Oh, the AT&T stores also have a pic of our smarts on their wall with a guy on a cell phone standing next to it. Nothing wrong with that one unless they advertise their mobile wifi for up to 5 people with it....
Here is an excerpt from a story posted on MSNBC that may shed a little light:
In 2009, Smart sales plummeted to 14,600 units from 24,600 the previous year. And so far in 2010 sales are off another 60 percent from 2009’s dismal rate.
Now the company, a unit of Penske Automotive Group, is aiming to restart stalled sales with a reinvigorated marketing effort that puts Smart in front of the kinds of consumers who are apt to be interested.
Recognizing the need for Smart to start selling its cars rather than just taking orders from consumers, Smart has hired Jill Lajdziak, formerly general manager of GM’s Saturn division, to boost its marketing effort. With her new vice president of marketing, Kim McGill, Lajdziak has plotted a strategy of focused web and print advertising plus product placement in movies and TV shows.
For the first time, Smart is placing banner ads on car-shopping websites like Edmunds.com, kbb.com, AutoByTel.com and others. Smart is also targeting lifestyle websites that appeal to the kinds of active, environmentally concerned consumers who might be interested in buying a Smart, such as deviantART.com, said McGill. Online advertising has the advantage of making it possible to track results, she said.
“We measure the effectiveness of our marketing not only by how many people we attract but what they do after we attract them,” McGill noted.
Smart has also turned its back on traditional TV ads, instead pursuing a strategy of product placement in appropriate films and shows, such the new Katherine Heigl movie “Life as We Know It.” For the VH1 Do Something award show one winner chose to arrive in a chauffeured Smart car rather than a limo. And two reality shows will feature the car in the fall season.
The thinking behind these promotions is to plant the idea in consumers’ minds that a Smart fortwo, which sells for about $14,000 in a typical configuration, is a fun way to get around town. The same is true of Smart’s decision to reactivate the “Smart Street Team” program, which was first used in 2007 to introduce the brand to U.S. consumers.
This program puts small fleets of cars on the street in markets where consumers might be interested in trying one out for themselves. People can sit in the cars, kick tires and actually drive the fortwo to see whether they fit inside.
There was a statistic mentioned at the end of the story that should cause concern at smart. Presumably, the focus group mentioned was composed of people who have already purchased a smart:
Another issue is that customers are unfamiliar with the car’s driving dynamics, Lajdziak said.
American consumers are used to traditional automatic transmissions, but the Smart uses an automatically shifted manual transmission. If this nuance is explained to customers in advance, so that they understand what to expect, they are more understanding of the sensation. If not, they will expect the smooth acceleration of a regular automatic transmission and find the Smart’s transmission jarring, said Lajdziak.
Distaste for this has led many owners to report that they wouldn’t recommend the car to friends and don’t plan to buy another themselves, according to Art Spinella, president of CNW Research, an automotive market research group.
Only 8.1 percent of focus group participants in the New York metro area said they would buy the car again, while 19.8 percent of participants in San Francisco said they would.
Installation of a true automatic transmission would surely attract more buyers, but that’s “not in the cards,” said Lajdziak.
Focus of ad: "This car gets 41 MPG"
Typical response: "That's all?"
Is this why people really buy the car? Or is this misleading?