I have to thank the Coyne PR shop mentioned in the last post for educating me a bit on the workings of the PR biz these days. I’ve a bit of experience in the field, having done “social media” for a candidate for governor and blogging in support of the GM bailout a couple years back. My candidate lost, GM and the ‘Vette live on, and I can’t claim much credit for either. Political campaigns tend to be an entry level gig for PR hacks, but I had little interest in pursuing a career in the field and moved on… A job in a big city PR shop would interfere with riding too much!

Now Coyne has done a project for Shell and their Rotella brand of oil, which will be quite familiar to many readers as no thanks to Shell and their ad and PR hacks, Rotella has become a pretty popular motorcycle oil. Now you’d think by now that Shell or at least one of their agencies would have figured out that they have a secondary market for Rotella besides big trucks and tractors and would cater to us a bit. Nothin’ requiring a big investment, just some heavier weight (15W-50, etc.) versions of Rotella with a bit more ZDDP to protect those lifters and such. The markets already created itself, so no big promotional expense needed, and being that Shell ain’t real big in motorcycle oils, they’ve no worries about canabalizing sales of their $10 and up oils. Fat chance it’ll ever happen…

On to Mack marketing, which seems targeted at the same old mature market of urban construction and refuse operators that have been buying Macks forever. Don’t help either that Mack is owned by Volvo trucks, and darest not take any sales from the pride of Goteberg. Now the shop(s) with the Mack  account aren’t entirely dumb, and put out some fine work. But they seem totally unaware of the booms in places like the Bakken oilfield and corn belt that are sucking up new trucks as fast as they can be built and delivered. Memo to Mack: Hire ad and PR shops in a town of less than 100,000 somewhere between Peoria and Williston that can let farmers and oilfield truckers know that Mack trucks exist and can do a damn good job for them. 

Further perusing Coyne’s website, I find they’re but one of several shops working for BMW, and all they’re doing is PR for BMW’s auto show efforts this year in the U.S.. Now it takes years and decades to build a brand through consistent product and communication. Perhaps much as BMW just pulls a “team” together to design a motorcycle today, they hire “temp” PR shops to put together bits and unrelated pieces of a brand. Case in point… BMW’s short lived reentry to the U.S. diesel car market. VW has sorta figured out that diesel car buyers are a whole different demographic that largely wouldn’t even look at a gas engined VW, and markets to them specifically. BMW’s diesel car disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared on the american market, largely because BMW made no effort to let anyone know they had an under $50k Bavarian hot rod that could run quarter miles in the high 13s and get 30+ MPG. 

Amazing that such successful companies can blow their marketing so badly… But what can one expect when they hire liberal arts majors with too clean fingernails that can tolerate living in metroplexes. Then again, some companies get it right- RIM quickly figured out that deaf folks were an unexpected second market for their Blackberry and accommodated them. And some of the best PR work today is being done by young folks working for unions- for example the online campaign to save GM was orchestrated by a young woman who to my knowledge had no marketing training or prior experience, yet she and the team she lead did a great job of communicating their message that America couldn’t just let GM die. Over at the Baker’s union, an english major who worked at Hostess for over a decade is doing a great job of telling the laid off Hostess worker’s story.

And me? Maybe I should pick the candidate I least want to see win the 2016 presidential election… And volunteer to do their PR! Naw, Iowa’s a nice state to ride, but not in january when they hold the caucuses…