December 31, 2008

All I Want...

I don't know if you're like me but sometimes I struggle to ask for what I really want. Instead, I like to beat about the bush. Maybe it's an Irish thing?

While I really like the idea of Giftag, the recently-launched application that allows you to pull together a registry-style wish list of things you'd like from across the web, I find myself reluctant to add things to the list for fear I'd appear greedy or demanding.

Whatever about adding low-ticket items, I can't ever see myself putting something really expensive there: "He wants what? Where does he get off asking for something like that...Does he think we're made of money?"

Nor am I too sure how I'd casually let it drop to people that I've started a list (apart from mentioning it in a blog!): "My birthday's coming up. You might like to check out my Giftag list...". No, I just can't see it. It all seems very forward.

While I was catching up on podcasts over the holidays, I heard Gary Koelling of Giftag being interviewed by Albert Maruggi in the Santa Uses Giftag! episode of the Marketing Edge and was especially taken by the generous spirit in which Giftag has been developed.

Apparently, Gary works for the Best Buy chain of stores in the US and whilst it might have been tempting to develop Giftag to include only items available through Best Buy, they took the decision to make it a universal application because (and I'm loosely paraphrasing here) 'Best Buy is a social company...if we're making the promise that we're gonna make life better for you, what advantage is there in our making it so you can only use it for Best Buy? We know full well that we're not the only place our customers shop!'

I like that! That works for me...

...although maybe Gary and his colleagues will have to develop 'AhNoYouShouldn'tHave', an Irish version of the application that somehow allows me to ask for what I really want without appearing to do so.

December 19, 2008

Naughty Or Nice?

Knowing how Santa divvies up the good stuff at Christmas, you'd think that we'd all want to be on his nice list. But I must confess to mixed feelings when I received greetings from Naughty Or Nice?, the seasonal site from Bloom and its partner agencies, that tagged me as something of a goody two-shoes and sent me the angel wings to prove it.

As word spread about the site, and more colleagues began to shower me with greetings, I found myself secretly hoping that the next one would label me just a little bit naughty. Because naughty is much more fun, isn't it?

Whilst Bloom certainly knows that the devil gets all the best lines (there's something more than a touch creepy about their resident Santa), it's something that other agencies are inclined to forget, particularly when it comes to campaigns around smoking, insurance fraud or the like. I read recently how research suggests that anti-smoking messages on cigarette packs are likely to encourage a certain proportion of teenagers to take up the 'naughty' habit.

Whilst we might like to be secretly on the side of the angels, there's a part of us that likes to be seen to break bread with the devil and his kick-ass friends.

So you can imagine my delight when one colleague finally broke the trend and put me on the naughty list.

Although I do hope that the real Santa doesn't get wind of it!

December 09, 2008

Hear My Saab Story

I haven't heard the expression 'eaten bread soon forgotten' in quite a while (it was a real favourite of my brother's when I was growing up) but I was reminded of it as I stood on the forecourt of my Saab dealer earlier in the week.

Four years ago, I bought my first new car there and was so thrilled with the experience of driving away in my brand new Saab (Imagine! My very own car, ordered in especially for me!) that I had thoughts of little else. Earlier this year, I bought there again. My experience of the brand had been very good and habit as much as anything else brought me back to the same dealership where I swapped my three-year old for another new one. Again, I only had eyes for my latest purchase and paid little attention to anything else as I sat behind the wheel and soaked up that new-car feeling.

Earlier this month, I received my notification that the car was due its first service and I duly brought it along to the same people who had sold it to me almost twelve months earlier. All went well until I asked the attendant to let me know how much it would cost to repair or replace a door-handle that had been slightly scored in a close encounter with a car-park wall. I was told that I could have an estimate but would have to pay €100, which was deductible against the final cost should I choose to have the repair or replacement made.

I couldn't believe my ears. The same people who had previously sold me two cars worth tens of thousands of euros each were charging me €100 for an estimate on the repair of my more recent purchase. For an estimate? What were they thinking?

It's not often I'm lost for words. At the same time, I'm not confrontational by nature and can be slow to speak up when an unpleasant exchange is in the offing. So I said nothing.

At least until now.

As it turned out, the mechanic who prepares the estimate was unavailable so the dealer was unable to give an estimate. I drove away in my newly-serviced car feeling newly-fleeced. No-one stood on the forecourt to wave me off but they should have done for they're unlikely to see me again.

What are Saab doing, allowing a local dealer to dent the brand in this way?

Car-makers and car-dealers who sat back and took orders in the boom times are going to have to do a little more than learn how to upsell or cross-sell (or whatever they're calling this estimate-charge) now that customers are no longer queuing up to buy.

It's a buyer's market out there and this buyer is taking his business elsewhere.

December 02, 2008

All That Glisters...

What is it with Nissan Gold Standard?

On the surface, it kind of makes sense: A network of Nissan dealers setting new standards for second-hand cars and guaranteeing "quality, reliability, excellence and peace of mind when you buy a used car". Scratch that surface however, and the shiny veneer wears thin.

Because, you see, a Nissan Gold Standard car may be a Ford. Or a Mazda. Or a Toyota.

Because Nissan don't mean a Nissan Gold Standard Nissan car. They mean any car that's been put through a "rigorous multipoint check" by a Nissan dealer.

Which means you might get a Nissan Gold Standard Toyota car or a Nissan Gold Standard Volkswagon car. Which tells us more about the standards of a Nissan dealer than it does a Nissan car.

But didn't selling cars on the basis of 'quality, reliability, excellence and peace of mind' go out with other quaint advertising gambits like promising '0 to 60 in under 6 seconds'?

And don't NCT (National Car Test) testers also put cars of a certain age through a "rigorous multipoint check" every couple of years?

So what do I get when I buy a Nissan car, new or used? The Nissan Gold Standard sells me an impressive promise of dealership. But it confuses my sense of what makes a Nissan car.

Because almost every car nowadays is sold to required standards of quality, reliability and excellence and the Nissan Gold Standard suggests that every car is somehow born equal (dangerous if you're planning to persuade a buyer on the merits of a new Nissan as against one of its competitors) or can be made equal once a Nissan dealer puts their shine on it.

But the Nissan Dealer is forgetting something that everyone else knows: All of the elbow grease in the world doesn't turn base metal to gold.