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Business Week reported yesterday on Motel 6’s room (brand) redesign, which has become part of CEO, Oliver Poirot’s “Phoenix Project.”

Motel 6 hardly has a reputation for good design. At best, the 47 year old chain has been heralded for simple, no-frills efficiency. At its worst, it has been the punch line of jokes about dangerous roadside love-ins…Executives wanted to revamp the chain’s decade old look…so the company turned to Britain’s Priestman Goode, which had previously designed airplane cabins for Virgin Atlantic and cruise ship berths for Norwegian Cruise Lines. Their experience, executives felt, would surely come in handy when tackling the small spaces of the standard Motel 6 room. Designers were briefed to keep construction costs low and to create rooms that could appeal to the broad cross0section of society, from tourists to traveling executives…The results are starkly different from the previous incarnation. The carpet was ripped up, and wood-effect flooring lends a pared down, spacious look. Platform beds add modernity and character. Ambient lighting has replaced old-fashioned lamps, while accent walls painted with bright bold colors give the room a style just short of hip.

Motel 6 is specifically trying to attract more and more corporate customers and it looks like they are well on their way to do that. “Last year, the company pulled in $60 million from business customers, but it forecasts $100 million next year, despite the downturn.” And, Motel 6 execs claim customers are already thrilled by the new rooms.

What a brilliant move.

At a time when everyone, even those with jobs, are making sacrifices and biting the bullet in order to save a little extra coin, Motel 6 has decided to give us MORE.

Customers will be completely caught off gaurd. Those anticipating the usual economy-style room, will be blown away. Expectations will be exceeded. Smiles will be cracked. Everyone will be delighted by the upgrade and think, “Wow, what a great deal? What a great experience. I’ll definitely be back.”

Well played, Motel 6. I never would have expected an innovative branding move from you. But you have added enormous value to your product and have taken a huge step towards creating a totally revitalized, game-changing brand experience.

“Schizophrenic behavior dilutes core brand equity. While it may help in the short term, knee-jerk reactions to the immediate environment can prove detrimental to the long-term value of the brand, especially if they don’t link up to what a brand represents or the bigger brand idea.”

Defying The Genericizing of Brands – BSI

Anyone seen this new Hyundai commercial for their new Gensis Coupe?

What struck me about the ad actually had little to do with the Hyundai brand strategy, because, for one, I don’t think Hyundai has anywhere to go but up in terms of image, and two, I think the spot actually does a pretty decent job of communicating the “fast and the furious” mentality that the sporty little race car is going for. What did bug me was the Smashing Pumpkins’ presence in it.

Is this really the association they want the public to have of their music and the people who listen to it? It’s hard for me to believe they really thought this one through, because, as a long time fan, this really turned me off.

I’ve listened to the Smashing Pumpkins, on and off, for well over ten years now, and I have never thought of them as a group that supported the reckless, street racing culture. In fact, I don’t know that I had ever put a specific label on their audience or the culture that I was a part of. And, I think that was the point…

Why, as a band (brand), would you broadcast to millions of people (by the way this was intended to be a Super Bowl spot), a VERY specific, cultural association? The strategy that I think many bands (brands) benefit from is being relatively undefined. They allow current and prospective fans and followers to cast their own feelings and experiences into the brand. Rob Walker illustrates this strategy really well in his book, Buying In. Think, Red Bull or Nike…Sure these brands have distinct personalities and associations–that is the essence of a brand, but they stay broad enough that they leave the door open for anyone to participate, or at least feel like they have the option.

Way to go, Billy Corgan, you’ve shut the door on me…your music has officially been associated with street racing punks. I never saw it coming.

Originally posted on 1.29.2009

Generally speaking, I hate all car commercials and communications, especially when it comes to trucks. I understand that most generalizations of truck buyers/drivers have them labeled as sort of the ultimate example of hyper-masculinity in America: predominantly white males, who like big “pipes,” growling engines and off-roading, or other sorts of thrill seeking antics. Why else would every form of communications for pickup trucks (up until now) show the most macho, high-energy males on the planet, driving through the most ridiculous obstacles and “testing facilities,” ever imagined? Is this really connecting with them?

Mainly, what bothers me is that I think these messages devalue the true intelligence and purpose of the men (and women) who actually NEED a truck for the work they do–belittling its complexity and importance. We live in a world of constant connectivity and “smart devices”! Have we really assumed all this time that people who drive trucks are not part of this world?

Regardless of the horrible management and lack of innovation that the Big-3 have shown over the past, well, 20 years, I have to applaud Ford for developing a product that is, in my mind, both a huge step forward in modernizing the American pickup truck, but also a brilliant way of raising the expectations for drivers and carving out a niche within the truck market for, what I’ll call, “Smart-Trucks.”

As for the communications efforts, I thought Ford nailed it. The colors, font and imagery feel rugged, yet smart. Hiring Dennis Leary as the sarcastic, “no-nonsense,” spokesperson was, again, perfect for the message. While I think, the features and functions the new truck offer speak for themselves, Leary’s delivery and the pace and timing of the text forces the viewer to engage and communicates the product and brand message powerfully. Finally, I think by choosing to not have a central character representing the truck, it allows every pickup truck driver/potential driver to easily relate to the message and project their own lives and work onto the screen, without being forced to decide whether or not they like the guy on screen–even though Mike Rowe might be one of the most likable/relateable guys on TV these days.

I don’t own a car, let alone a pickup, but, if I ever did NEED one, a Ford F-150 would be at the top of my list.