Saturn – how NOT to run a word of mouth campaign

The brand contract with car manufacturers and drivers is a complicated one. The cars are sold through emotional engagement, but are maintained and serviced according to pure mechanics and legal terms. MasiGuy’s complaints are complicated — but in a world talking about "lovemarks", it seems there ain’t room enough for love in the Saturn world.

So following on from yesterday’s post, I filled in the Saturn website contact us form … and got the following response (did ANYONE really read my comment? Did they check the MasiGuy’s post? And, finally, is Linda T related to Mr T (and is she going to pity me as a fool?)?

Dear Gavin,

Thank you for taking time to send us an email. We are very excited about
some of the new products we will be offering to our customers over the next
few years which provide alternative fuel options.

We appreciate your interest and have documented your comments. If we can be
of further assistance, please feel free to contact us again. You can send
another email or if you would prefer to speak with someone, our phone number
is (800) 553-6000, option 3.


Linda T.

Saturn Customer Assistance Center
SR: 1-22625549

read more | digg story

Alternative Car (the Saturn is Dead)

Portland Electric
Originally uploaded by m/a/z/e & Molliwogg.

My good friend, Tim (MasiGuy) Jackson has been doing it tough in his argument with General Motors Saturn. Those of you who frequent his blog will know him as a fun, articulate and FAIR bloke who is known for his honesty, energy and generosity. He also is the Marketing Manager for Masi Bikes, so he has a fairly good understanding of marketing, customer satisfaction and how to build deep brand experiences with consumers.

So he knows when he is at the WRONG end of the GM Saturn customer experience.

Now, the thing is, cars are NOT like other products. Apart from the purchase of a house, they are the single most expensive purchase that many of us are likely to make in our lifetimes. We invest not just our money, but our emotions and our sense of identity in these large lumps of metal … we spend hours and hours customising, caring, cleaning and driving around in our cars. They are essential ingredients in most family holidays, and the car is deeply entwined with our sense of freedom, escape and happiness — what would a roadtrip be without a car?

We also ENTRUST our cars with our own AND our family’s safety … we place our most valued people in our most valuable item. Car makers, especially those with "family cars" in their range, know this, understand it, and promote their car’s reliability, safety ratings and protection features.

Tim’s car features in many of his posts — he has a daily drive feature which includes photos from his once-beloved GM Saturn. You can often spy the very cute MasiDaughter taking a ride in the backseat — the Saturn VUE is a family car after all. But recently, the GM Saturn VUE has been featuring for entirely the wrong reasons — poor reliability, poor support, abysmal customer service AND downright dangerous mech/tech failures — all the reasons that you purchase a family car.

Tim has repeatedly contacted, talked to and blogged about his experience. He has even posted an open letter to Saturn.

It appears that there has been a HIGHLY unsatisfactory conclusion to Tim’s saga … but it wasn’t Tim who let us all know. The MasiWife has commandeered the blog to spill the beans on the frustration and bitterness that the Saturn Saga has wreaked on their family during the Christmas/New Year holiday period. Take a look … it is a sad indictment on the state of automotive customer service.

I wanted to get some background on Saturn (we don’t have GM Saturn brands here in Australia), so I did a bit of searching. It seems that they are making a big push into the ALTERNATIVE CAR category … And found this interesting PodTech video (featuring GM’s Clay Okabayashi) entitled "Following the Consumer" — it is embedded below. It is another example of where STRATEGY FAILS to connect with the WAY that the organisation carries on its day-to-day business. It is one thing to talk about the "ball being in the consumer’s court", but then turning your back on those very same consumers.

If GM is serious about delivering a competitive alternative car, it needs to address its poor customer service experience. Buying a car is not just about shipping the product, but a much LONGER commitment to the car buyer and the community. (Perhaps the first step is creating a blog to field some of the questions and to answer and engage with their long term communities — perhaps it would help avoid a car version of Dell Hell. As Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell say, "At the time, Dell did not have a corporate blog and no way to respond to the online conversations".

So what can we do?

  1. Blog it up — take a look at Tim’s site … and then contribute your view. Use the Technorati tags GM Saturn, GM Saturn Vue, MasiGuy, Bad Customer Service
  2. Drop by Tim’s blog and leave a message of support
  3. Send a message via the Saturn website
  4. Add your other ideas to the commentary here.

As the MasiWife says:

Masiguy is the most compassionate, most understanding customer service guy out there. He makes a compelling case. If they will screw him over, people, you don’t stand a chance! Don’t believe the hype. The product is crap. The service is crap.

Add your voice to the protest.


No One Cares About Your Blog

No One Cares About Your Blog
Originally uploaded by Kimblahg.

Sometimes writing can feel like a lonely and isolating chore … while at other times you can be "caught in the flow", fingers skating across the keyboard, not noticing the hours slipping by.

One of the advantages of writing a blog is that you can solicit feedback … if you are writing a book or a work of some kind, you can put it on the Internet very quickly, and get some feedback. Sure it might start with only one or two readers (like your mother and father), but hey, that’s where Picasso started too! The other main advantage to blogging for writers is that you have the chance to build a community or readers who may ACTUALLY buy your book — or even better — they may MARKET it for you.

And if it so happens, that the new year is upon us, then your readers/audience/community/parents can VOTE for your blog in a number of categories. This year’s bloggies close in a few days, so get over there quicksmart!

What are you waiting for? Stop reading and get VOTING.

Knowing Your Consumers

The tag
Originally uploaded by chuvaness.

A great lesson today in knowing your consumers and how to respond to them … found by following my nose along the rich Z-lister path.

The folks over at ExtraTasty point toward this interesting article on Goyard, the luxury goods brand that REALLY focuses on "personalised" service. It is interesting that they focus on "personalised service" rather than "customer service" or even "customer experience".

Special stripes and personal monograms can be included in your Goyard luggage/accessories when you order, but you need to KNOW where to go before even thinking about it — there are only 12 stores around the world. And you CANNOT (as far as I can see) order online. You see, the focus is on allowing customers to "feel a kind of authorship in the process".

With my interest in writing I am sure you are not surprised to see this comment pricked my ears. When I look at the elegant travel luggage it reminds me of a time when international adventuring took weeks not hours and provided time for reflection, drinking, diversion and writing (I am sure I am romanticising here). However, there is no escaping the allure of a a slow-boiling brand or the benefits of quality, prestige and access to a long tail.

With a ZERO advertising spend but 90% sales growth in its only wholly-owned boutique in Paris, the Goyard team obviously have a great handle on "non-traditional" approaches. They certainly have a story to tell — and even better — their product IS the story. I expect that this style of luggage would actually PROMPT conversation while in the act of travelling — while waiting at the carousel playing luggage roulette, in the Club waiting for a boarding call, or at the hotel checking in.

Now, that is clever.

CK Finally Shuts Up

Ck_quiet_4 David Armano was asking this week about which superhero you would be … if you could choose. There were some funny responses — my favourite was Clay over at exitcreative who wanted to be SharkMan (if there was one). So then I was looking over at CK’s blog where she informs us that she is taking a break for a while — not surprising really. You can find her ALL OVER the blogosphere at the moment.

You can seek her here. You can seek her there. That CK … you can seek her everywhere.

I guess that makes her the Scarlet Pimpernel.


What is Going on in Your Blogging Brain?

Don’t Make Me Mad :)…J/K
Originally uploaded by jcash17588.

The bloggers that I love are those that surprise me. They take me on a journey and then turn around and give me a whack (sort of like Roger von Oech’s Ball of Whacks) — mostly in a good way.

This always makes me think … about the way that I write, the things that I write about … and how it could all get better. Today I have an article over at MarketingProfs talking about the types of blogs and bloggers that I love. Check it out here.

Oh, and speaking of great writing, my alien friend, Mindblob, has a fantastic article on the homeless in Paris. It is a great documentary style post that combines insight, beautiful writing and some excellent imagery and video.



BarCamp Sydney is Go

Looks like there really is going to be a BarCamp here in Sydney in March. There are even a number of interesting presentation topics starting to appear. I was thinking of presenting a little something on digital storytelling … but thought I would get your input first — a la Russell Davies.

What do you think?

Oh, there is a BarCamp Sydney blog too. Keep upated by checking it out here.

About Beauty (please read)

  About Beauty (please read) 
  Originally uploaded by Lara Swift.

Some time ago I began writing my posts from Flickr. It allows me to find an image that matches the emotion of my post, or to create some dialogue between the text and image. I always try to find some image that will create some tension between my writing and ideas and the visual story that is being told in the photograph.

Every now and again I come across a photo that stops me in my tracks. Often, I add them to my Flickr favourites thinking that I will come back to them, but never do. But this one was a little different. It was a picture that came with a story … actually it is a picture that came with a fully-fledged conversation … follow the link under the photo to see the unabridged tale.

What I liked about this was the title (which I have kept for this post) — "About Beauty (please read)". It is a gentle request that matches the emotion of the image, and immediately prepares you for a story that starts from the photograph but rolls out into a community conversation.

Marketers often work hard to find a correlation between image and message (and sometimes we win, and sometimes we don’t). But what we often forget is to ask for permission, or to invite our audiences into the creative tension we have created. We forget, though we shouldn’t, that our art is creating stories for many that need to resonate with our audiences one heart beat at a time.