Friday, September 25, 2009

Renault: Counting the brand cost

More bad news for team Renault ahead of this weekend’s Singapore F1 night race as two of its biggest sponsors quit because of the much publicised FIA ruling.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, Renault have been handed a suspended disqualification from F1 after team principal Flavio Briatore, executive director of engineering Pat Symonds and driver Nelson Piquet Jnr were found guilty of a plot to deliberately crash in last year's Singapore Grand Prix.

Renault’s principal sponsor, ING has cut short its sponsorship (which ends after the 2009 season wraps) to immediate effect. And left no room for speculation as to the reason why it has ended the association with Renault four races early.

An ING statement read:
“In light of the verdict of the World Motor Sport Council of 21 September 2009 concerning the events that occurred at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, ING will terminate the contract with Renault Formula 1 with immediate effect.”

“ING is deeply disappointed at this turn of events, especially in the context of an otherwise successful sponsorship.”

On top of this bad news, Spanish insurance firm Mutua Madrilena also announced it would end its backing calling the incident “something that can affect the image, reputation and good name of the team's sponsors.”

And added that: “The behaviour of the relevant people in the team was extraordinarily serious and compromised not only the integrity of the sport, but also the lives of spectators, drivers and circuit personnel.”

Strong but justified words from the sponsors given that the incident has been declared as the worst single piece of cheating in the history of sport by Simon Barnes of The Times (Have a read of his article he makes a solid argument for his case).

But aside from the financial cost the incident will have on Renault, the car maker stands to take a hit in another crucially important area – brand value.

Seven years ago when Renault made the investment into the incredibly expensive sport of F1, one of the goals would undoubtedly have been to grow brand value and be associated with success.

And since then it would be fair to say they have done just that through Fernando Alonso’s driving and winning.

It’s a whole different ball game now.

F1, as expensive as it is, is also a very high profile sport and the “crashgate” incident only lives to associate Renault with arrogance, cheating, and even worse still, a nonchalant view of humanity.

And it’s also a violation of the brand’s CSR policy which, like many companies, advocates transparency.

Who wants to be seen in a Renault car after this?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hope isn't a bad thing

I started Ramadan on a slightly negative note by blogging that it could be the start of bad customer service so let’s see if I can end it on a more positive note. How’s this? The 1 Malaysia campaign just might have a chance after all.

There I said it.

But before you flood my inbox with comments like “you’re an idiot” and “I don’t like you”. Please give me the chance to say that I never thought it stood a chance but I came across this story from the The Star via AP while surfing Google Reader. (Free Hari Raya plug for Google!).

A great little story from Virginia of how members of a local Synagogue suggested Muslims come and pray in their building after hearing the Muslim community was looking to rent a place for overflowing crowds during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

On Friday afternoons, the people coming to pray at this building take off their shoes, unfurl rugs to kneel on and pray in Arabic.

The ones that come Friday evenings put on yarmulkes, light candles and pray in Hebrew.

"People look to the Jewish-Muslim relationship as conflict," said All Dulles Area Muslim Society Imam Mohamed Magid, saying it's usually disputes between the two groups in the Middle East that make news.

"Here is a story that shatters the stereotype."

Magid, who grew up in Sudan, said he did not meet someone who was Jewish until after he had moved to the U.S. in his 20s, and he never imagined having such a close relationship with a rabbi.

But he said the relationship with the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation has affected him and his members.

Beyond being tolerant, the synagogue and its members have been welcoming.

Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk, who leads the Reform congregation of about 500 families, said the relationship works both ways.

"You really only get to know someone when you invite them into your home ... you learn to recognize their faces. You learn the names of their children," Nosanchuk said.

What’s the marketing angle here? Well, can we just call this a stretched example of what the 1Malaysia marketing team needs to remember – people are generally good and want to live in harmony with one another.

So 1Malaysia should forget about the outdoor advertising or any advertising for that matter until it can come up with ways to actually physically show Malaysians you are in a real way delivering the 1 promise.

It won’t be easy – I certainly don’t have any well researched concrete ideas to offer here – but it can be done one small step at a time if the right people get behind it. America finally has a black President and one who so far has done nothing to suggest he was elected based on his race.

On that note,here's wishing you all Selamat Hari Raya.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Are you adventurous enough?

Singapore Management University's Micheal Netzley was at Menara Star today to talk about
Adventures with Social Media – Lessons from Asia’s Internet.

Netzley's presentation was further proof that social media is not just a leisure activity. It is now the new media which can be used to disseminate news and market your product and services instantly. It is something to be strongly considered as a networking tool by PR agencies as means to address challenges.

He shared some case studies which showed why Facebook, Twitter and blogs should now be considered an important tool in the marketer's toolkit.

One example is the growth and success of KFC Australia Facebook campaign for Cayan Grill in June 2009.

In 48 hours KFC enlisted more than 17,500 fans to its Facebook page, which was launched on 13 June. Now they have 86 174 fans and growing.

To drive participation in the Cayan O’Clock events KFC placed advertisements specifically targeting 18 – 24 year old Facebook users who live in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane - and directed them to the fan page.

"If Facebook has more the 2 million people on it wouldn’t you want to market your product there," Netzley said. In a nutshell, he asks marketers to tap into what channel works best for your part of the globe.

"Take the best from the West but make sure you adapt to the rest," he said.

His other examples were Lenovo’s marketing strategy which answered the question – How do you position Lenovo as solution provider? And how do you keep people engaged?

The answer – "Voices of the Olympic Games 2008" campaign where 100 athletes from 25 different countries blogged to share their experience with the world. Check out the video:

Over the course of the Games, Lenovo’s Athlete Bloggers published more than 1,500 posts and received over 8,000 comments from fans around the world. “Voices” was a huge success and demonstrated the value of amplifying Olympic athletes’ real, unfiltered voices.

From here we can see the full networking power of social media to create a network or your own community, social media. Another example, when there was the 5th H1N1 case in Singapore, Netzley was shocked that it was someone from his campus. He had received the SMS at about noon while Google search had the news in the evening BUT it was Twitter which had spread the message as early as 9.30am!

And that is how you too can get the otherwise would-not-have-known news.

“If you wait for the paper, you will be the last to know,” he said However, he disagrees that traditional media is becoming irrelevant though the trend is definitely changing.

To emphasis the impact of social media, Netzley talked about his Twitter friend that he added sometime ago. Siok Siok is a filmmaker based in Singapore, and she promotes her movies using Twitter. Her recent work is called Twittamentary – a documentary where Twitter determines what goes in the documentary. How? She uses Twitter as a crowd-sourcing tool.

Excerpt from her website: What is the project about?
Siok Siok’s new film,”Twittamentary” looks at how lives connect and intersect within the Twitter community. Her new film is to be created in the open spirit of the Web. Twitter users will be invited to contribute story ideas, rich media and videos to the film. When the film is completed, it will be shared online with the Twitter community and the world at large under a Creative Commons license.

And finally I leave you with this video.

The world is changing - The funniest videos are a click away