Thoughts from Ciana

February 25, 2009

Hyundai vs. Lexus, seriously??!!

Filed under: Evidence — cindeemock @ 10:27 am

I saw an ad recently that caught my attention in the new Food Network magazine. While advertising is only one form of communication, I thought this ad was an interesting example of succinct and compelling evidenced-based communications.

The ad features Hyundai’s first luxury car, the Hyundai Genesis (base price $33,000), and because most people don’t associate Hyundai’s brand with high-performance engineering or comfort, Hyundai takes a bold approach by positioning the Hyundai Genesis against Lexus, a brand synonymous with luxury automobiles. The headline reads: “Think about it. Isn’t it time someone did to Lexus what Lexus did to Mercedes?”

Whether you think Hyundai versus Lexus is a ridiculous comparison or not is irrelevant. Hyundai proceeds to make aggressive claims against “the competition” as it attempts to leap categories into the high-end, luxury market.

First of all, Hyundai doesn’t attempt to convey every feature and detail found in this new model. Its focus on performance and comfort make for succinct messages, which are steeped in proof points. Yes, this is an advertisement, but it’s a good reminder never to fill a page with dense copy. Make your point succinctly and powerfully. For example, here’s Hyundai’s message to customers who care about performance: “The Genesis will take you from zero to 60 in a head-spinning 5.7 seconds – and has more horsepower per liter than a Lexus GS 460.”

Too often, we have a tendency to list everything for fear of leaving something out. If you want your message to stick, keep it simple. Concentrate on 1-2 points that deliver the greatest value to the customer.

Next, Hyundai’s use of facts and proof points help make their claims more believable. When Hyundai describes the design engineering on the Genesis, it’s compelling: Gaps between body panels are tighter than those found on the standard-bearer for tight tolerances, the Lexus LS460” (which has a MSRP between $63,000 – $77,000!).

When describing one of its features, Hyundai cleverly cites another high-end name in an attempt to link brands: “And the Genesis cabin is among the quietest and most spacious available. It’s equipped with a Lexicon® 7.1 discrete surround sound system (shared only with the Rolls Royce Phantom).”

I hesitate to pick on high-tech companies, but ours is an industry with a propensity for meaningless jargon. If this were a technology ad, it might read something like this: “Witness the arrival of a groundbreaking new luxury automobile that delivers versatile performance and unprecedented comfort, driving future breakthroughs in next-generation luxury cars.” Yes, it’s over the top, but the point is that boastful claims without any proof points fall on deaf ears.

With this, I am reminded of William Zinsser’s sage observations on writing: “Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular construction, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.”

So as ridiculous as comparing Hyundai to Lexus may seem (and despite my lingering issues of quality and reputation), Hyundai’s messages effectively piqued my interest which brought me to Hyundai’s website.

What do you think? Are there shining (or shameful) examples of B2B or B2C messages that you’ve seen that further illustrate these points?

Note: For the full ad, see the February/March 2009 issue of Food Network magazine, pg 62.


February 17, 2009

Good (or bad) messages impact $$

Filed under: Messages — cindeemock @ 8:30 pm

Oftentimes people don’t fully realize just how important it is that their company (or product) messages or “stories” are simple, distinctive and appealing.  Sounds  intuitively obvious, but it’s not always put into practice (e.g., on websites, in collateral, etc).

Suppose you had $1,000 to spend on a charity. We posed this question to participants in a recent workshop and asked them to look at the messages from two charitable organizations’ websites and vote their dollars based on how the information is presented – not on the merits of each charity. We asked them to use this criteria:

  • Is the information easy to understand?
  • Is it compelling?
  • Is it clear how your dollars will be spent?

Charity A

URF/USA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-charity (Tax ID: 20-41181xx) founded in 2005. We are an international and grassroots Community Based Organization that exists on non-political, non-denominational, and non-sectarian principles.

Our vision is based upon bringing together all interested individuals and groups to join our efforts in ensuring that AIDS orphans, needy children and marginalized communities are empowered and reintegrated into society as we develop and maintain thriving, productive and sustainable communities.

What do you think?  This is useful information, but it reads more like a 10K (not exactly riveting stuff). Several people found Charity A’s use of formal language impersonal.

And while having a vision is good, it wasn’t obvious to everyone how their contributions would be spent  — what exactly does “…empowered and reintegrated into society as we develop and maintain thriving, productive and sustainable communities” mean?

Sometimes our natural tendency is to inflate our language to sound important. But this simply muddles the meaning and clarity of what we’re trying to express.

Let’s take a look at the other choice —

Charity B

Each night in northern Uganda, tens of thousands of terrified children leave their villages at dusk and walk to town to avoid being kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army – a brutal rebel force that has abducted more than 30,000 children to serve as soldiers and slaves in its 20-year war against the Ugandan government.

Once in captivity, boys are forced to loot and burn villages and torture and kill neighbors. Abducted girls are routinely raped and become sex slaves or “wives” of rebel commanders. Many do not survive.

We provide counseling, emotional support, food and medical care for the children who are able to flee, while working to locate their parents and arrange family reunions.

This begins like a good novel — Charity B uses the power of stories to tap into our emotions and inspire us to act.  And the third paragraph outlines how this group helps children – by providing “counseling, food and medical care,” among other things.

So, what’s the moral of this story?

Ineffective messages can impact your bottom line.

If you can’t express your value to your customer persuasively, customers will put their money elsewhere.

While these are both worthy organizations, in our most recent workshop, the $1,000 we “gave” to each participant was split this way: Charity B received $9,800, while Charity A received $3,200, based on the messages we showed them.

It’s worth repeating:

Your value proposition and messages aren’t simply marketing exercises — they can dramatically impact revenues.

So make sure you get it right (i.e., targeted, relevant, unique, & evidenced value propositions and messages) before you invest in marketing activities.


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