Fiat forget ads. And Focus on product
There’s no better proof of the power of product to reivigorate a brand than the new Fiat 500. The Fiat story is
already a turnaround drama of Hollywoodian dimensions, with a profit of
€2 billion in 2006, compared to a loss of €1.9 billion in 2003. Now the
Fiat 500 is set to accelerate the pace of change. And don’t just take my word for it, look at what the CEO Sergio Marchionne has to say about the re-imagining of the Fiat 500 that first came out 50 years ago:
“After three cathartic years to turn around the group, this is not the
launch of a car, but the launch of Fiat.”
Product innovations like the Fiat 500 are many times more powerful than communication can ever be at driving brand transformation for several reasons:
Product innovation demands internal change
A marketing team can make a new ad, without any change inside the company whatsoever, and this is often what happens. An "image wrapper" is created to cover up a crappy product. Mc Donald’s can do all the fancy ads they want, and sponsor as many pop stars as they want, but if the plastic decor and soggy burgers stay the same, so will the brand’s image. In contrast, a breakthrough innovation like the Fiat 500 was only possible because of the seismic changes CEO Marchionne made to reduce development times, speed up decision making and re-inject some
of the company’s design verve. As the Fiat website says: "This model represents
the materialisation of a new approach to the car." Also, the product is a symbol of pride for everyone in the company, wheras advertising is the sole product of the marketing department.
Brilliant products produce brilliant PR
Paid-for brand communication is no rival for positive PR coverage of a product. Especially when you have a product as hot as the Fiat 500, which has received gushing reviews from the motoring press. Take The Times for example:
– Retro design look: "A glance at it has you smiling – this is an old friend in modern
– Safety: "More impressive still is that this baby car, aided by seven airbags, scores
the full five stars in the Euro NCAP occupant protection crash test."
-Drive: "It is a thoroughly capable and hugely enjoyable car to drive."
– Accesories: "This car is meant to be fun and in that
spirit Fiat will offer it with myriad paint jobs, trim and accessory
Products are permanent
A great TV or press ad is here, then gone. Although the growth of You Tube does give communication some chances of becoming less ephemeral. But this is still no comparison to the permanance of the product. The thousands and eventually millions of Fiat 500s will be a highly visible and highly personal dramatisation of the new Fiat brand. In the same way that the new iMac sitting on millions of desks was a long lasting symbol of the new Apple that Steve Job’s return triggered.
Great product advertise themselves
When it does come to the question of advertising, a heroic product like the Fiat 500 makes your job a whole lot easier. No need for scratching of creative heads, and days locked in deliberation. Uh, what about a photo of the product guys? It works for Dyson. And Apple. And the Nintendo Wii. And it would work for the Fiat 500 I’m sure.
To end, I have to roll out my favourite quote of all time from Robert Stephens of the Geek Squad: "Advertising is a tax for having an unremarkable product".
Here’s to remarkable products like the Fiat 500.
Fiat Group Automobiles’ new Style Centre was inaugurated today in the
presence of Fiat Vice Chairman John Elkann and CEO Sergio Marchionne.
gushed Sergio Marchionne,