How Bad (Automobile) Marketing Ruins a Country’s Economy and How to Fix It

Advertising Rules

Or: How you can learn to be better at marketing from the mistakes of others.

In the wake of the US automobile manufacturers’ pleas for yet another bailout, a great marketing lesson can be learned. Three articles featured on the Huffington Post together create a very compelling picture for not only what is wrong, and what could be right, with Detroit but also for how critical marketing is, not only to the health of a business but to the health of the economy as a whole. Yet another case of “We’re all in the same boat.”

Out of breakdown comes opportunity and every challenge contains the clues for its solution. Lazy or arrogant choices made in marketing can create hugely expensive effects, effects that can be avoided with smarter marketing. But what makes smarter marketing? Common sense.

The three articles, in order of how you should read them, are Steve Parker’s Memo to Detroit: Change now or die, Rick Newman’s 10 Cars That Sank Detroit and Neil Young’s (Yes! That Neil Young…) How to Save a Major Automobile Company.

As you read through these articles, the recurring theme is that these major corporations have largely ignored reality. They’ve dismissed common sense and have either taken the easy way out, focused on short-term gain or simply acted stupidly. The SUV gas guzzler obsession was doomed to failure. Instead of truly focusing on serving their customer base, carmakers simply chased after the apparently easy dollars to be made. Let’s not forget the tax breaks the Republican administration threw at people buying SUVs, as if suggesting that vehicles that could barely get 18 mpg were worthy of subsidies and promotion.

Memo to Detroit: Change now or die

Steve Parker lays out the case for what Detroit carmakers need to do to survive. His memo to the CEOs of the three largest US carmakers is one part tongue-in-cheek, one part bitch-slap wake up call. The upshot is that Detroit needs to focus on making relevant products for the present-day world. Check it out here: Memo to Detroit: Change now or die

10 Cars That Sank Detroit

This is a great rundown on how Detroit automakers consistently committed the most basic marketing mistakes with their automobile offerings. Read it and weep: 10 Cars That Sank Detroit.

Author Rick Newman concisely compiles the mistakes and misdeeds perpetrated by these large American companies. As you peruse the list you’ll see over and over again the same theme, not listening to the consumer. These manufacturers simply knew such pearls of wisdom as, “hybrids didn’t make economic sense and that only environmentalists would buy them.”

I’ve always wondered why Ford for instance never revitalized their Mustang line by going back to the design that is easily one of the top 5 most beloved car models in history. It took them all these years to finally do it, but when they did, they stopped short and produced something akin to the Ford Mach 5 of the ’70s instead of the classic ’67. But that’s a slightly different story.

The Ford Taurus example is a classic. Brilliant MBA types, supposedly, decided to ignore a profitable car model while their competitors focused on improvements year in and year out. Great!

Other great examples are those where different automakers tried to be all things to everyone, most notably, Ford trying to make an “entry-level” Jaguar. Great way to water down your brand. Are you listening, Mercedes Benz?