Marketing legend Sir John Hegarty is interviewed in the Friday, May 17/2013 edition of Globe and Mail. In a few short paragraphs, he identifies what he feels is right and wrong with today’s marketing.
What strikes me the most about his article is this: “Persuasion is taking a nonbeliever and turning them into a believer. Christ stood on the rock and he talked to the masses. He did not talk to 18- to 25-year-olds with a disposable income of 25 shekels and a preponderance to change. He persuaded – because of what he believed in.”
So, when it comes to automotive marketing, by whom are we persuaded, based on their belief?
Tesla comes to mind. They’re like Apple: they try to control the user experience, as a good friend of mine likes to say, “from conception to resurrection”. They have their own dealers, they can update the software on your vehicle while you drive and have a delivery experience that the premium vehicle lines have difficulty matching.
Then again, when you’re marketing a $100,000 vehicle, you better have a superior product and experience. Consumer Reports thinks so, giving it a score of 99 out of a possible 100 using their rating system. The Infiniti M scores 93, Lexus LS series ranks 92 and the BMW 7 series scores a comparatively paltry 74. (The Mercedes-Benz S class doesn’t have a full review for 2013 by CR.)
Who else persuades? Subaru makes a compelling case for the superiority of their all-wheel drive system. But what makes the joyous noise of a Boxster after a perfect downshift for a second gear corner? What matches the serenity of a Nissan Maxima at cruising speed, knowing that if you mash the throttle, you can quickly change the first digit of 100 km/h into a 2 in a matter of seconds? It’s not the fastest vehicle on the road. It’s not the quietest, but it makes a persuasive argument as the marketing slogan says of the four door sports car.
The vehicles do the persuading. The dealers and the ad agencies promote. The magic lies inside the car; how do the seats feel, can I hear every note of music from my iPhone, is it quiet, am I stirred when the go pedal is floored, can I get the big picture all around me while feeling like I’m coddled in my own cocoon?
The vehicle itself expresses what the manufacturer believes. Judging by the variety of vehicles on the road (all with four wheels, one steering wheel, an engine and suspension), there are many belief systems at work.
All a vehicle has to do, is persuade us, and we’ll own it.