The Car, The CEO, The Chief Engineer And The Marketing Director

The CEO of a well known car brand has called a meeting for their Marketing Director and Chief Engineer. 

CEO - Thanks for coming, I want to discuss with you the growth plans for us, in particular our advertising.

Marketing Director - Cool.

CEO - There seems to be some confusion to what we are about and how we are going to grow sales.

Marketing Director - Really?

Chief Engineer - Yes, if I could jump in here. I read your latest marketing plan and I am confused somewhat as to its goals and its underlying premises.

Marketing Director - Go on.

Chief Engineer - Well, it says here  people buy things emotionally and that consumers in general act without reason and that in a product parity world, the real battleground is over emotional ownership’.

Hang on, I have the plans here. It says ‘we need to own an emotion because this is how people buy. Our goal in the coming years is to build our brand on emotional engagement as people only post rationalise decisions, they don’t actually make their decisions that way’.”

Marketing Director  - That’s right. My plans goes on more explicitly to suggest ‘that emotions of joy, optimism and love are key emotions to people’s decision making processes not reasons based on product attributes or benefits.’.

Chief Engineer - Are people not happy with our cars? What changes should we be making exactly?

Marketing Director  - No you misunderstand me. No need to change the cars at all. The feedback is very good.

Chief Engineer- Hang on a tad, what did the feedback say?

Marketing Director - Well, people say they really like our cars.

Chief Engineer - In what way?

Marketing Director  - You know, the new reversing alert system, auto engine shut off when stopping in traffic and other safety features, blah, blah, blah, but they are just post rationalising their emotional decision making.

CEO - Really, because I’d have thought that would be good news. We had the engineering team working on those things night and day for years. Are you saying that is not really why they bought the car, that these are just post rationalised by people who bought our cars?

Marketing Director - Yes, because when we asked if they’d ever consider buying our cars in the future they said yes, but only 50-55 percent of the time.

Chief Engineer - So we need to keep up or even overtake the competition by developing better cars?

Marketing Director  - No, we need to get them to love the cars, more. To have some brand stickiness.

CEO - How? Wouldn’t we do that by continually increasing the performance of the car in some way be it economy, safety, speed, styling, price and so on?

Chief Engineer - That’s the game, isn’t it? We are continually trying to reduce the tolerances on current parts which decreases costs. Which increases profits by decreasing our production costs and passing some of that saving on to our customers. Or we incorporate new technology to increase performance parameters. Which in turn benefit the customer so they know where their money is going.

Marketing Director  - What the hell is tolerance reduction?

Chief Engineer - Good question. As we get better at making component parts and fitting them together we have less waste.  So the parts last longer and in the production phase we have less waste too.  A certain percentage of parts fail to pass inspection so they have to be scrapped. If a part is scrapped we have wasted time and money.  Tolerance down is quality up and costs down. Therefore profits up. Not just that,  we compete with the competition, if our moving parts last longer, so we can guarantee them for longer.

Marketing Director  - Oh, but nobody knows about that stuff?

CEO - That is what we wanted to talk to you about. People knowing about us, is your job.

Marketing Director  - We can’t go around telling people about that sort of stuff. People don’t care about that sort of dry technical stuff.

Chief Engineer - It’s taken me most of my working life to get our cars to where they are today. I have people working here that could quite easily work at NASA, we file hundreds of patents to maintain an edge, who knows what we can do in the next decade. 

Marketing Director  - Oh, I didn’t know that.

CEO - How comes?

Marketing Director  - Nobody told it to me quite like that before.

CEO - So you’ve never walked around our plant or read our literature?

Marketing Director - Yes I have, but I don’t see what all this has to do with me. I deal with branding.

Chief Engineer and Marketing Director - Really?

Marketing Director  - Listen. I don’t want to get all defensive here, but you just don’t get it. People seek pleasure and or aversion from pain, they don’t consume for the reasons you want them to. We need to emotionally engage their herd mentality, their primitive brains with emotions.

Chief Engineer - Emotions about what?

Marketing Director  - Anything really?

CEO - What.  Anything?

Marketing Director  - Yep, we know that people buy things instinctively,not rationally. Once they feel emotionally engaged with a story that triggers the emotional part of the brain the amygdala they feel more engaged with the brand. They come to love it.

CEO - So what does that mean in terms of our next TV commercial?

Marketing Director  - Advertising needs to be an emotionally engaging story. We have some scamps done. In short it will be a story about a family that are going on holiday and have lost their luggage at the airport.  A man observing their crisis offers them somewhere to stay and drives them to his luxury home in one of our car. It closes with two families sharing a meal together. The strap line will be, Joy is other people.

Chief Engineer- Couldn’t anyone make that ad? Why are they in our car? What model is it for? Is it because of the boot size or the safety features or...?

Marketing Director  - You just dont get it. The consumer doesn’t think like that. And yes it could be for any model. This is brand not product advertising. We are engaging people emotionally. We need to become aligned with Joy. This makes it easy for people to select our cars over others. They'll love our brand.

CEO - So what happens when our competitors jump all over this emotional idea too and start chasing Joy as well?  I mean, what is stopping them?

Marketing Director  - Jesus! Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.

CEO - Seriously. So in the meantime what do I get the engineering and R& D teams to do? Are they wasting their time inventing? Right this moment the R& D team are working on reducing the cylinder capacity and increasing MPG whilst not reducing cruising speed or acceleration. We are still investigating fuel cell technology, driverless cars and much more. Should we stop?

Marketing Director  - Of course not.

CEO - Why not?

Marketing Director - People will love that stuff, makes my job easier too.

Engineer - But you said people don’t buy attributes?  And even though they say favourable things about them your view is that they’re just post rationalising.

Marketing Director - You just don’t get it do you!

CEO - That’s twice you’ve said that. Perhaps it’s time to look in the rear view mirror.


  1. It's like you were listening into one of the meetings I had last week.

  2. What did we expect? When the industry loses respect for the consumer, the next logical thing to lose respect for is the product.

    Until advertising remembers that advertising shouldn't be about advertising, we're going to be shoving our heads ever further down this rabbit hole looking for the carrot.

  3. I thought advertising was advertising?

  4. I buy a car because I need one. Not to engage with the product


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