When an ad creates demand – for your competition

I normally write about higher education but today I meander into an area of avocation – cars.  Bear with me.

It was a big gamble.  Pickups had been made of steel since, well, the Model T. But steel is heavy and a tendency toward rust makes for an unattractive rolling billboard a decade into the future.  Trucks are supposed to be tough, however, so how do you maintain that reputation while reducing weight and saving fuel through, say, an aluminum body?

You bury that tidbit in the bowels of your ads is what you do, surrounded by adjectives and qualifiers.  A “Military-grade aluminum alloy” sounds less radical than, “An aluminum body.”  Ever tried to crush a pop can? Yup, same metal – on a truck no less. Better to downplay that.

Ford’s reluctance to come right out and tell everyone about the new metal became their opponent’s opening.  Chevy trumpeted pickups made of “rolled steel” and, sensing the fear of their enemy, declared Ford’s F-150 to be flimsy.  The latest Silverado ad showed landscaping bricks dropping six feet onto a raw pickup bed, with gouges in the F-150 making the case for steel. Chevy did what Ford was reticent to do.

And the prosecution rested.

Ah, but those pesky unintended consequences.

Now, anyone who has seen this ad knows unequivocally that the F-150 shares its body composition with really expensive cars.  They see a bed liner as the answer to Chevy’s experiment, and most know that no serious landscaper would dump fragile material in such a manner.  “Many bricks were disfigured in the filming of this ad.”

The response?  “Wait, the F-150 is aluminum?  That’s awesome!”

Those who use their pickups for work are not easily swayed from their brand of choice.  While their loyalty is admirable, they are in the minority.  Most F-150s are sold to urban cowboys whose biggest load of anything will be a bed full of mulch. And so it comes as no surprise that, in the first full month this ad ran, F-150 sales were up 23%, well ahead of the Silverado and the GMC Sierra combined.

Know your customer. Know your market.

GM is expected to introduce its line of aluminum-bodied pickups later next year.