30 October, 2007

The Truth about Hummers

–noun, plural truths
/ Pronunciation Key[trooth, trooths]

1. the true or actual state of a matter.

2. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like.

3. the state or character of being true.

4. an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude.

Let’s face it… the truth is subjective, which means it is based off of the perception of the individuals involved. Where one person sees good, another may see bad. Where one person sees the cup half full, the other sees it half empty. Cops will routinely tell you there are three sides to every story: Person 1, Person 2, and the truth that lies somewhere in between.

Truth in Advertising
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the following truth-in-advertising rules apply to advertisers under the Federal Trade Commission Act:

§ Advertising must be truthful and nondeceptive;
§ Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and
§ Advertisements cannot be unfair.

Remember the 1990 movie Crazy People in which Dudley Moore plays an advertising executive whose idea to write "honest" advertising copy like the following lands him in an insane asylum?

“Volvo... they're boxy, but they're safe.”
“Porsche...you can't get laid in one, but you will once you get out.”

Brutal, beautiful, in-your-face honesty is something seldom seen in today’s marketplace. The real truth, however, is that every marketer feels they are writing about their products and services—and only their products and services—when they write the words “above expectations,” “value-add,” “110%,” “better than ever,” and “Return on Investment.” But these words are so ubiquitous, they have become cliché marketing copy. So, the real meat of successful marketing these days is in the succinct delivery of a product’s or service’s features and benefits.

Enter Hummer.

Advertising Age recently reported on GM’s new Hummer campaign, which I perceive to be pure brilliance in strategy and tact (http://adage.com/article?article_id=121560). As gas prices continue to soar, there are those who say Hummers represent all that is wrong with America today. “The brand came to represent an icon for all things evil,” AdAge reports. Many argue that they are ugly, road-hogging, gas guzzling behemoths… an unnecessary and unreasonable vehicle in a time when the auto industry should be focusing on manufacturing vehicles that will make us less dependent on foreign oil. Just look at some of these blog postings:




So evil, apparently, big-time musicians don’t want to be associated with the brand (even for a LOT of money!).

To diffuse the “icon for all things evil” perception, GM’s agency Modernista (Boston) recently created a very practical, emotional, and eye-opening campaign called “Hummer Heroes.” The new campaign will feature print, television, and a new microsite dedicated to those passionate about the brand and those who have used their vehicles in times of crisis. The campaign features one Hummer owner who laments: “Nobody asked me what kind of fuel economy I was getting” when he was delivering water via Hummer to Hurricane Katrina victims in remote locations. Good point, lest we forget that an overwhelming majority of Hummer owners use their vehicle to drive to the mall or the grocery store, not to respond to crisis situations.

However, as the AdAge article so poignantly highlights, these vehicles were built for very specific purposes and have come to the rescue of many individuals in times of need. (The campaign mentions that Hummer has agreed to deliver a total of 72 vehicles to the Red Cross to help them respond to crisis situations.) To shift the focus to those vehicle attributes and uses and the unselfish actions of those who have used their vehicles in crisis situations is pure strategic genius. Kudos to Modernista’s creative team.

Not sure how many more vehicles the ad campaign will help sell, but it certainly may succeed in changing the perception of some Hummer Haters into Hummer Lovers. And, let’s face it… deep, deep down inside, I bet even the Haters have a secret desire to get behind the wheel of one of these mega-macho-machines. Having taken a test drive on one of their dealership courses, I can honestly say it’s a powerful experience (disclosure: I do not own a Hummer).

Not sure what the tagline will be for the new campaign, but if their goal is to create Hummer Lovers out of Hummer Haters, a good starting point would be “Everyone loves a Hummer.” Don’t we?

Jason Cohen, Director of Marketing

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