonald’s
7. State Farm
8. AT&T Ringtone
9. Home Depot
10 Palm Treo Ringtone

You can listen to all of the sounds by following this link to the Fast Company Web site.

Have you considered the importance of sound in building your brand?  Sounds like now is the time to do so.

Hyundai – A Lesson in Reinventing a Brand

February 22, 2010

hyundai genesis Hyundai   A Lesson in Reinventing a BrandTwenty years ago the Hyundai brand represented cheap, starter cars.  It was a brand that people poked fun at, and it was a brand that was not known for quality.  Today, the Hyundai brand still carries some of those old stigmas, but they’re more of a distant memory than anything else.  Today, the Hyundai brand doesn’t mean cheap.  It means affordable.  And it means a lot more, too.

While other automobile brands have struggled to maintain sales, Hyundai’s sales have actually grown.  And while other auto brands have reduced advertising and marketing spending in recent years, Hyundai has increased their own spending.  As a result, Hyundai’s market share has grown with no signs of slowing down.  In fact, consumers named Hyundai Marketer of the Year for 2009 in an Ad Age poll.  Clearly, the new brand image is being heard and believed.

Hyundai’s path to reinvent its brand didn’t happen overnight.  The first step came in 1998 when Hyundai became the first auto manufacturer to offer a 10-year, 100,000 mile warranty.  Next, car designs were revamped making them more competitive aesthetically with popular brands like Honda and Toyota.  New models like the Santa Fe, Tuscon, and higher-end Genesis were released, again, elevating the brand image.  Quality problems were addressed, and with the excellent warranty giving consumers peace-of-mind, new car sales grew.

Fast forward to 2009 when Hyundai responded to economic problems consumers faced with its assurance program that allowed customers to return the Hyundai vehicles they purchased that year if they lost their jobs.  Later that year, Hyundai introduced its Assurance Gas Lock program (when gasoline prices were soaring to record levels in the United States) rather than offering discounts and dealer incentives, which can negatively affect brand perception.  The Assurance Gas Lock program guaranteed $1.49 per gallon gasoline to consumers who purchased Hyundai vehicles during the summer months of 2009.   During a time when consumers were actively looking for brands they could trust, Hyundai was the first to step up to the plate with innovative programs (similar in nature to its pioneering warranty program that most auto manufacturers have since copied in some form).

Hyundai’s efforts to reinvent its brand have worked.  Not only is Hyundai’s market share at an all time high, but in 2009, 60% of consumers were reported to be aware of the brand and willing to buy it, which was up from just 40% two years earlier.  While U.S. car manufacturers are using bailout money, and other popular brands are battling quality problems, Hyundai seems to be doing all the right things to successfully reinvent its brand and continue to reap the rewards.

What do you think?  Has Hyundai successfully reinvented its brand or is there still more work to be done?

Image: Flickr

Brands Trumped by Entertainment on Twitter

February 19, 2010

adage wtt 255 Brands Trumped by Entertainment on TwitterThe entertainment industry continues to dominate online conversations happening on the social Web, particularly on Twitter.  In the second report in a new weekly Top 10 Most Tweeted Brands chart, which is a collaboration between Advertising Age and What The Trend, only three company or product brands made it into the top 10 for the week of February 12, 2010.  Of those three company or product brands, all of them came from the technology industry.  The rest of the most popular brand tweets were related to the entertainment industry — music, movies, sports, and so on.

Check out the list of the top 10 most tweeted brands for the week of February 12, 2010 below:

  1. Justin Bieber
  2. Olympics
  3. NBA
  4. Google Buzz
  5. BRITs
  6. We are the World
  7. Windows Phone 7
  8. MNIK
  9. #becauseof nickiminaj
  10. iPad

How can a company compete with tweets by adolescent girls about Justin Bieber and fans of controversial rappers like Nicki Minaj?  The first step is to offer something that people actually want to talk about and share on Twitter.  Without a catalyst for conversation about a brand, no one is going to tweet about it.

It’s important to remember that trending topics on Twitter are typically short-lived.  The Olympics is hot right now, but in a few weeks, when the games are over, the Olympics won’t appear in the list of the top 10 trending brands on Twitter.  Similarly, Google Buzz, iPad, and Windows Phone 7 were all hot in the news during the past week when big announcements and product launches were common conversations (both online and offline).  It’s no wonder that these brands made it into the top 10 brands mentioned on Twitter during the week of February 12th, but will they be there during the week of March 12th?  It’s unlikely unless another valuable piece of information that people actually want to talk about is released.

When it comes to using Twitter as a marketing tool, it’s essential to keep in mind that Twitter (like all social media) shouldn’t be a popularity contest.  Just because a topic or tweet is popular today doesn’t mean that it will be tomorrow, and it doesn’t mean that it truly affects people.  The key is to engage a targeted group of online influencers who can help you promote your brand, talk about it, and raise brand awareness, recognition and loyalty.

With that in mind, try not to sweat the numbers too much.  Your Twitter efforts are only as strong as the loyal band of followers that will advocate and defend your brand.  It doesn’t matter how many followers you have if you’re not giving them a reason to want to talk about you.

Three Keys to Creating a Great Candidate Experience

February 19, 2010

Black Hole1 300x300 Three Keys to Creating a Great Candidate Experience

A Closer Look at the Candidate Experience drew a comment from Gerry Crispin (one of the masterminds at CareerXroads) that has made me give a little more thought to this topic.  His point:

Firms will increasingly be able to measure the link from an improved candidate experience to higher engagement as employee and (surprise) better company performance.  Then we’ll see some light escaping the black hole.

This is really important.  If companies recognize a significant business (i.e., dollar) value in treating candidates decently, they will be more likely to make an effort in this direction.  So establishing the link between a great applicant/candidate experience and great employee performance can help put this topic on the corporate radar.

It might also be helpful to super-simplify the steps required for process improvement .  There can be a lot of touchpoints and moving parts involved in the candidate experience—but there are really only three rules for making the experience great.

  1. Communicate
  2. Communicate
  3. Communicate

Can’t get much simpler than that.  But as always, the challenge is in the details . . .

First, communicate on the corporate Careers site.  Really communicate.  Go beyond PR fluff and pretty pictures–include substantive information, and plenty of it.  Be transparent.  (This 2009 post on transparency is worth revisiting.)  And make social media communications meaningful, instead of just trolling for passive candidates.

Second, communicate with every single applicant.  Every  one.  Consistently and sincerely.  Impossible?  No!  Even if the communication is just an automated email, it can be nicely worded and can even be informative and helpful to the candidate.  Above all—try to close every candidate interaction with a communication:  an acknowledgement (“thanks for applying”), an update (“we’ll be scheduling interviews later this month”), a kindly rejection (“we really appreciate your application, but”), an interview invitation (“we look forward to meeting you”), a courtesy note (“thanks so much for your time to interview”), a sincere rejection (“although we really enjoyed meeting you”), or an offer (“we are so excited”).

And third . . . communicate during the interview itself, and during other personal interactions.  Whoever talks with the candidate should have something to say–they should be knowledgeable about the position and about the company and about the candidate.  (Reading the resume before meeting the candidate should be a minimum requirement.)

That may sound like a lot of “extra” work—but for many companies, it may be mainly a shift of priorities.  Once they start looking at the process from a human connection perspective, there may be a lot of obvious opportunities to tweak for improvement.

More ideas: Interesting background view from  Paul Dodd and Sarah Welstead at head2head.  A Gen Y take from blogger/strategist Sarah White.  A good example from Best Buy Canada Ltd.  And a thoughtful prediction from Claudia Faust at Improved Experience.

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