Waste in Auto Marketing
Guest Post By Mike Thelen:
I received an interesting piece of “junk mail” this morning. What caught my attention and provoked me to open it was simply that it was from Honda and my Lean obsessive-ness engaged.
Now, I know Honda isn't necessarily using the TPS philosophy, but I understand that they do have their own system based on similar principles. Correct or not, that belief was the motivation that kept me from simply discarding the mail unopened. Upon opening the envelope (aside from noting it had a fancy, matte finish that added no value to the customer but surely cost more), I was immensely disappointed.
Let me begin by providing necessary background information. I live on a farm in South Dakota. It is 20 miles to the nearest population worth noting (24,000 people). It is 180 miles to any city over 100,000 people. The vast majority of people in this region of the US share the same scenario. This is also the heart of 4×4 country and it is October…less than 30 days from our first expected snowfall. People in the ‘Great Plains', as this region is described, are also more traditional in nature (conservative or down-to-earth are perhaps better definitions.)
With this in mind, I was expecting a Lean-thinking organization to gear its marketing campaign (based on the customer, right?) toward one of two factors for this region. It would focus on either the Honda Truck/SUV product line or on the excellent gas mileage of Honda cars. Which did I receive?
I thought the latter. The mailer was focused on the Honda Accord. Naturally, I scanned the materials for the infamous MPG Ratings. Instead, I found that the Accord comes with 3 engine choices delivering (motor-heads forgive me if I'm not accurate, I've already thrown the mailer away) roughly from 175 hp to 265 hp (horsepower for you non-automotive types). The mailer provided torque, performance, and other details as well. However, there wasn't one mention of fuel economy throughout several sheets of paper. The mailer did inquire as to when I may be in the market for a new vehicle. I guess that was an attempt at customer focus.
Some might say, “yeah, but you're thinking about Honda now!” when questioning the effectiveness of the marketing. However, even though I'm thinking Honda, I'm not thinking of BUYING Honda. Instead, I'm thinking about how the mailer has completely turned me AWAY from Honda since they really don't understand my needs.
Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh on Honda. After all, the “Big Three” aren't sending me junk mail. Maybe they're using that money to get them through contract negotiations, as I see the UAW has just walked out of Chrysler. Either way, waste is waste. More importantly, waste is not limited to the shop floor. In Honda's case, marketing waste will keep them from building my next vehicle (perhaps creating manufacturing waste in the process?)