Marketing: Where One Industry Got It Wrong

Wind farm and greenhouse gas farm, together
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Previously I had discussed the industry that got marketing and advertisement right, briefly analyzing Apple and Microsoft’s ad campaigns for their laptops and tablets. Now it’s time to take a look at the automotive world and see some flaws in how some car manufactures are marketing their vehicles and why possible buyers might not be influenced by the ads shown on television. This wasn’t always the case as car companies a few decades ago clearly stated what their product could do and it’s benefits. Technology and vehicles are at the top of the food chain when it comes necessity, and the importance of drawing in customers should be a number one priority, especially for those companies and manufactures who aren’t leading in sales.

One example, Dodge recently had an ad for the new 2014 Charger, in which it’s doing donuts off-road in dirt. Whether an owner of a Charger would actually do that to their car or not, it’s the comment the narrator makes that neither contributes any information or sense.


“We’re willing to bet, no kid ever grew up with a poster of a Passat on his bedroom wall.”

They’re correct, it’s not likely a kid had a Passat on his bedroom wall, but what does that have to do with the Charger, a car that isn’t in the same class as the Volkswagen Passat? For a potential buyer, all the person gets out of the commercial is that the Charger has 300 horsepower, 31 MPG, and that the car he or she owns will be on a poster in some kids room. The Charger has traditionally been categorized as a muscle car, but since it’s reappearance to the market in 2006, it’s now a sedan, adding a whole new dimension to what an American sports car is. With the Chevrolet Camaro also coming back a few years ago, the Ford Mustang getting a new look, and Dodge’s own Challenger, why should a potential buyer choose the Charger over any other muscle car?

In short, some benefits need to be explained in a thirty second commercial. The Charger is a sedan, meaning more seating capacity. It still gets the horsepower of a sports car, and it’s not your average luxury car, if it can even be called that. A person who wants a Passat is not likely to buy a Charger and vice-versa. This isn’t just confined to cars or big business sectors either and can reach the local business level. Everyone has certain preferences and tastes. If you know who you’re marketing to, continue advertising to people who you know will buy into your product, not the person who would prefer the Passat.

Taking a look at an older car commercial from 1996, this ad was an award recipient for BMW. There is a similar amount of words spoken, same time constraint, but a different element the car is driving in.

“Why float through life, when you can drive?”

Unlike in the Dodge Charger commercial, that quote fits the ad, and is relevant in the time that it was aired. During the mid 90’s, bigger luxury cars were referred to as “boats” because they were square-shaped similar to boxes. It was around this time in which BMW and Mercedes Benz  ushered in a new era of mid-sized luxury sedans, and 18 years later, we can look back and see what was being envisioned through this commercial.

While benefits of the car aren’t mentioned, the camera angles, the car weaving through the boats as to say it can maneuver through traffic, and the comment, “Why float through life, when you can drive?” insinuating that the BMW drives differently than it’s competitors, shows advantages to owning the vehicle. Even though BMW chose the approach of not specifically stating what its product could do, the visuals alone painted an image in the consumers mind. This car looks nice from a pedestrians point of view, it drives better than the other luxury sedans on the market, and the vehicle is smaller than it’s competitors.

Lastly, you can find many car commercials from the late 80’s through the 90’s in which the benefits, safety features, and price are clearly presented in the ad. This Nissan Altima commercial from 1993 features all three points from the list above, stating that their car has dual front air bags, front and rear crumple zones, starts under $14,000 and is a car “that could possibly save your life”.


Looking at all three ads from different car manufacturers, the same rules can be applied outside the car industry for marketing and advertising. You want to inform your customers about your product, but you also want to capture their attention through visuals. The real question is when looking at making a basic ad, do you go with the completely nonsensical approach like Dodge, find a happy medium similar to the BMW commercial, or lay the facts out about your product right in front of your customers. Combining any of the marketing strategies works too, but remember, who is most likely going to buy your product? The Charger is a beautiful car, but there is no reason to mention a non-related competitor in a completely different class.

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