January 19, 2006
Detective Marketing’s Stefan Engeseth wound up on a Mitsubishi PR event this week, and was treated to a dose of experiential marketing with one of the company’s rally cars.
Rallying helped keep Mitsubishi Motors Corp. from sinking into oblivion (and, to an extent, new products such as the Colt). The company has been in disgrace and scandal at least twice in the last 10 years, from memory—its failed merger with DaimlerChrysler and an earlier scandal at its corporate level were major hits against the ﬁrm (see this link—merely the tip of the iceberg).
As reported in the Washington Post in 2004:
A raid on Mitsubishi ofﬁces ﬁve months ago yielded the evidence that exploded into one of the largest corporate scandals ever in Japan. Authorities say seized documents, and subsequent admission of fault by Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (MMC) and a spinoff, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Co., indicate that since the 1980s, the automakers systematically hid defects involving 800,000 vehicles. Among the hidden ﬂaws were defective front axles on the same type of truck as that involved in Okamoto's death.
Its failure to get economies of scale with its products have also hurt it: the Lancer Cedia, introduced in Japan in 2000, only made it to many foreign markets in 2003; similarly, its Galant, introduced in the US in 2003, is facing its ﬁrst full sales’ year in Australia in 2006.
But the rally cars were made into toys—and kids love toys. The Lancer Evolution’s appearances in video games also helped. Branding is so often about spreading the love, whether it’s giving permission for your logo to appear in a link or someone else’s blog, or letting them make a toy. In the 21st century, being overly protective and proprietary, and threatening lawyers on people, are going to work against your brand—especially in an era of citizen media and individuals steering the brand.
Mitsubishi needed to do this. After all, having a single brand to cover warplanes (reminding people of alleged misconduct against PoWs during WWII) and cars is not a good idea. Not long ago, it released a truck called the Zero Fighter. It would be, as I mentioned to Stefan, Mercedes-Benz releasing a truck called the Jewish Transporter. Given very clumsy moves like that, and scandals galore that Mitsubishi Sucks reports on, Mitsubishi needs to do what it can.
Of course, many problems would be solved if it took a My Name Is Earl approach: admit to the negative past, and make amends—then watch Red Chinese sales grow with the bad karma removed. permalink
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