marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Monday, August 4, 2014

Good or Bad Form: Leveraging a Strong Prototypical Character

Mercedes Benz introduced it's B Class, and all I could think about what how the introduction might rank as a "C" in terms of marketing choice.
The TV ad they used to promote the B Class tapped the prototypical mad scientist. I assume they somehow connected mad scientist with innovation for their electric car, but the visual and history of that electrification of corpses is too strong. If that already sounds whacked, it is, but it's worse on many levels.

In the Frankenstein genre, and every movie that taps into that "feel", the viewer is faced with a lonely and isolated location where there are few humans, whack science, and even macabre activities. The original storyline of Frankenstein is based on a mad scientist who robs graveyards for body parts to create a humanoid abomination. The stitched together body parts are then reanimated after focusing lightening on the corpse.

Does that sound like a way to introduce your latest car? Am I supposed to believe that the B Class is a combination of left over or junkyard parts? Is the B Class dead-on-arrival, requiring a jumpstart to use it? Is the B Class put together by a single crazy scientist or team of crazy scientists with questionable motives? I want to see the genius in this, but I'm stunned.  I can't help but think, will there be a bride of B Class that is also reanimated from car carcasses?

I may sound harsh, but this is less of a slam and more of a question about why Mercedes is shocking me so much. I expect Mercedes to innovate and create great cars. I don't expect to have Mercedes associated with left over body parts stitched together and reanimated by a stroke of luck. Refuse to believe that the Mercedes I've come to know for so many years is trying to push that message. I just hope that someone can see how this commercial is harming the brand.

Please oh please Mercedes, make some sense of this for me.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Big Data, Teenage Sex, and a Better Megaphone

While reading a marketoonist cartoon on Big Data (see image below from that page), the author cited a hot topic in marketing circles, “Big data is like teenage sex. The quote behind the discussion goes something like this “Big Data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.”

The underlying discussion about Big Data is funny because of the truth behind the statement, but what struck me is who gets credit for that phrase or who can claim to really owns that phrase, since I recalled hearing it before. I’m not trying to stir a debate of originality over impact, but from a fame and bragging rights standpoint, it’s worth taking a second look.

I found a nearly identical quote by Dan Ariely here, where he received nearly 1700 likes and over 700 shares. That was back on January 6th of 2013. I’m not sure if I saw it them, but I might have seen a “share” as the reason why the recent spread of that phrase caught my eye. Of course, I don’t know if Dan’s post was the first, but I do know that the LinkedIn post that followed recently is the most famous.

10 months after Dan’s post that received 1700 likes and 700 shares, the same phrase is finally picked up and e-broadcasted to LinkedIn, and BAM!. Suddenly it’s being shared by no less than three people I know personally. Is this random luck or something that could be engineered? It seems like random luck, and even if it was, it’s worth considering a few key properties of this now famous statement. 1. Big Data has gone through a hype cycle, and reality about it is settling in 2. The statement is largely true, even w/o the comparison to teenage sex 3. The statement connects the reader to a universal experience 4.  There were 1700 likes and 700 shares, so it clearly had some redeeming value before it was famous 5. Someone from LinkedIn curated it.
Of the above, only #5 was necessary, but arguably, the previous 4 steps made #5 easy for someone at LinkedIn to notice and curate. I would postulate that many famous statements or quotes share the same spirit of the the first three.