Monthly Archives: January 2010

Toyota’s Troubles: Real-Time Memory Loss

There is a lot of media hype of late concerning the series of recalls that Toyota has undertaken. While some of the numbers may be staggering, recalls are quite routine. One site, http://www.autorecalls.us/ enables you to search any make or model, from Porche and Bentley to that paragon of quality, Mercedes-Benz. The NHTSA has a database of defects and recalls http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/.

Here are some notable recalls that other manufacturers have undertaken in the past 6 years, according to Reuters via Yahoo Finance:

2004 – GM recalled nearly 4 million pickups because of corroding tailgate cables.

April 2005 – GM said it was recalling more than 2 million vehicles to fix a variety of potential safety defects, most of them on cars and trucks sold in the U.S. GM said the largest of the safety actions included 1.5 million full-size pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles from the 2003 to 2005 model years with second-row seat belts that may be difficult to properly position across passengers’ hips.

Oct. 2005 – Toyota recalled about 1.41 million cars globally, including the Corolla and 15 other models, due to trouble with their headlight switching systems.

Dec. 2007 – Chrysler LLC said it would recall 575,417 vehicles as long-term wear on the gear shift assembly could cause them to shift out of park without the key in the ignition. The recall involved 2001 to 2002 model-year Dodge Dakota pickup trucks, Durango sports utility vehicles and Ram van models and 2002 model-year Ram pickup trucks.

Aug. 2008 – GM announced a recall of 857,735 vehicles equipped with a heated windshield wiper fluid system for a potential short-circuit problem, according to federal safety regulators.

Sept. 2009 – Toyota said it would recall approximately 3.8 million vehicles in the U.S. because of floor mats that could have come loose and force down the accelerator. The problem was suspected in crashes that have killed five people.

Oct. 2009 – Ford completed a series of recalls affecting 14 million vehicles due to faulty cruise control deactivation switch. The latest recall involved some 4.5 million vehicles. The action effectively closed out a 10-year saga over the switches made by Texas Instruments that led to more than a half-dozen recalls, the automaker said.

While Toyota might not have done the best job of handling recalls in a textbook public relations fashion, they nonetheless are getting on with the job of remediating the issues.

Let’s remember, far more people get killed in the US every year by drunk drivers than by faultly automobiles. According to the NHTSA drunk driving deaths (11,773) accounted for 32% of the total amount of United States car accident deaths (37,261) in 2008. Prohibition is not likely to return in this millenium.

As we race about this new social world of real-time, let’s take the time to pause, get the facts together and put the real world into perspective.

Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

My Butter, My Friend?

The ARF (Advertising Research Foundation) recently published an artful piece via Fast Company on how social media should be levered for the purpose of building brands. With the caption, “No, I don’t want to be friends with my butter” the post took the assumptive position that social media is a way for brands (any brand really) to build a social movement in order to shape an augmented brand experience – join the conversation around your unsalted butter experience, in a way.

Well, here’s what’s shaping up. As much as the notion that the social media “firehose” is probably dogma by now, when it gets down to engaging with butter, consumers are being asked for a bit too much. Let’s face it, in any househould we likely have over 1000 brands that we have purchased within the past year. In my kitchen pantry alone, some 87 brands are represented. When full, our GE refrigerator has 5 brands of cheese, 9  brands of beverages (and 1 brand of unsalted butter, which I am not at liberty to disclose). Then there’s the workshop, laundry room, bathroom and clothes closet. Even in my car, I’ve got stuff from several brands: Purell to Kleenex, Scott paper towels, Goodyear Tires, a VDO pressure gauge, AAA maps, Altoid mints and two empty coffee cups SBux (hers) McD’s (his) to name a few.

Imagine a world when every brand that you consider, let alone purchase, or just notice, wants to be your best friend. Is it not prudent to first understand whether or not a brand is one of high versus low emotional involvement? Brand strategy needs to figure at the front end of defining a media roadmap, social or otherwise in building brand awareness and engagement. Otherwise, how does one reconcile advertising clutter in the digital age? I cannot find the words to describe…

As for a relationship with butter, only my toast knows for sure.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

Social Media Monitoring: Skyped!

 Just Signal is a company that has developed an application bringing social media monitoring to business that is cost effective. They’re not alone. Trendr is another such company that gets you started on $0 per month. Their pricing options include Gold, Platinum and Elite services, where at a maximum entry point of $999/month, provide unlimited reports and analytics on as many trending topics or brands as your heart desires. This pricing schema compares favourably with providers such as Radian6 and Sysomos, firms widely associated with a SaaS model.

Let’s be clear – I’m not passing judgement on the quality of the deliverables, their implied go-to-market approach or pricing model. Instead, this is about how the market has changed so much in the past year with the dramatic increase in providers of some form of WOM (word-of-mouth) monitoring application. Back in 2006, there were roughly a dozen or so as tracked by Forrester Research, today they number well over a hundred.

New supply, even in a growing market for services, has an affect on pricing. Like the long distance market of old, established carriers, for a number of very complex reasons, have seen 2 things happen over the last tens years: customers are constantly switching providers and they are shopping on price. After all, most long-distance carriers deliver very similar perceived value. Now there’s Skype. Free. With over 500 million registered users, Skype would be the world’s largest carrier company, according to Morgan Stanley.

Is the Social Media Monitoring industry moving to a similar situation, at or close to free? Will the “Skype” provider emerge as a viable alternative to paid monitoring services. Maybe. Maybe not.

What’s next? Segmentation for one. Monitoring companies will, in my estimate, evolve into 3 streams: Software, Business Intelligence/CRM and Business Insights. They will be priced accordingly and align functionally with the call centre, public relations, marketing & branding  and strategy & innovation. Think in terms of an overlay to  service response, campaign execution and business planning respectively.

Did I mention Google?

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

Social Media Slap Chop

As corporate managers seek to make some sense out of new media, it’s been interesting how the noise from advocate continues. Here are a few soundbites:

1) ROI. A few power bloggers have been consuming a lot of oxygen these days ranting about how there is little need to financially justify investment in social media. Social Media, unlike say, billboard advertising, is sacred because it’s all about trust and transparency. Besides, you’ve lost control of your brand to the consumer, so what the heck, just do it.
 
2) See, it works! Some folks are all agog about Dell generating some $6M worth of sales that were ‘influenced’ by the Twitter channel. The percentage sold, against total 2009 sales, was so small my calculator registered blank.
 

"You're Going to Have an Exciting Life Now."

3) Rage against the Expert. Enough already.  There are no experts, just people who speak loudly and have their musings (and picture) all over various social networks. None of these folks actually work for a Fortune 500, 1000 or 2000 company but they likely have a nice blog and written a giga-seller book or two or three. Let’s move on.
 
4) Case studies. Go back to item (2) as this is a about as good as it really gets. Most companies are in beta stage figuring out what works best for them. For example, Coke recently ditched private media in favour of social networking, which is just fine. 
 
5) Predictions. Newspapers are dead.  Advertising is a relic. Television is passe. Mobile is king. Facebook is the new Superpower. So many folks feel it necessary to make pronoucements on the future (which is here already since we are now moving faster than real time, according to some) that they get themselves worked into a voodoo-like trance. While in this somnambulant state, they feel their musings are fact while looking to pick up another 10,000 Twitter followers by the end of the day.
 
 6) Gushing over gadgets: Early adopters love to be the first to own the latest piece of technology such as an iPhone, iPod or iTablet, which is fine my me. However, some folks are over the moon about these new products to the point that they leave you wondering if they’re shills or stock promoters as they wax so enthusiastically. Mind you they’re also the first to wail away if something goes wrong such as poor smart phone connectivity (which was really a carrier issue).
 
7) Social Media is a must have. If you don’t you’re either stupid, in denial or you just plain don’t get it and the world will leave you in the nanodust of the cloud – especially if you’re a CMO. Rather than consider a firm’s CRM maturity level, those who have a knack for prescription pay little attention to the complexities inherent in the marketing and media mix. Makes me wonder – do social media evangelists have actual clients
 
– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia
 
 
 

Slippery Celebrity Slope: Tiger Gets Replaced by Elephant

In a recent post, Jay Busbee of Yahoo Canada Sports brings us up to date:

“Of all the humiliations that Tiger Woods has suffered over the last few weeks — scurrilous rumors, really bad overtold jokes, wild plastic surgery speculation, borderline-slanderous Photoshops — this one has to rank right up there: he’s been replaced by an elephant. And not just any elephant, mind you: a surfing one. Wacky!

The Biggest Loser? Hardly.

Accenture, one of the first companies to cut ties with Tiger Post-Hydrant, decided that  Tiger no longer represented the best of its “High Performance” ad campaign. (Personally, I think the fact that he kept all this going while still winning majors is “high performance” at a level beyond which most of us could comprehend, but I get where they’re coming from.)”

Well, a few things are certain, this elephant is likely to stay the course and not pose any possible risk of causing embarassment in the future. Most importantly, he will not be commanding stratospheric endorsement fees like his predesessor.

So here’s to Accenture Elephant and a long and prosperous career like many others who have come before: Aflac Duck, Geico Gekko,  Smokey the Bear, Spuds MacKenzie, Nipper the dog, Morris the Cat and of course, the Exxon Tiger.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia