Elephant Tricks vs. Straight Answers

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Hi everyone!
Since I'm on a blogroll kick this week, here's one from Matt Galloway's The Basement blog, which is one of my favorite (almost-) daily reads. In his latest post, Matt continues his hilarious streak of wake up! rants aimed at Volkswagen's marketing team, but this time, he draws a specific parallel with the cluelessness of many companies and ad agencies when it comes to actually delivering effective... well... effective anything.
Per Matt:
In my opinion there are only two things advertising can do: entertain or educate. Consumers don't have to watch advertising. In our 187 channel Tivo world, this is more true now then ever.
Given the choice, marketing folks gravitate toward entertainment. Why? Because it is more fun to create and it's easier to get the consumer's attention. As long as clueless clients like Volkswagen and Burger King are prepared to pay ad agencies like CP+B for asinine advertisement like the Subservient Chicken, this crap will continue to exist. But to what avail? Sure it might go viral. But unless that translates into sales and/or loyalty, who cares?
I can't emphasize to marketing folks enough - no one outside of the marketing industry knows what the Subservient Chicken is or who paid for it. Ask your waiter or waitress, ask your bank teller or your insurance agent if you don't believe me.
Bingo. Read the whole post here, but first, here's Matt's quick deal about VW's website:
So what's my beef? I went to the trouble of going to my computer, firing up a browser, typing in w-w-w-dot-v-w-dot-c-o-m, I clicked on Passat, I clicked on "launch the microsite", I clicked on "view the feature films", then I clicked on "Automatic Trunk Release". THEN, I suffered through a short, mildly amusing film about an elephant trick.
120 not-so-standard features so unremarkable that VW would rather show us lame elephant tricks than actual video of even a single feature.

Volkswagen's appeal over the last decade has been to well educated, affluent, environmentally concerned folks. People who were interested in German engineering and the fuel economy of diesel. These are smart folks. The Passat in particular is not a cheap car - although it is affordable - it's not competing with the Chevy Aveo. So what about the Passat says that when people go out of their way to come to a website about the Passat they want some cute and funny video clips? Isn't it more reasonable to expect that they want 30 minutes of video that is actually about the Passat? I for one would love a clip that actually explains an Automatic Trunk Release.
Interesting timing on this post. I just visited French automaker Renault's site yesterday, and it was the complete opposite of VW's site.
Before I go on, I should point out that while Renault doesn't have the slightest presence in the USA, it's a very, very strong brand in other parts of the world. These guys are innovators through and through, and they aren't afraid of actually manufacturing concept cars, even when they come across as... well... too modern or even ugly to most folks. (Renault sometimes makes cars for the 5% of their market that is more interested in total utility and smart design than conventional aesthetics.)
Unfortunately, yes, these are the guys who stripped down their very cool R5 to a flimsy inch of its life many many moons ago and gave the US the horrendous "le car". Bleh. (We all make bad choices sometimes.) No worries, they've more than made up for that since, and I really wish they'd at least attempt a comeback because their fuel-efficient cars and cool designs would probably find an audience here now.
Back to my point: Their website. Yep, it's basic. Nope, it doesn't have dancing elephants or cool animations or mini movies. You point, you click, it gives you pretty pictures of the cars and all of the information you're looking for. It's everything Matt asks for. These guys don't need hype. Their products and their passion for helping their customers find out about their products is what drives their marketing engine. (No pun intended.)
But it also has this really cool section on concept cars... or rather the process that goes into developing a concept car, along with the technologies Renault develops for its designs. That portion of the website is very, very, very cool. Renault is definitely not about "business as usual". (And their models range from the cheapest of utility-based cars to the most high performance F1 land rockets on the planet, so they appeal to pretty much every segment of the European market.)
So before you scroll back up to read Matt's post, take a few minutes to go play with Renault's very well designed interactive concept car page. (Click the "technology" section first. These guys have very cool ideas.)
So... yeah, elephant tricks are cool and blow-my-socks-off ads are fun and all, but at some point, you have to be able to back up the hype with a modicum of substance.
10 years ago, I would have never considered saying this, but... VW could probably learn a thing or two from Renault.
Wow. That just gave me chills.

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