Archive for the ‘Motor industry’ Category

Guerilla Marketing

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 by Rob Brown

In the brave new world of social media we are told that content is king and if the content is good enough it will find an audience.  We don’t often use this blog to talk about projects that Staniforth is involved in but this Nissan campaign is an exception – incidentally the creative work here was delivered by another agency.

Advertising is changing and this is a great example of how and why.   What we have here is an innovative three dimensional installation (I won’t spoil the ending of the clip by saying any more).  We also have a really engaging short film that takes the installation out to a whole new audience, it also tells a story with a twist (quite literally) in the tail .   Car manufacturers are not always known for breaking the mould, but this is a great example of how to do things differently.  Fasten your seatbelts.  

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

Does the motor trade want to sell cars?

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 by Jon Clements


Are you in the market for a new car?

Good luck – you may have trouble finding a dealership wanting to sell you one.  Bear with me – this isn’t a post about cars, but about customer service.

This year, the UK’s retail motor industry welcomed, with outstretched arms, a new word into its lexicon – “scrappage”. In the middle of a thumping recession, the Government-funded scheme has helped the car business boost sales with a £2k sweetener for buyers agreeing to scrap their 10-year-old vehicle when buying a new one. Without it, the world of the motor trader in 2009 would have been a very different one.

A world without scrappage was depicted in a recent speech by Joe Greenwell, Ford’s UK chairman and president of the Society of Manufacturers and Motor Traders at its recent annual dinner. He said: “Without scrappage, this year’s total registrations would have been less than 1.7m. Against a high of nearly 2.6 million units in 2003, current expectations are for car registrations to fall to 1.8m in 2010. There is no doubt that..underlying demand remains weak.”

And this is the point. At a time like now, every customer counts.

It was Chris Brogan’s recent blog post on frustration with bricks and mortar retail that came to mind on a weekend trip to several high end car dealerships from which I came away convinced that some dealerships don’t want to sell cars.

First up – VW: we entered an empty showroom where the only person keen to talk was the receptionist. A salesman just about managed to grab some brochures but the car we wanted to see was “being used by a colleague over the weekend”. That’s fine, but did he want to arrange a viewing? No.

Next, BMW: we were sitting ducks, asking to be sold the benefits of a particular model. The salesman – not looking terribly busy – said: “I’ll get you a brochure. It’s all in there.” What about the boot space? The car battery was flat so the boot wouldn’t open. Now there was a veritable crowd of customers awaiting the grand boot opening. Eventually the lid was lifted and off the salesman skipped: “Leave it up, won’t you,” he chirped.

Lastly, Mercedes: best of the lot, but not great. We did get invited to sit down, but for a rather lacklustre chat about the car in question and promises about the great vehicles coming out of that manufacturer in the next couple of years.

For an industry facing a steep incline next year with a spluttering engine, it’s a worrying picture of customer interaction.

One man who knows a bit about car sales is one Derek Clements (disclosure: my father) who spent more than 50 years in the car business and ended his career training dealership staff in customer care. He said: “Getting new customer enquiries is expensive and dealers have to make the most of every one. It’s vital that sales staff make people truly welcome, comfortable and unthreatened before talking to them about what the customer wants or needs and matching that with the features and benefits of a car.

“In other words, make the customer feel important, listen to what they’re saying and start to build their confidence in dealing with you.”

With all this in mind, I asked Letty – a woman of advancing years and 10 years on the local Tesco checkout – what she felt customer service was all about and she said: “It’s just about being friendly. People seem so detached from each other these days and it costs nothing to smile.”

Listen to Letty – you could do much worse.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

To Interest the Kids, Target the Big Boys

Thursday, March 19th, 2009 by Chris Bull

Nissan’s flagship car, the GTR is delivered to its first UK owners this month. The GTR is the replacement for the Skyline, Nissan’s previous flagship model. Out of production since 2000, it was essentially a regular two door saloon, with a whopping big turbo, and some clever technology under the bonnet. Its close association with the launch of the Gran Turismo computer game in the nineties meant that it became a bit of a cult classic among the ‘playstation generation’, especially in its native Japan. It was good, but not earth-shatteringly so. The fact that it was ugly as hell meant it never really made it into the mainstream. Nissan needed to broaden the appeal…

Initial rumours claimed that the Skyline’s replacement would be tame, non-turbo charged, and timid. However, backlash from the hoards of hardcore Skyline fans was so unremitting, that Nissan reconsidered. And then they got carried away…

What they have produced is nothing short of astonishing. In track tests, the GTR has disposed of anything this side of £100k, but itself costs just over £50,000. And with its styling based on the traditional Japanese art of Oregami, I actually think it’s quite a looker.

You may imagine then, that they spent all their time and money making sure it would go around a track fast, and not much else…but no. The attention to detail, and the strides for perfection, is absolutely remarkable. The tyres are not filled with plain old air, but instead nitrogen (if your front drivers side is looking a little flat, don’t expect your local BP to be much help). The engines, for example, are hand-built in a hermetically sealed room, to ensure that they are not infiltrated by minuscule dust particles. Further, each engine is hand built from start to finish by one person, meaning that each engine has a slightly different power output and ‘personality’. One tested by a popular car magazine, for example, had 30 bhp more than Nissans already impressive claims of 480bhp.

But what has all this got to do with PR? Well sound bites such as those just mentioned will get quoted so many times (like now then, doh!) that it doesn’t really matter if it makes much difference on the road. They have got people talking: job done. In my opinion, this car is some of the best PR money can buy.

I mean let’s be honest, five years ago, would you have considered Nissan ‘cool’? I certainly wouldn’t have. Would I have considered buying a Nissan? Nope. How much money could Nissan have spent in vain trying to engineer a better image? But one thing is a certainty; products speak for themselves.

The whole Nissan brand, much like a proverbial celeb hanger-on-er has become cool-by-association. Traditionally, Nissan was just another huge car manufacturer, outputting millions of dull, but worthy and reliable cars every year.

What Nissan has done with the GTR, however, has sent shockwaves through the performance car industry. They have shown that, whenever they feel like it, they can produce a car that can beat a Porsche 911 Turbo (a £100k car) around a track, for half the price. It is worth bearing in mind that Porsche specialise in making performance cars, and they have been fine-tuning their formula in the 911 since the sixties!

By creating this car and aiming it at those who can afford to splash out 55k on a car (the proverbial big boys) people a little lower down the financial ladder (the kids) will get a bit more interested in the cars in their price bracket. Perhaps someone my sort of age may find the Nissan Cube a bit more desirable as a result. And for any brands long term survival, it needs to appeal to the kids, as today’s kids are tomorrows key influencers.

I guess it pretty much work like this: Imagine for a second you are back at school. If your older brother is the 6’5″ captain of the rugby team, no one is going to mess you around. You are cool by association with them. Well now all the cars in the Nissan range have the coolest and hardest older brother around. Suddenly, people have a bit more time and respect for them.

(Nissan is a client at Staniforth but Chris Bull does not work with the brand and the views are entirely his own).  

About Chris Bull

Account Exec for Staniforth PR, based in the TBWA\ Building in Whitfield Street, London. Areas of interest include politics, the car industry and sport.

I only asked a question…

Friday, February 20th, 2009 by Jon Clements

It’s the interview, and interviewee, from hell…

A Fox news presenter tries to get some sense (and a straight answer) out of Mayor Virg Bernaro of Lansing, Michigan, whose constituents are likely to be affected by General Motors’ production cutbacks.

Frankly, neither of them come out of this well. And never has a “thank you very much” for the interview sounded quite so hollow.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Keeping the fleet on the road

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 by Jon Clements


In these tough times for business, the motor trade has had it tougher than most.

Redundancies, plants on extended shutdown, component manufacturers struggling and dealer forecourts desolate as a Spaghetti Western film set.

The Government-backed funding package for the motor industry, announced last week by business secretary, Peter Mandelson, has had a qualified welcome. Those at the front fender end of selling vehicles appeared to like the prospect of greater liquidity in the market (without access to credit, how can dealers close sales?) along with the potential for “scrappage schemes” that are already in gear elsewhere in the EU.

In the fleet motor market, companies are responding to the economic plight by holding on to contracted vehicles longer, according to the results of a Fleet Operator Attitude Survey featured in Fleet News. The survey also suggests businesses intending to negotiate hard with their leasing company on costs and keep a tight rein on fuel expenditure.

Fleet consultant, Colin Tourick, oft quoted by Fleet News, feels that deals will be hard to come by and firms should rather be looking to work with their contract hire provider to nail cost savings. And while he extols the virtues of extending replacement cycles on vehicles, it comes with issues that need to be managed – servicing, tyres and MOTs.

A spokesman for the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association told PR Media Blog: “In the current economic environment many companies are looking to extend their contract hire terms by six months or a year, giving them greater flexibility in uncertain times and saving costs, though these can sometimes be cancelled out by the greater maintenance costs associated with an older vehicle. Modern cars are very reliable so there are unlikely to be any added safety issues involved in extending the life of a fleet car by one year and 20,000 miles. There may be an issue in extending the contract of a heavily used vehicle that has already got well over 100,000 miles on the clock.”

As companies running fleets may be new to the concept of recession and extending contract lives, it provides a great opportunity to leasing companies to be the font of cost saving knowledge to fleet managers and financial directors.

The same can be said of a perennial, non-recessionary, problem: road safety.

This year will see anniversaries for the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act and Road Safety Act, respectively making it easier to prosecute companies for manslaughter following a work-related death and penalising those who cause death while using mobile phones or speeding at the wheel. And now, the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 – implemented last month – means even greater exposure to the law for fleet managers failing in their risk managment responsibilities. And with ordinary motorists getting jail sentences, how long will it be before a fleet driver implicates not only himself, but his bosses too?

The signs are not good: the RAC’s most recent Report on Motoring revealed a majority of company car drivers confessing to using mobile phones while driving (73%), driving too close to other motorists (75%) and failing to signal clearly (79%).  RAC called for better training to improve driver behaviour; could this be a place where the leasing community could help companies – already under pressure to keep their businesses afloat – manage their road risk?

The BVRLA seems to think so, commenting: “Government guidelines clearly state that an organisation is responsible for the health and safety of any employee driving a vehicle for work. We would advise anyone managing a business fleet to take this very seriously and many of our members are able to help their customers manage this risk.”

And if compliance with the law isn’t a sufficient incentive for fleets to seek the best advice, they might be swayed by improved fuel efficiency, reduced vehicle damage, downtime and wear and tear.

Looking after both drivers and vehicles is a good advert for a company which takes its duty of care seriously. Reputation is such a critical ingredient for any organisation to protect, it makes no sense to let it perish in the wake of a road accident that could have been prevented.

Update: The latest on uptake of extended vehicle leasing contracts and the problems that come with them.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Creative motor marketing

Sunday, November 9th, 2008 by Jon Clements


More than a nation of dog lovers, the British love their cars. Third largest car in the EU, 2.4m new cars registered in 2007 and 850,000 employed by the industry. But more even than cars, I’d say we love a bargain.And what a bargain online car dealer,, was offering this week: £20 grand worth of Dodge Avenger, but not just one – “buy one, get one free”.  Company MD, Simon Empson, speaking in The Guardian, couldn’t have been more understated when he said: “It’s the power of marketing, I suppose.” Amen, came the holy choir of marketeers across the UK.

Serious times call for serious measures. And those measures now include the motor industry calling directly on the Government to orchestrate a funding package to resuscitate the retail motor trade. The Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) signalled the depth of the problem back in August, when reporting that month’s sales as the worst since 1966. At the time the SMMT caught some flak from the trade for “talking down the market”, and the messages seemed confusing, as with a bi-annual registration change the old focus on comparing August sales seemed misplaced.

But the industry’s lobbyists could clearly see the stark words written in the grime of the car market’s chassis. Yet it was probably David Smith, head of major – and iconic – motor manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover, going on the Today programme that added the true weight of the motor business to helping shift interest rates south by 1.5% at the end of last week. So, with potentially more cash slushing around people’s wallets and the prospect of another publicly-funded bail out package, the car industry should be quids in. But, as the BOGOF dealer offer showed, it’s time to be innovative in marketing, with a combination of tactics to drive people through showroom doors as well as giving them a good deal. It’s also an opportunity to test drivers’ brand loyalty – if someone will try a new marque at the right price, that brand might win a new customer for life.

Talking about the situation with my father – a motor business veteran of 50 years – he was remarkably sanguine. Having seen and sold his way out of economic lows across the decades – when even some UK car makers were not just helped by the state, but owned by it – the industry, he said, would get back in gear again.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''