Is the auto industry innovativing or optimizing?

This morning, Mashable published an article about Carlos Ghosn’s recent presentation at the LeWeb conference in Paris.  During his talk, Ghosn explained that “cars have stopped being perceived as symbols of modernity.”  Mashable takes this further…

“The reason for this, he says, is due to the auto industry’s choice to focus on optimization over innovation. Optimization is all about reducing risk, while innovation is about increasing it in order to achieve the breakthrough that will push a business to the next level.”

What happened?  Has an industry that was founded on innovation gotten to comfortable and arrogant that innovation no longer needed to happen?  Instead of fighting the government on gas mileage, why not embrace the challenge and offer consumers a product that provides value?  The electric car, whether the Chevrolet Volt or Nissan Leaf, is an innovative technology.  They are solving for a real consumer need as gas prices begin to rise.

Last week, I shared a couple of videos that demonstrated how 2 other established industries could redefine themselves…newspapers and books.  How great would it be if these prototypes actually became a reality!  The technology is available TODAY!

Other countries are adopting technology at a faster rate than the United States.  Look at this infographic on cell phones and usage.  Specifically, look at the average number cell phones per person.  Notice that the U.S. isn’t even in the top 10!  Mobile is driving a  lot of the new technologies today.  My point in all of this is that if auto manufacturers took the time to innovate instead of trying to maintain a business model that is long since outdated maybe there would not be bankruptcy or the need to put everything on sale.  You could possibly develop a customer base that is as passionate as Apple!

One final thing to leave you with…I saw the following status on Facebook this morning:

Reading the auto industry media take on telematics and infotainment, all I can say is, if you think this is all about being able to say “play genre rock” to your dashboard…you don’t get it.

Technology affords so much more than that.  Wouldn’t it be great if your vehicle could be interconnected with every device you own?  Providing value instead of gimmicks?

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Get Glue…evolving the “check in”?

Location based services have been the talk of the tech community over the last year.  Foursquare, Gowalla and now Facebook Places are being adopted and used more as people get into the game.  People share their location in their Facebook profile or their Twitter stream and it’s provided another avenue for people to connect and make comments.

What I think is yet to be solved is how marketers can leverage these services to get their brands in front of people who might share some information with their networks.  This answer might be coming soon now that Get Glue has jumped into the “check in” scene.  At a high level, Get Glue allows users to “check in” to their leisure activities:

  • Watching a TV Show
  • Listening to Music
  • Reading a Book
  • Watching a Movie
  • Playing a Video Game
  • Thinking about a Topic
  • Chatting about a Celebrity
  • Drinking Wine

Now where I think brands can play is in any of the “paid media” activities like TV, Music, Movies, Games or Music.  Imagine a brand, Chevrolet for example, developing a promotion that encourages viewers to check in to the show, Glee, and watch it in it’s entirety INCLUDING the commercials for its brand?  I think there is still undiscovered opportunity here that might allow brands to get something for the millions in media dollars they spend each year.

When I watched the Super Bowl last year, I paid close attention to my Twitter stream when the commercials aired.  It was amazing to see the other game that was going on…rating the commercials.  Could Get Glue be a tool that advertisers could leverage as they continue to look for new ways get in front of consumers?  I guess we’ll find out when the first advertiser gives it a shot.

What do you think?  Would you use it?

For a great blog post about Get Glue, CLICK HERE to read Richard MacManus’ (from Read Write Web) interview with Get Glue founder, Alex Iskold.

Random Thoughts

A couple of things…

Over the last week, I’ve seen 2 really great examples of companies that are looking beyond ROI and profits to get their brands out to the public.  They are doing good in their community and allowing people to take a part in it.  Social Causes.  Volunteering.  Putting others needs before yours.  I truly believe that if we all just gave a little bit of ourselves to others, we could make such a huge difference in this world.  When I see companies that recognize this, I get really excited and want to watch how these things impact a community.  Take a look at what Starbucks is doing on Thursday, April 15th and what Chevrolet just kicked off this week.

The Big Picture, A Green Project from Starbucks

Building Diamonds and Dreams from Chevrolet, Major League Baseball and Scotts

If you’re still not convinced because you don’t there are any benefits, then check out this blog post from Tai Goodwin.  She lists 6 ways volunteering can boost your career.  These should at least get your mind thinking about doing some good in the community.

  1. It can fuel your passion
  2. You can practice new skills
  3. Volunteer your way into a potential job
  4. Volunteering is a way to expand your network
  5. Exposure to new ways of doing things
  6. You can use it as a team building experience

Topic 2:

I’ve become a huge Gary Vaynerchuk fan.  He is passionate about customer service.  That’s how he’s made his living.  Companies should think about what he’s saying and if they aren’t doing some of the things he suggests, then do them.  In the video below, he talks about how today is a “what have you done for me lately” world.  It’s not about looking at research months after a promotion.  Tools like Twitter Search or Google Alerts can give you real time information on what people are saying about your brands.  It’s up to those brands to engage in the conversation.  Check it out.

Those are my random thoughts for the day.  I’d love to hear your feedback on volunteering and what Gary Vaynerchuk said in his video.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments below.

Social Media and Social Causes

Everyone knows about the Red Cross effort to raise money for the earthquake in Haiti.  If you don’t, then you are not paying attention!  I first heard about it on Twitter and it continues to be a trending topic there.  It got me thinking again (dangerous) that social media as a communication tool is so powerful.  More importantly, when it supports a social cause like Haiti, it can be impactful enough to raise over $5 million in relief by merely texting “Haiti” to 90999.

As I’ve thought about ways to get more involved in social causes and philanthropy, I’ve met some great people that do it for a living.  For example, I met Daniel Herndon through Twitter.  His organization, Forkout, uses creative philanthropy and experiential marketing to “forkout” cash for worthy organizations.  One of his recent projects, Community First Initiative, was featured in the USA Today.  In an effort to raise money for Community First, Daniel and Darren Heil (director of Community First) lived underneath a billboard in a cargo van while providing updates via webcam and Twitter.  The goal was to raise $25,000 for CFI.  To date, they raised $18,000.  Click here to read the story.

So this week, the Washington D.C. Auto Show is going on.  Our sister brand, Chevrolet, has a display in which they are collecting donations in a Chevrolet Colorado for the Red Cross and Haiti.  In order to get the word out, many of us at GM are using Twitter and Facebook to generate the awareness and hopefully raise some significant money for the efforts by the Red Cross in Haiti.  A lot of money has been raised but the devastation to an already destitute country is unimaginable.  So if you happen to read this and are in the Washington D.C. area, please stop by and donate whatever you can spare, and while there you might as well check out the great products from  Buick, GMC, Chevrolet, and Cadillac!

Thanks for reading!