Yes I Like Minivans

If you were to ask me a few years ago if I liked minivans, I would have looked at you like you were crazy.  There was no way you’d catch me in the stereotypical family vehicle of choice.  That was until I had 4 kids of my own and a wife that extolled the benefits of said minivan.

As luck would have it, my good friends Charlie and Elena Wollborg suggested The Suburban Collection and I connect for another one of their test drives.  Charlie and Elena drove a Cadillac SRX earlier this summer through this program and they were kind enough suggest me to Dan Boismier, head of all things digital at Suburban Collection.  I picked up the keys on Friday to a 2012 Chrysler Town and Country and had the van for our weekend trip to northern Michigan.

First things first.
The van completely suits our family’s needs.  I posted on Facebook that I liked it.  I had a friend tell me that there are other vehicles that seat 8 comfortably.  True, but what makes a van desirable for us are automatic sliding doors so the kids can easily get in and out and easily putting my 3 year old in his car seat.  The sliding doors ease the worry of my  7 year old throwing doors open without a care for the car that happens to be right next to me.  The other basic need…CARGO ROOM.  Chrysler has always had fold flat seats which also allows for more cargo room than most vans.  A family of 6 (plus a dog) is no small task to pack for and when you do, you end up bringing everything!  Being able to pack everything in the back and leave the passenger area free and clear was fantastic.

It’s the simple things.
Chrysler thought of everything.  The pull up shades on the sliding doors and rear windows.  How great it would have been to have those this summer when the sun was shining right on my kids faces on our many drives up north.  The power windows on the sliding doors!  When we went to the dancing light show near our house, it was great to be able to put down the rear windows so the kids could check it out!  And the dual DVDs.  My how those came in handy on the drive home!  Instead of all 4 kids trying to watch a single small screen, each row had a 9″ screen to watch Mary Poppins!  Even Buddy, pulled up a chair in the back and caught some of the show.

Gadgets Galore.
I like gadgets.  I like technology.  The van had both.  It’s UConnect system, synced my iPhone contacts quickly and made hands free driving easy.  I could also play the music from my phone and stream through the speakers.  Included on this vehicle was its blind zone warning system integrated into the outside rearview mirrors, a common safety function offered on many vehicles but new to me.  It made passing other cars a breeze.  We also had a navigation system to play with and SiriusXM satellite radio.  So many things to make this Town and Country a wonderful ride for 5 days.

What I think I appreciated the most was the program that Dan has started at The Suburban Collection.  This is a great social media platform for dealers to engage in the community and for those participating, a great way for them to meet local dealers in their area.  Dan Wiebelhaus and his team at Suburban Chrysler Jeep Dodge of Troy were fantastic.  They made sure I understood the vehicle before taking it for the weekend and were very welcoming when I returned it this morning.  Kudos to them and their social media test drive platform.

As for Julianne and I, Town and Country will certainly be on our consideration list when we are in market.  We had one before and loved it and I know we’d love it again.  Thanks to Dan, Dan and The Suburban Collection.  Merry Christmas!

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post.  The Suburban Collection did provide me use of the 2012 Chrysler Town & Country you see above for a 5 day test drive.  The opinions expressed here are mine and do not represent the opinions of my employer.


@TEDxDetroit 2010 Relived…Stephen Clark (@SClarkWXYZ)

Today’s TEDx Detroit 2010 moment is from birthday boy, Stephen Clark.  If you’ve been around Detroit over the last year, you’ve hopefuly heard about the #backchannel.  What simply started as a dare by Charlie Wollborg to Stephen Clark via Twitter has turned into a truly interactive newscast on WXYZ.  Stephen has changed the landscape of news by asking us, his audience, to help create the stories he covers.

As we continue to get closer to September 28th and TEDx Detroit 2011, take a look at Stephen’s talk from last year.  While you’re at it, make sure you wish him a happy birthday too!

If you haven’t applied to attend yet, make sure you do so soon!  Seats are filling up quickly!  You can apply by CLICKING HERE.

INTERVIEW: Scott Monty and the impact of social media at Ford

Today, Michael Stelzner from Social Media Examiner published an interview he did with Scott Monty.

I have been very impressed with the work Scott and his team have done over the last few years and it has certainly shown up in their vehicle sales and profits.  What I’m the most impressed with is how they have now stated emphatically that Ford will be a leader in technological innovation in the automotive industry.  Now they are opening up the Sync API to developers so that apps can be created for Ford vehicles.  Amazing.

I don’t need to state the obvious that Ford has done a lot of things right with the social web.  Fiesta Movement.  Ford Explorer (did they just redefined the new vehicle reveal and auto shows?  Um. Yes.).  Now the Focus Rally: America project.  They have successfully demonstrated what integrated paid, earned and owned media can do for a brand.

Kudos to Scott and the Ford team for a job well done.  Now it’s time for us to catch you.

I want my MTV!

Who remembers when music videos brought to life the sounds we heard on the radio?  Is MTV really Music Television anymore?  Well thanks to VEVO, music videos have grabbed my attention once again!  As marketers, we all know (for the most part) content is king and getting your content distributed on the internet is even better.

As we continue to find what content works and what content doesn’t, I wanted to share with you something I saw at the 140 Character Conference in Detroit last week.  Yesterday, Andy Grammer released his interactive video, Keep Your Head Up.  This is great way to engage your audience with your content.

Not only does encourage you to create your own version of the video, but he also partnered with Old Navy.  If you unlock the 4 different endings to the video, you receive coupons from Old Navy.  Pretty ingenious if you ask me!  So check out the video links below!  Create and share!  I’m sure Andy would appreciate it!

Keep Your Head Up Teaser

Keep Your Head Up Interactive Video

Why I Think Foursquare Matters

Over the past week, I’ve seen quite a few blogs and articles on the relevance of Foursquare and any other location based service.  Titles like Why Most Marketers Should Forgo Foursquare and The Time for Foursquare Marketing is…Later? might lead you to believe companies should wait to see if there is any benefit to these services.

These articles go on to provide statistics on the usage.  “Only 4% of U.S. online adults have ever used location-based mobile apps.”  That percentage might seem small but I would argue that although small the opportunity to lead is greater with limited risk.  My friend Gini Dietrich broke it down this way in her blog post about the location based technologies:

Worldwide, nearly 2 billion people use the Internet and, in North America, there are more than 265 million. If 4 percent use Foursquare, that’s 80 million people worldwide and nearly 11 million people in North America. If you break it down even further and say you only want to reach the 1 percent who check in at least once a week, that’s still 800,000 worldwide and 106,000 people in North America.

If it were up to me, I think a test market with the sample size of 106,000 is enough to get learnings on the best way to use these services.  There are enough ideas to test and the brand or marketer that can figure it out first (congratulate Starbucks on being one of the first) will be a step ahead of those just starting to think about it.

So why am I writing another blog post about the location-based services?  I have a personal example of why these can be an extension of a company’s marketing efforts.  Last week, I was in the process of getting a loan to buy a car at Cornerstone Community Financial.  I was there a couple of times and checked in on Foursquare eventually getting the mayorship of that branch.  As I went through my day yesterday, I received this tweet from Cornerstone telling me because I was mayor, I won a $5 gift card to Blockbuster!

This isn’t a huge deal but this is what it told me:

  • Cornerstone was paying attention to who visited their business by using the social web
  • They value their customers by rewarding them for repeat business

I’m now impressed with them and am thinking about changing banks as I listen to Julianne complain about PNC as she does our monthly budget.  (As a side note, if you go to PNC’s Twitter page, they clearly state the account is “intended for distribution only.”)  I think most of us as consumers might find even this little token of appreciation enough to think about a switch.  All this for just a check in!

The final thing I’ll leave you with is this video from Charlie Wollborg.  He talks about how Foursquare can be used to encourage others to vote.

Imagine the possibilities if you take advantage of a minuscule 4% of the online adult population.  Does it matter to you?  Is it worth the risk?

The Secret Sauce Isn’t A Big Secret

As companies continue to “test and learn” and do research on what makes a successful corporate brand page on Facebook, I’m here to tell you that I think I have the “secret sauce”.  However, before I reveal the secret, let’s first go back to when we began to use this tool which has grown to 500 million users.  Why did you jump on the Facebook bandwagon?  What was its appeal?  The most common answer I’ve heard from people was the ability to connect with friends and family.  Facebook provided us with a platform to instantly find out what was going on in the lives of people in our lives and re-connect with people we hadn’t heard from in a long time.

So what is the best strategy for a brand or company to use when managing an online community?  Go back to why we all joined Facebook in the first place.  It was to connect with people.  Now take this same strategy for your personal Facebook page and apply it to your corporate page and see what happens.  If you want to know what the people that “like” your brand want to see on a page, ask them and start a conversation.  If you want to encourage your fans to upload pictures with your product, ask them and start a conversation.  I think you get the idea.

What I am trying to provide is perspective.   If you have participated in this space long enough, most people would say that Facebook, and all the social tools for that matter, provide the platform to have real time conversation with people.  I just watched a DVD tonight that talked about peoples need to be in relationship or in community with one another.  Being in a community allows for trust to grow.  For companies, if you are trying to sell something, your customers need to trust you.  Once a company has established trust, you now have an individual (a.k.a. customer) that believes in your brand and what it stands for.

There you have it…the secret sauce.  If you really think about why you joined Facebook, it’s not really a secret.  Is it?

What Do You Know? Share it!

Something has been on my mind lately.  Well a lot of things have been on my mind but I’ll write about one of those things today.  It’s the idea of sharing, particularly with the social web.

Many of the people I interact with in this space all agree on what we, as users who are passionate about the web, need to be focusing on:  educating,  teaching, sharing information.  For many companies, they are still trying to figure out how Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like can help business and engage consumers.

I was having a conversation with Shannon Paul last night at a TweetUp for Jeff Pulver‘s 140 Conference in Detroit.  She was telling me about an idea that she had to bring downtown companies together and really begin educating everyone about how the internet and the social web can help businesses.  This is a blossoming idea…hopefully more to share on that later.

On another occasion, Jason Falls was presenting to some folks at GM and he gave us his strategy for Twitter, “Share good (stuff).”

I’m amazed at the quality of people that I’ve been able to meet because of Twitter.  Each and every one wants to make a difference and educate others.  For those of us that make a living in this space, I encourage all of you to continue with that mindset and share the good stuff.  We all know that the internet isn’t a fad.  It’s going to continue to evolve the way we communicate with each other.  We have an opportunity to continue educate people and companies and build community.

In this spirit, I wanted to remind of you what’s happening in Detroit on October 20.  The 140 Conference will be happening at The Fillmore Theatre.  This conference has the opportunity to make a lasting impact on this community.  What is the story you want to tell?  Do you know someone who has a great story?  This conference has been about how the web has promoted change for good and made a difference.  If you already have experiences on how the social web has helped you or if you’re just remotely curious, register today!  A lot can be learned at this one day event.

What do you know?  How are you going to share it?  Have a great weekend everyone!

UPDATE: I just saw that my friend Dave Murray just posted this on his blog…dare I say great minds think alike?