Posts by Julie Wagner - Detroit

BP can clean up its image without rebranding

bpBP station owners have reported sales declines up to 40 percent since the Gulf spill, and BP has done right by offering them cash, reductions in credit card fees and help with national advertising. Now there’s a push among BP station owners across the U.S., understandably anxious about long-term damage to the BP name, to rebrand as Amoco (the American oil company BP bought in 1998).

Proponents of the change praise Amoco as a well-known name with a great reputation. Others feel a rebrand is a big risk, given all the marketing dollars already spent creating the BP brand, and that a successful turnaround with the existing brand will have a larger impact. In my opinion, a name change isn’t needed—look at Tylenol and Exxon, which both survived PR nightmares and came out fine in the end.

Strong investment in the brand is the best way to strengthen BP long term—it would take a significantly larger investment to create familiarity and trust in a new brand. BP was a name consumers once trusted, and they want to again—and can, if the BP is managed properly. This means standing behind the brand and making decisions that demonstrate responsibility—donating a portion of gasoline sales to ongoing cleanup efforts, etc.

Photo Credit: p.Gordon

Chrysler’s ‘Regret Free Purchase’ incentive sends a negative message

Chrysler sales have not come back as strongly as the automaker had hoped, so earlier this month the company announced a summer sales event that included a 60-day “Regret Free Purchase” incentive. Customers who buy a participating Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge or Ram Truck vehicle can return it within 60 days, and Chrysler will make the first two payments. The commercial, true to the Dodge brand’s use of sophomoric humor, compares buying a Chrysler vehicle with getting married: You may regret your recent nuptials, but you’ll be happy with your Chrysler purchase; if not, return it.

General Motors, post-bankruptcy, ran a similar incentive last September, and Chrysler made a similar offer on its minivans earlier this year. I’m not a fan of marketing that uses a negative point of view to make a positive point, which puts doubt in the consumer’s mind. I might regret buying shoes I don’t need, but a car? Or is it that I might regret buying a Chrysler? The question for the consumer is whether Chrysler is the best choice right now, between the bailout, quality issues and lack of new product—why re-plant that seed of doubt?

Hyundai’s successful “Assurance” program covers owner’s payments in the event they lose their job, sending a positive message that Hyundai stands behind its products and cares about its owners. Chrysler just hopes you won’t send it back!