Jon Michaeli’s Blog


Did anyone proof BMW’s marketing slogan?

Posted in Uncategorized by Jon Michaeli on March 23, 2009
Tags: , , , , , ,

BMW bannerBMW should learn a lesson from Turner Broadcasting’s recent gaffe. Two month’s ago, I blogged about the incorrect English used in the prominently displayed message “More Movie, Less Commercials” on all TBS and TNT home movies. This message has since been removed.

Well, it seems BMW (a German company with a huge presence in the U.S. to know better) needs to retake the same 7th grade grammar lesson. Featured in the top banner on the BMW main home page is the following phrase “Less emissions. More driving pleasure.” Of course “Less” is incorrect in this context and should be replaced by “Fewer” or “Lower.”

Some might say you really can’t count emissions, so “Less” is appropriate. To those, I would argue that they are using the term “count” too literally. We can certainly measure the number of grams of CO2 a car emits, just as we can measure the number of calories we eat. Surely you don’t wish to argue that “Less Calories” is grammatically correct…

I just don’t get how a brand that is so refined and meticulous with its engineering, styling and design can be so sloppy in its marketing. Without a doubt, this one of the most heavily trafficked pages on BMW.com – the first page people visit when coming to the website – and therefore the company’s first opportunity to make an impression. (Actually it shouldn’t be among the most frequented pages, as I’d expect BMW would cookie me and automatically redirect me to the USA site for future visits, especially if I’m connecting via a U.S. IP address, but we’ll leave that gripe for another day.)

At long last, Starbucks launches pairings menu

Posted in Uncategorized by Jon Michaeli on March 10, 2009
Tags: , , ,

I’m not sure what took so long, but for the first time I can remember Starbucks has started to bundle coffee with its pastries into one package price. At least in my neighborhood, the options are very limited (I’m assuming this is a soft launch and the company is testing the market and will have more variety and price points if proven successful), but I still find the “tall latte and choice of oatmeal or coffee cake for 3.95 (all day)” too limiting and a bit arbitrary.

I’m guessing scones and muffins are the most popular pastries, and so the rationale is likely “We don’t have a problem getting full price for our ‘bread and butter’ products, so let’s continue to sell those as standalone items and instead start with those that are struggling and need some awareness and trial.” A slow, cautious approach makes sense – move too quickly, and the company could very easily cannibalize sales if higher volume associated with bundling doesn’t more than offset the lower margins of doing so.

I’ll assume Starbucks has mined the data and crunched the numbers, as the register receipts have all the information necessary to formulate a smart strategy. That said, I cannot help but feel the current pairings menu is too narrow to draw actionable conclusions for a more widespread rollout in the near future.

Obama needs a marketing campaign

At this point, is a single American adult unaware of how the economy is doing? You’d have to live under a rock somewhere not to be up to date. And it may not even be that easy, as there might be access to a WiFi hotspot under the rock. As always, we have the media to thank for the dreary play-by-play. The news gets worse by the day, and the stock market continues to plunge to new lows.

Then, once every few weeks or so, Barack Obama or one of his cronies addresses Congress or the Nation (formally or informally). They try to inject some hope into an otherwise dismal picture, Americans feel a sense of solidarity for an evening, only to wake up the next morning to the “doom and gloom” all over again. News of the day: Unemployment climbed to 8.1% in February.

Obama has already done far more than his predecessors to stay plugged into public opinion and show he lives in the 21st Century. He very effectively used social media to fuel his Presidential campaign, launched a series of websites, including change.gov and recovery.gov to educate people on the programs his administration is putting to work to stimulate the crippled economy.

Despite it all, Americans want to believe Obama’s intellect and “Dream Team” staff will start turning things around in the second half of this year. Amazingly, Obama’s popularity is the highest it’s been since taking office 6 weeks ago. Are his programs really that great or do his pure intellect and the convincing manner in which he speaks deserve the credit? Are Americans in denial or feeling such a sense of desperation that there’s no alternative but to put all faith and confidence in our fearless leader, else give up hope. Or, should we attribute his favorability to a combination of these factors? No matter what the root cause, there’s no disputing that Obama’s power with the public is unprecedented, at least in my lifetime.

Question: So, what does the government do now? Answer: Launch an Integrated Marketing Campaign.

There’s no disputing that recessionary times are to a large extent, a self-fulfilling prophecy. It starts with bad news: Americans are defaulting on their mortgages and forced to foreclose on their homes. People take notice. Big name banks are incurring billions in losses and taking federal loans to avoid bankruptcy. People begin to realize this isn’t just another hiccup in the nation’s growth trajectory. There are large scale layoffs, and the stock market plunges eroding trillions of dollars in wealth. People worry they too will lose their jobs. The nation’s car manufacturers receive billions in taxpayer bailout dollars to avoid bankruptcy (only to relieve the same scenario months later). FDIC announces by year end they will run out of funds to insure the nation’s banks. People panic! It’s a downward spiral, and the more momentum it gains, the more impossible it is to stop.

If we are to prevent the economy from plummeting even further into recession, there is a window of opportunity right now.  We desperately need some regular encouragement and positivity, proof points that the new government programs and spending are having an impact. I’m thinking case studies of real people and real situations that you and I can identify with. And not stuck on a website that requires people to go surf on their own.  Obama needs to deliver the message to people in their homes, on their PCs, and wherever else he can grab their attention. As an added benefit, the ads can promote the websites where so much useful, yet extremely confusing and constantly changing, information lives. I mean what percentage of folks really have a clue if they qualify for a mortgage refinance at a government subsidized rate?

Some will say I’m crazy – “You think the government should use taxpayer money to buy TV ads?” Well, as a new age marketer, I obviously would recommend a disproportionate share of the spend be on nontraditional forms (e.g. social media, grassroots and viral programs), but yes, I do think broadcast should be part of the campaign. And why not? The government gave billions to GM, and it is still blowing millions and millions of it on the same old ineffective and boring car ads. So, I guess I trust Obama will be far more judicious and creative in how the ad dollars are spent. Also note, I am advocating that a marketing plan should accompany new legislation and spending, and NOT replace it.

And if Obama can be successful in pumping just enough positivity back into our spirits, what has come crashing down can start to recover. It works both ways. If people and companies increase spending even a little and the economic numbers improve slightly, the prevailing opinion will be that we’ve seen the worst. Spending will increase a bit more, and the story continues.

On the other hand, if a vehicle with the power of a multifaceted and influential ad campaign does not materialize in the near future, Obama’s popularity will diminish, the public will lose confidence, and we will be in for a prolonged depression.