Last month out of sheer commitment to the job I went to Brands Hatch to test drive the new Chrysler Crossfire. Oh all right I bunked off cause it was Friday. 28K’s worth of car.
Now I’ve worked on a lot of different car brands but somehow never got the invite to go down to the track and test one to the limits. But the invititation was to do this on the skidpan at Brands Hatch – cane the thing. A Chrylsler coupe built in Stuttgart which virtually had Mercedes stamped on the tin.
Now of course the point of the whole exercise was to persuade me to buy the car. Which was where the hospitality girls came in. Their job was to get us salivating as they took us one by one in a Voyager from the grandstand down to the track. Now in the car trade no one is that bothered about whether you salivate over the cars or the women. Each apparently leads to the other. Which was why I was surprised when my hostess communicated to me the following:
- She is 8 and a half stone though the model agency (which likes to keep them one meal away from fainting) would prefer her to be 7 and a half.
- She doesn’t think being a model is that interesting which is why when people ask here what she does for a living she tells them she’s a journalist.
- Her colleague has been shortlisted in a pop band that is about to get a record deal.
- The band is one short but are trying to avoid Pop Idol rejects because they haven’t any currency beyond the show.
While she went on in this vein I was thinking about how many hours went into developing an integrated communications platform only to be wrecked by people like this. I know the brand hasn’t got deep pockets. I know many Crossfires are earmarked for which markets. I know how difficult it is to change perceptions. And here was a high cost mechanic which was supposed to be aimed at a very tightly targeted group. With a fair likelihood of success if they had successfully qualified us. And every second was a selling opportunity for the car. Only the sales staff were more interested in talking about their career opportunities elsewhere.
Now in case you think I’m being overly grumpy here let me point out. That advertising and the other mass channels can have a huge effect on populations – but it usually needs to be supplemented by tip over mechanics – which because they are one on one are relatively costly but they work. The only justification for going to all the trouble to integrated a campaign together is if it works all the way to the point of sale.And the nearer you get the more it has cost you to get the prospect that far. If the conversion is flawed then there’s not a lot of point in having the integrated campaign behind it. You may as well save your money.
Here’s a chart I put together a number of years ago but still make use of regularly to show how costs ramp up the closer you get to the point of purchase. When I work on car business – and I seem to get a lot of this kind of work, I regularly calculate how many bodies you need at each stage of the purchase pipeline to make the whole think work. And then I do my sums on how much money is allowable to get people to each stage. Here’s the very first one I did for the Honda Accord back in 1997.
All of which reminds me of a conversation with a member of the Honda team on the stand at the Motor Show. I was there with the MD of the agency to pay our respects during a whistlestop tour of the show. and she asked if we had any questions. So I asked her an easy one- “This Prelude – is it true it has 4 wheel steering?” “Yes that’s right” she said. “And what how does the car handle?” She looked stricken. “I’m sorry I can’t help you there – you see I don’t drive.” And with that off she bolted across the stand to consult with a colleague.” “Ah well” murmured the MD “Nice legs.”