Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: Audi

Bringing Back The Joy Of Driving

The open road. The growl of an engine. The feel of the steering wheel. The swoosh of the wind, as the window’s down. Driving, can be, such a joy. Once you get out of the city, leave the stop lights behind, get past the highway traffic and find that stretch of road that’s smooth, with subtle curves and a gradual climb, driving becomes enjoyable.

What I’ve always loved about cars, is that there’s a car for every person and personality. Some like a smooth and quiet ride. Some like a loud and stiff ride. And some like something in between. Cars are quite personal.

My first car was a 1987, white, Toyota MR2. It was fun. So much fun. It looked like a dust buster, with angled lines and it was so light that you always wondered at which point you’d float off the ground, fly through the air and end up in the atmosphere. I drove that car hard, fast and often. Despite the limited amount of metal around me, I always felt invincible driving it. I sought opportunities to drive. You can bet, I was the first one to raise their hand to pick up milk, Chinese food takeout or to drop someone off. Driving was fun. It was a joy.

Following that first car, I’ve owned American Cars (Chevy), Japanese (Infiniti, Toyota, Suzuki), British (Jaguar) and German (BMW, Audi). They all drive differently. From their acceleration to the sound they make, a cars “birth place” instills inherent characteristics.

Despite owning some fun cars (the BMW 328i comes to mind) I never felt that sense of joy. That is until a few weeks ago. I had my 2013 Audi A4 in for service. While in service, I received an email from the dealership that inquired about my interest in trading in my car. I hadn’t really thought about it. The car was only 3 years old. It was in perfect condition (if you know me, you know how meticulous and OCD I am about cleanliness). And it was paid off.

After making the wise switch from BMW to Audi, I’ve lusted for an Audi R8, but at $120K+, it’s not in my reality. The Audi TT, though, was in the price range, but I’ve never been able to convince Nichole that it was a smart purchase (apparently 2 seats doesn’t make sense when you have 2 kids). But, the Audi A3 sedan recently came over from across the pond. It’s only been stateside for 2 model years. The A3 is a tad smaller than the A4 I had, but with a beefier engine and better weight balance. In other words, it was going to be a fun ride.

Audi A3

So, on my birthday, though I hadn’t thought about the idea of a new car, I traded in the A4 for a 2016 A3. Gray, obviously. Monsoon Gray Metallic, to be specific. The first drive was from Chicago to Deerfield. It was awkward. Getting accustomed to a new car always takes some time. Later that week, Nichole and I drove from Chicago to Minneapolis. While you don’t get the subtle curves and gradual climbs, you do get an open smooth road. What a drive. Every time, I drive the car, I enjoy the ride, more and more. There’s something about the way the A3 handles turns, accelerates and darts in and out of lanes that make it fun. No, it brings joy.

Joy. Joy in driving, means you look for opportunities to drive. You look past the potential for traffic. You seek reasons to drive places. I had forgotten how much I missed that joy. Gosh, I feel like I’m 17 again. It’s a great feeling. When you consider that the average US driver, spends nearly 40 hours a year, in traffic, shouldn’t you at least enjoy the ride?

I can’t tell you if an A3 is right for you. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to at least test drive it. Perhaps you’ll then find the joy, I’ve regained.

Friday Five – January 3, 2014

Google And Audi Likely To Announce Infotainment Partnership At CES
I’ve been saying it for nearly 2 years, but the future is mobility, not mobile. Our cars are one of the most mobile “devices” we own and yet it’s been fairly technology limited. Ford really changed that with their Microsoft Sync relationship. It was only a matter of time til someone turned your car into something that resembled your phone. If the rumors are true, it’s Audi and Google who are committing to bring you the future of mobility.

Wendy Clark: All Marketing Strategies Should Start With ‘Why’
I love this article, penned by Wendy Clark, Coke’s VP of Marketing. Brands are built over time and with relentless focus. There’s a reason Coke, as a brand, is recognized, understood and appreciated across the world. To hear Wendy explain it, it’s their focus on their mission. “In these moments, when we lead with the product (what) and not our mission (why), our decisions get smaller, our perspective less brave, our work less memorable, our world impact more limited.” Purposeful positioning matters. It gives a brand a foundation to build upon and to thrive on.

Zappos is going holacratic: no job titles, no managers, no hierarchy
It’s the kind of thing only Zappos could do AND be successful in doing. Instead of a top down hierarchy, “…there will be around 400 circles at Zappos once the rollout is complete in December 2014—and employees can have any number of roles within those circles. This way, there’s no hiding under titles; radical transparency is the goal.” I love this approach. Then again, I’ve always loved the idea of accountability. Roles are much more valuable than titles. It’s your role that enables you to feel purpose and drive impact beyond your box on an org chart.

More Than 300 Sharks In Australia Are Now On Twitter
“Government researchers have tagged 338 sharks with acoustic transmitters that monitor where the animals are. When a tagged shark is about half a mile away from a beach, it triggers a computer alert, which tweets out a message on the Surf Life Saving Western Australia Twitter feed. The tweet notes the shark’s size, breed and approximate location.” That sums it up. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Pew Internet Life Project: The 2013 Social Media Report
Always a fan of the work done by Pew. Their reports on internet/digital/social use and adoption always have me leaning forward. In their 2013 report on social media trends we see a few interesting things.

  1. If you thought Facebook was on the decline…think again.
  2. Just about everyone uses social. Ok, not everyone, but 73% of adults online. That’s significant.
  3. While Facebook isn’t on the decline, people are diversifying their time across many social networks…especially Instagram.

The full report can be found here.

As A Brand, What You Say And Do Matters

In 2009 it was time to leave Colle+McVoy and Minneapolis, all together. After looking over several options, I had things down to 2 choices:

1. MARC USA: The agency I ultimately ended up joining


2. Factory Design Labs: A great shop, based on Colorado, that had recently been awarded digital agency of record status for Audi USA.

Both, were great fits. I had made it all the way to the “final round” of the Factory Design Labs process. The final round was a visit to Audi North America’s headquarters in Virginia to meet the team, including CMO Scott Keogh. I would have been working on site at Audi’s headquarters, alongside Scott.

When you talk with Scott, you can’t help but be impressed. He’s the type of leader that attracts great talent, if only because people hope they can work hand-in-hand with Scott. In our interview we talked about a great number things. But, one specific topic of interest dominated a good 30 minutes of a 45 minute interview: BMW vs. Audi.

Scott and the Factory Design Labs team knew I was a BMW guy through and through. My love affair with BMW started when I was 9. It grew stronger every year and hit an all-time high when I started working for BMW USA’s agency of record Fallon McElligott, in Minneapolis, MN. Talk about a dream come true, I was given the opportunity to work on 2 of the brands that I had the biggest emotional connections to: Nikon and BMW.

The work done with BMW, pre-Publicis’ acquisition (still the biggest mistake IMHO, that Pat Fallon ever made), is some of the most beloved, honored, admired and revered work in the industry, ever. People in the industry often reference BMW FIlms as the type of work they want to do. Why? Because, it was bold, daring and changed the industry forever. It also helped me open many doors in the future, including the opportunity at Factory Design Labs.

It was clear to Scott, that I was a BMW guy. In the interview, we eventually got to a moment, where Scott, justifiably said, he wanted raving fans of the brand working on the brand. As a client, I want the same thing. He wanted people, for whom, Audi wasn’t a choice, but a lifestyle. He very pointedly said to me, it’s clear you have a tremendous amount of love and respect for the BMW brand; are you really willing to trade that in Audi. And by trade it in, he meant figuratively and literally; Audi/Factor Design Labs had a program that made owning an Audi very attainable and the idea you would drive a competitor’s car on to campus, was unheard of. So when Scott said “trade” he was also asking me, would I trade my BMW in for an Audi.

The answer was no. BMW was a brand for whom my emotional connection was so great, you couldn’t simply swap it out for another brand. Think about that? I essentially talked a CMO out of giving me a job. I could have lied. I could have talked about Audi’s racing heritage and philosophy of All Wheel Drive as the best way to have a great “ride.” But, that’s not me. Scott said to me, the type of love you have for BMW is the type of love we want from the people working on our brands and the type of love we want our owners to have. We parted ways and I ended up joining MARC USA.

Every creative brief, every business assessment, every analysis of a “category” eventually leads to a discussion about how to create an emotional connection. Why? Because emotional connections are generally very difficult to break. It’s very tough to break someone’s emotional connection with a brand and switch them to a competitor. It’s the emotional connection that drives consumers to make irrational decisions. Those irrational decisions generate consumer loyalty.

In the car buying business, the average consumer purchases 10 cars over their life time. That data point is based on the fact, we as car buyers purchase new cars every 5 years. I’m 33. I plan on driving til I’m 80. That means I’ll be in the market for 9 cars. That’s some serious cash, in the way of not only the car, but in services, maintenance, accessories, etc. In the luxury segment, driving this brand loyalty is even more important and much more fiercely competitive. Why? In the luxury category, there are less options and owners generally purchase a manufacturer for several years. Switching, simply, isn’t as prevalent. It’s also why there’s such a heavy emphasis on services. The services are designed to bolster retention.

That last paragraph could easily be summed up as, net-net, gaining new customers/owners is tough and people who own cars are worth a lot of money to companies. Think about it, besides a house, a car is the 2nd most expensive thing you’ll ever buy. Well, in 2007 I purchased my first BMW, a 530i. In 2009, I purchased my second, a 328i. Loved both cars. To go from admiring a brand, to working on a brand to finally owning something from that brand is a hell of an emotional experience.

Recently BMW and I had an exchange…an experience, that honestly left such a bad taste in my mouth, I ended up buying a new Audi. Yes, you read that right. To sum up the situation, last month, I sent BMW a tweet, that offered to trade a pallet of soup (that I would have purchased out of pocket) for a new 135. Now, to be clear, I didn’t expect a response. I was being cheeky. But, when BMW responded with a foursquare check-in at my office, with a picture of a 135 and the words “Yep. Now where’s the soup?” I was blown away. I was amazed. I know how difficult it is to be amazing in social. Knowing the automotive industry, like I do, I was amazed how quickly BMW was able to pull it off. I tweeted them back; no response. I direct messaged them; no response. I contacted their agency; no response.

Eventually a few weeks later a 135 model (yes a model) showed up at my office with a note thanking me for being a fan. Talk about a let down. To go from being teased with a real car to receiving a model replica was a pretty big emotional roller coaster. I was bummed. Not bummed that they didn’t fulfill on a trade. I was bummed because my expectations for the brand are high. I was bummed because there were so many other positive ways to handle the situation. I was bummed, because their team acted like they were playing in the bush leagues, not the majors.

Anyhow, a few weeks late I stumbled on to a program Audi was running called #wantanr8. It was a program birthed via a tweet from a passionate Audi fan. The link included in the last sentence gives the full overview, but to summarize, Audi grants people the ability to get behind an R8 for a day. Pretty cool. I tweeted how impressed I was with the program; especially given my first hand experience with how hard it is to scale to social. Andy White, the lead in social at Audi, reached out to me personally, to offer a thanks. From there a dialogue between the two of us started. He had read about my BMW experience and was bummed for me; it was also clear that Audi would never have played it out the way BMW did.

Candidly, I was going to be in the market for a new car next Summer. My 2007 328i was going to be out of extended warranty. The situation with BMW and the white glove treatment Andy was providing, had me considering a new car, even sooner. Once Andy knew I was in the market for a new car, he sent me a direct message asking me to sit tight and that he was working on something. I had no idea what “something” meant, but Andy had proven his credibility with me, so I knew it had to be something great. Roughly 2 weeks from receiving that tweet, I received a follow-up saying he’d been in touch with a specific dealership and a specific sales person and they were ready to provide me a VIP treatment. I had no idea what “VIP treatment” meant, but I was intrigued. Two days later I visited the Audi dealership in Cherry Hill, NJ, met with Kathleen and was blown away by the experience.

Let me cut to the chase, there was no free R8 🙂 there was no free car. But, there was a sales person and a dealership that understood my love for BMW, skepticism for any other manufacturer and realized I felt a bit burned. Inside of 30 minutes I knew the car I wanted (an A4) and the features I wanted. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the right combination of model and features at the dealership. But, they believed they could procure one from another dealer. 72 hours later, Kathleen followed up with me on her day off to tell me they found the car, secured it and if I wanted to go through with the sale, we could be ready in 48 hours. Wow. Well, I was sold. The trade-in value on my 328i was better than expected. The price they offered me for the A4 was more than fair. The incentives and bonus discounts were exceptional. It was a no-brainer.

So, last Friday, I drove my 328i for the last time. We took a drive up to the Cherry  Hill Audi dealership, where I filled out a bunch of paperwork and left the proud owner of a 2013 Audi A4. Would I have thought about purchasing an Audi next Spring/Summer when I was going to be in the market for a new car, had the situation with BMW’s social/digital team not happened? No! Would I have thought Audi, had it not been for Andy White and his tireless communication? No!

As a brand, what you say and do matters. Every touch point matters. When you connect with a consumer, you have the ability to delight and amaze or underwhelm. Audi’s understanding of this concept and BMW’s lack of understanding, have me sitting behind an A4, instead of a new 135i. If the lifetime value models are true and I’m set to buy another 9 cars between now and when I’m done driving. How much $$$ did BMW give up by simply ignoring one of their most passionate fans? Perhaps a better question, how much future $$$ did Audi earn, buy Andy simply taking a few hours to connect with me? Today, more than ever, as a brand, what you say and do matters.

Audi Goes iPhone Compatible

I’ve worked on car brands in the past. The build your own tool/section was always a heavily debated area of the site. Sure it needs to be functional, but it also needs to be sexy and sell you on the car. With the number of people using iPhones and other mobile devices you’d think car companies would start investing in their mobile presence. Audi has done a great job of reaching out to mobile users. Recently they launched two very cool, smart, and progressive features:

  1. An iPhone formatted site.  The site even lets you build your own car on the iPhone and locate a dealer
  2. An iPhone game that’s 100% free from the APP Store.  The game relies on the physics of the iPhone rather than the touch screen.
If Audi, who isn’t a market leader, can do this quickly, efficiently, and really well; then why can’t market leaders like BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes?

Audi Progress Is Beautiful

Love this new spot from Audi.  It started running at the beginning of the Olympics and has continued to run.  I love how they continue to present themselves as the alternative to Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus.  Keep in mind, that’s coming form a BMW owner.  The commercial was so good it got me to check out an Audi A4 today.  And they say TV isn’t working 🙂

Search Volume Does Not Equal Sales

Thank you Google for launching Google Insights.  To me insights is a more enhanced version of Google Trends. Google describes Insights as, “With Google Insights for Search, you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames.”

Here is what I love about this. Everyone wants to put money into search engine marketing. I’ve been in meetings where Sr. marketers have said, let’s move all of our money from X to SEM. I think it’s great that people are jumping into search, but I’ve continued to caution anyone who will listen, that they need to look before they jump. In my opinion, search volume is not an indicator, nor is it a predictor of sales.

Here is a great example of what I’m talking about. The following chart shows the change in total car sales of luxury car brands from March 2007 to March 2008.

Change in Sales Volume for Cars 2007 to 2008
Change in Sales Volume from 2007 to 2008

If we buy into the concept that search volume indicates interest, which indicates awareness, which of course drives the top of the so-called marketing funnel.  Well, if we fill the top of the funnel, then we’ll have more potential conversions.  So, even if our conversion rate stays flat, we’ll drive more sales because our opportunity pool is larger.  Make sense?

Ok, well here is a report from Google Insights that looks at the following:

  1. Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, Cadillac, Infiniti, and Acura search volume
  2. Period of Time: January 2007 – July 2008
  3. United States only
  4. Date segmented by “Automotive” category
Google Insights Search Volume for Luxury Cars
Google Insights Search Volume for Luxury Cars
I chose January 2007 because many classical marketers believe you need a period of time to be exposed, made aware, and re-exposed before you convert.  Do you notice anything strange?  BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus, have the highest search volume; or what Google calls “interest,” but some of the worst sales. How can this be?  Isn’t search the end all be all solution?
It kinda makes you rethink things a little bit, huh?  Well here is my take:
  1. Search is only part of the pie; you still need TV, print, display online advertising, etc. to drive overall site traffic
  2. The site needs to be optimized to keep the interest level high and send you to a dealer
  3. The dealer needs to close the deal
It’s literally that simple.  If 1, 2, or 3 are broken it won’t matter how high the search volume is.  Would love your thoughts!