With what appears to be no end in sight to booming auto sales, carmakers are getting more and more desperate to get their names and vehicle faces in front of the consumers in as many ways as possible. But that takes money. And lots of it. The big boys - GM, Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler - shell out more than $1 billion each annually in measured media alone. The second tier of marketers - Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., American Honda Motor Co. Inc. and Nissan North America Inc. - spend an estimated $500 million to $700 million each annually via traditional media.
And nobody's slowing down. With the advent of the Internet and the huge numbers of sporting events and concerts each year, you're bound to see some sort of vehicle name on everything from movie screens to boom boxes. And the ones with the most money to spend, no matter how you try to slice it, get the cream of the crop. So, yes! Even though the product may come first, fat pockets and marketing savvy count big time as well.
Big bucks won Tiger
Take a look at Buick, for instance. Almost any carmaker with the budget would admit that it would have loved to have Tiger Woods in the house. But big bucks GM and Buick got the man. Not that anyone can believe that Tiger really would rather drive a Buick. But most any of us would drive a Buick, or any other model of vehicle, if we were paid handsomely to do it.
And the more ways you have to present your product to the public, the better chance you have of consumers at least giving you a chance. Buick is a good example. With no truck and only four cars in its family, Buick still remains among the top 10 vehicle sellers in this country, and that's counting combined car and truck sales. It's a good bet that Tiger will help improve the cause.
Which brings me to the question of the little guys who don't have that much money to spend. How in the world will they be able to survive this cutthroat world of almost every day new-vehicle introductions and in-your-face marketing? I'm talking about companies such as Subaru, Daewoo, Kia and Hyundai.
Daewoo marketers are breathing a sigh of relief that they're able to present a national TV campaign this year - the first time ever. Daewoo's estimated $30 million ad budget this year is equal to about the amount that Buick is paying Tiger Woods, alone.
Subaru's budget is pegged at between $60 million to $80 million, and Kia and Hyundai say they will spend about $100 million to advertise this year. Ford Division and Chevrolet dish out that much to introduce a single vehicle line.
Advantage: The big guys
The little guys say they have unique warranty and maintenance services. But the big guys can offer that, too. The little guys say they give you more car for the money. The big guys say that, too. The advantage goes to the big guys. They can say these things with a bigger and broader voice because they have the most money.
Marketing counts. And it's going to count even more this decade if carmakers are to make their brands stand out from the crowd.
Which brings me to the question of good old-fashioned courtesy.
I recently returned from the auto show in Geneva, Switzerland, and what impressed me maybe even more than the show itself were the residents of that city. Every cab driver, restaurant worker, shopkeeper, etc., that I met was extremely nice and professional. They did their jobs with a smile, and a tip was not expected. 'This is just my job,' one restaurant server told me.
So as automakers try to reach consumers with all of these new novel ideas, how about just practicing ways to reach the people with a smile and respect? Now that doesn't cost a dime. Not only would it improve your company's image, it wouldn't add a cent to your marketing costs.
Kathy Jackson can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]