I’m not so sure that GM going into talks to sell Opel and Vauxhall to PSA (PeugeotâCitroĂ«n) is that big a surprise.
We obviously hold a lot of nostalgia for these brands, and itâs only right that we perceive GM as selling its family jewels. Opel has made some great cars over the years, and Buick in China and the US, Vauxhall in the UK, and Holden in Australia rely on this division to provide it with product.
But it wasnât long ago that I said I foresaw the next Holden Commodore being a four-door booted model based on a Chinese Buick Regal thatâs on the same platform. While Iâve been proved wrong with scoop photos and inside information from journalists in the immediate term, longer-term this doesnât look so far-fetched, in a future where Peugeot owns OpelâVauxhall and GM has no choice but to consider Chinese sourcing seriously.
Therefore, GM isnât thinking that itâs selling off the family jewels, at least the GM where Chinese partner SAIC is overwhelmingly calling the shots.
What they are thinking is this: âWe should be able to develop the whole lot in China.â They werenât nostalgic over Holden, and they wonât be thrilled with the losses at Opel. Itâs willing to sacrifice it to make its own position stronger. Weâve already seen that SAIC has called it quits when it comes to British assembly at Longbridgeâthatâs now all done back in China.
Thereâs been such a massive technology transfer from the US to China over the last few years that Europe is seen as surplus by the folks in Shanghai. They have all the platforms on which they can make products globally. They may even, rightly or wrongly, think that the remaining brands can get them into Europe, even if GM had pulled its Korean-made Chevrolets out of there.
Holden can be used to westernize the product and the Australians have shown they can do it well.
Iâm not saying I agree with this, as a long-time Opel fan. I was looking forward to the new Commodores coming out of RĂŒsselsheim. The car looks the business, itâs roughly the size of the recently deleted Ford Falcon (therefore, Iâm not sure why people are so upset about its size), and the majority of buyers donât even know which set of wheels the powerâs going to. Iâve got an Astra K coming in a few months at Lucire.
What youâre going to see is GM basically being a Shanghai-run firm with China supplying global markets and the US operations kept going for their brand cachet.
In the meantime, a hypothetical PSA-run Opel will continue with the existing plans till the end of these modelsâ life cycles, then China will become the manufacturing hub for numerous markets.
SAIC already makes a load of Cadillacs, Buicks and Chevrolets for the domestic market, and theyâll want to pump them out more widely.
Theyâve also shown that they can take new GM platforms and turn them into Roewesâor old GM platforms and turn them into Baojuns.
PSA, meanwhile, with 14 per cent controlled by Chinese firm Dongfeng, will pursue a strategy of streamlining platforms and be focused more on Europe. It could pay off as cross-town rival Renault has done well with Nissan, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Dacia and AvtoVAZ, but it wonât nearly be as secure. The two French groups have been obsessed with one another for as long as I can remember, for years spending more time rivalling each other than actually coming up with what customers wanted.
Dongfeng may have to cough up more lolly and it could become a larger shareholder than the Peugeot family or the French government. But will it have the sort of geographical coverage that Renault has?
Thatâll be what PSA will be asking itself, knowing that itâs reasonably strong in Chinaâbut also realizing that it hasnât been clever at creating models that can be sold globally (the current CitroĂ«n C6, DS 5LS and the DS 6 among them, sold exclusively in China). Nevertheless, there are savings to be had, though the most obvious fear is that Opel and Vauxhall will go the way of Panhard and Talbot, brands that fell into either Peugeot or CitroĂ«nâs hands over the years and become defunct at the expense of the parent companiesâ. Is there a desire to extend the groupâs brand portfolio beyond Peugeot, CitroĂ«n, DS, the various Dongfeng lines, and the ex-Hindustan Ambassador?
The official statement is non-committal enough and gives nothing away: âPSA Group and General Motors confirm they are exploring numerous strategic initiatives aiming at improving profitability and operational efficiency, including a potential acquisition of Opel Vauxhall by PSA.
âThere can be no assurance that an agreement will be reached.â
In any case, we always said that SAIC was playing a long game. MG was a toe in the water. GM is the real deal.
Controlling GM means they can do as they please, and whatâs good for China is good for General Motors.
A week ago, Avon found an inventive way to get its brand noticed in peak-hour traffic.
I could make this about how people don’t know how to drive these days, or about the media fascination with Asian drivers when the reality does not bear this out, but let’s make it all about Avonâsince they are the ones who have actually inspired a full blog post today. To think, it could have just been on my Instagram and Tumblr and I would have let it go, since the following video is over a week old.
To be fair, as well as posting on my own platforms, I thought it would only be fair to alert Avon about it on its Facebook. In this age of transparency, it’s not good to talk behind someone’s back. I would have used the website advertised on the side of this Mazda (avon.co.nz), but the below is all I get. (You can try it yourself here.) I told Avon about this, too. They need to know one of their people is a dangerous, inconsiderate, and selfish driver who is ignorant of basic New Zealand road rules, namely how a give-way sign works and how to change lanes. And if I were in their shoes, I’d want to know that the URL emblazoned in large letters on the side of my fleet of cars is wrong.
It was ignored for a while, now my post is deleted.
Immediately I had these five thoughts.
1. Its brand isn’t that great. When you’re starting from a poor position, the best thing to do is try to work harder. As a network marketer, Avon can’t afford to have an office that doesn’t deal with complaints. I might even be a customer. In any case, I’m part of the audienceâand these days, we can affect a brand as much as the official channels. For instance, this post.
2. In the 2000s and 2010s, social media are seen as channels through which we can communicate with organizations. Going against this affects your brand. (There’s a great piece in the Journal of Digital and Social Media Marketing, vol. 3, no. 1 that I penned. Avon would do well to read this and integrate social media marketing into its operations.)
3. If you’re an Avon rep and you know that the AustraliaâNew Zealand operation ignores people, then what support do you think you can count on? My post will have been seen by many people, and a follow-up one todayâinforming them it’s poor form to delete commentsâwill be seen by more. It discourages more than customersâits distributors surely will think twice. (I’m also looking at you, Kaspersky. Another firm to avoid.)
4. Advertising your website in large letters and have it not work is a major no-noâit contributes to the image I (and no doubt others) have on Avon as, well, a bit amateur.
5. This is a US firm. If you’re an exporter, isn’t now a really good time to show that you care about your overseas operations? Nation brands impact on corporate ones. Now I’m beginning to wonder if Avon might not be that interested in overseas sales any more. Their new president, with his stated views on free trade, has said in his inauguration speech that they need to ‘buy American’ and ‘hire American.’ Let’s delete stuff from foreigners!
The question I have now is: wouldn’t it have been easier to apologize for its representative’s inability to drive safely, and thank me for telling them their website is dead so they can get it fixed? The video contains the registration number, so Avon could have had a word to their rep.
This is all Marketing 101, yet Avon seems to have failed to grasp the basics. I guess the folks who flunked marketing at university found jobs after all.
For the second time in two months, I found myself announcing to the members of Medinge Group another passing: that of my good friend Tim Kitchin.
Tim passed away over the weekend, and leaves behind three kids.
I always admired Timâs point of view, his depth of thinking, and his generosity of spirit.
I remember Tim taking notes at my first Medinge meeting in 2002: he drew mind maps. None of this line-by-line stuff. And they worked tremendously well for him.
His brain had a capacity to process arguments and get to the core incredibly quickly, from where he could form a robust analysis of the issues.
But never at any point did Tim use this massive intellect to debase or humour anyone. He used it to better any situation with a reasoned and restrained approach.
Whenever he commented, he did so profoundly. Tim could get across in very few words some complex arguments, or at least open the door to your own thinking and analysis.
In 2003, Tim was one of the authors of Beyond Branding, with a chapter on sustainability (âBrand Sustainability: Itâs about Life âŠ or Deathâ). Note the year: he was writing about sustainability before some of todayâs experts began thinking about it. Prior to that he had co-authored Managing Corporate Reputations (2001).
He wrote a chapter summary for Beyond Branding, which began, âImagine the life of the earth as a single day. In the last 400th of a second of that day we have directly altered 47% of the earthâs land area in the name of commerce and agriculture, but even so, 900 million people are still malnourished, 1.2 billion lack clean water and 2 billion have no access to sanitation.
âWe cannot take it for granted that governments will suddenly acquire the clarity[,] insight and commonality of belief to see a process of renovation to its end. Unless we accept our joint and several liability for this future and begin to address the sustainability of all human systems, we stand little chance of tackling the most complex system of allâour symbiosis with spaceship earth âŠ destination unknown âŠ arrival time yet to be announced.
âAgainst this apocalyptic backdrop, how does a 60 year-old global CEO promise a bright future and possibly a pension to his 16 year-old apprentice, or any future at all to the ten year-old enslaved employees of his suppliersâ?
âHow does he create a sustainable future for his organisation and those to whom it has made explicit or implicit promises? He must start by building a sustainable brand.â
You can see the sort of thinking Tim exhibited in the above, and as I got older the more I realized how ahead of the curve he was. The problems that he writes about remain pressing, and his solutions remain relevant. Presented in language we can all understand, they introduce complex models, much like his mind maps.
He had a real love of his work and a belief that organizations could be humanistic and help others.
He certainly lived this belief. Tim was with us at Medinge till the end of 2014, and went on to other projects, including directing Copper, a digital fund-raising and marketing agency. He was also helpful to a Kiwi friend of mine who arrived in the UK in 2016âTim was generous to a fault.
With the world in such confusing turmoil, Tim still sought solutions to make sense of it all and posted to social media regularly.
And despite whatever he was going through himself, he had a real and constant love for his children.
Tim had an enduring spirituality and he believed in an afterlife, so if heâs right, Iâll catch up with him at some stage. By then hopefully weâll have made a little bit more sense of this planet. As with Thomas, who passed away in December (in Timâs words, âHorrid news to end a horrid yearâ), Iâll miss him heaps and the world will be far poorer without him.
PS.: I have the details of Tim’s service and burial from a mutual friend, Peter Massey.
As I guessed, it will be at All Saints’ Church in Biddenden (TN27 8AJ). The date and time are Thursday, February 2 at 2 p.m.
There will be a reception afterwards at the Bull in Benenden (TN17 4DE).
Nearest train stations are Headcorn and Staplehurst on the line from Charing Cross, Waterloo East and London Bridge. Local taxi firm MTC is on +44 1622 890-003.
Peter has offered help with travel and accommodation (via Facebook) so I can relay messages if need be. He has posted on Tim’s Facebook wall if any of you are connected there.âJY
Tonight, I had the sad and solemn duty to announce publicly the passing of my friend Thomas Gad.
Iâm still waiting for someone to come out and tell me that I have been severely pranked.
Thomas was the founder of what we now call Medinge Group. After working for 17 years at Grey Advertising as an international creative director, Thomas set up Brandflight, a leading branding consultancy HQed in Stockholm. He authored 4-D Branding, Managing Brand Me (with his wife, Annette Rosencreutz), and, most recently, Customer Experience Branding.
In 2000, Thomas seized on an idea: why not gather a bunch of leading brand practitioners at Annetteâs familyâs villa at Medinge, three hours west of Stockholm, for a bit of R&R, where they could all discuss ideas around the profession?
Nicholas Ind was one of the people at that first meeting. In a statement tonight, Nick wrote, âI first met Thomas when I was working in Stockholm in 2000âhe invited me to join him at Medinge in the Swedish countryside to talk about branding. So began a professional and personal relationship that was truly fulfilling. Thomas, and his wife Annette, hosted the annual meetings we had at his house every summer after that with unrivalled generosity. My strongest recollection of those days is not the debates we had or flying with Thomas in his sea plane (even though those are also memorable), but Thomas and Annette sitting at the dinner table in the evenings singing songs, telling jokes and bringing everyone together. Thomas was exceptional in the way he made everyone feel welcome and valued in the groupâhe will be deeply missed.â
I came on the scene in 2002, invited by Chris Macrae. The event had become international the year before. Thomas and Annette made me feel incredibly at home at Medinge, and we had an incredibly productive meeting. He had taught me to sing ‘Helan gĂ„r’, for no Swedish gathering is complete without a drinking song.
At the same meeting, I met Ian Ryder, who wrote, âAs a founding member, and now Honorary Life Member, of Medinge Group I couldn’t possibly let such a sad announcement pass without observation. Thomas was a really bright, intellectually and socially, human being who I first met at the inaugural pre-Medinge group meeting in Amsterdam sixteen years ago. Little did we know then that our band of open-minded, globally experienced brand experts would develop into a superb think-tank based out of Thomas’s home in Medinge, Sweden.
âFor many years he and his lovely wife, Annette, hosted with a big heart, the annual gathering at which he played fabulous host to those of us who made it there. A larger-than-life, clever and successful professional, Thomas will be sorely missed by all those lucky enough to have known him.’
By the end of the summer 2002 meeting we had some principles around branding, the idea for a book (which became Beyond Branding), and a desire to formalize ourselves into an organization. The meeting at Medinge would soon become the Medinge Group (the definite article was part of our original name), and we had come to represent brands with a conscience: the idea that brands could do good, and that business could be humane and humanistic. This came about in an environment of real change: Enron, which had been given awards for supposedly doing good, had been exposed as fraudulent; there was a generation of media-savvy young people who could see through the BS and were voting and buying based on causes they supported; and inequality was on the rise, something that the late Economist editor, Norman Macrae (Chrisâs Dad) even then called humankindâs most pressing concern. If everything is a product of its time, then that was true of us; and the issues that we care about the most are still with us, and changes to the way we do business are needed more now than ever.
This is Thomasâs legacy: Medinge Group is an incorporated company with far more members worldwide, holding two meetings per annum: the annual summer retreat in Sweden, and a public event every spring, with the next in Sevilla. The public events, and the Brands with a Conscience awards held in the 2000s, came about during Stanley Mossâs time as CEO. Stanley wrote this morning, âThomas brought his vision and resources to the foundation of Medinge, and served as a critical voice in the international movement for humanistic brands.â We continue today to spread that vision.
We have now been robbed far too early of two of our talents: Colin Morley, in the 7-7 bombings in London in 2005; and, now, Thomas, taken by cancer at age 65. My thoughts go to Annette and to the entire family.
The trouble with the graphic is that the only thing it got right was that two women were killed. Sweden wasnât having a referendum on whether to leave the EU, it was about whether it should adopt the euro. The closest British parallel would have been when then-PM John Major negotiated the Maastricht opt-out in 1991. It also claimed that the polls were for leaving; notwithstanding that that wasnât what the Swedes were voting for, the polls for and against adopting the euro were roughly neck in neck, though the wisdom was that the pro-euro camp would win. By the weekend, the result was that Sweden would keep the krona.
When I argued with some pro-Brexiters about this, they, like most pecksniffians, demanded I check my facts. I didnât have to: I have a memory that goes back further than one month, and unlike them, I know what went on in their own backyard because, in 2003, I kept my eyes open.
I should point out that I am not summarizing all Brexiters as dimwitted Britons who wanted Johnny Foreigner to go home. I count among my closest friends someone who voted leave, and for very substantial, well thought-out reasons. He felt that the European Union had become an unwieldy bureaucracy which benefited Britain little, and while I felt the benefits outweighed the detriments, I respect his opinion and his vote. At least it was considered, and at least it wasnât one that was based on the ramblings and rants of Farage, Johnson, Gove et al.
Appealing to nationalism, as the likes of Farage did, is a cheap trick in politics: it stirs a wave of nostalgia, and people might love chanting at how great their nation is, but it doesnât address the core issues that put them into the poo to begin with. Of course the UK has a great deal to be proud of; but like many countries (including ours) the globalist technocratic agenda are what have made things untenable for a growing part of the population. Itâs why real wages havenât risen yet certain corporations profit aplenty; itâs why we work more hours today than we ever did, despite futurists of a generation ago predicting all this leisure time that we would all have thanks to automation.
But is retreat the right thing to do? The remain camp believes that it wasnât: to influence Europe you must be in Europe. It wasnât that long ago that not being in Europe was fatal to British exportsâthe failure of the British motor industry, for instance, was in part due to its late recognition that the UK needed to be part of the EEC or, at least, produce vehicles there. Globalizationâs positives should be the free movement of people and of capital; and economic union to permit that greater freedom seems a sensible thing to pursue, not to run away from. The trick is how to make this work for everyday people, the growing number who are impacted by globalist forces; once there were few, now few escape them. It is, then, the role of government to either protect those who are most vulnerable, to champion (either through private enterprise or on its own accord) real innovation and industry that can create jobs, and to cut through the BS where both public and private enterprise simply reinvent the wheel from time to time, putting lipstick on the bulldog.
I am ambivalent about it because Iâve seen our own governments, National and Labour, be particularly weak when it comes to dealing with globalization, succumbing to foreign takeovers and allowing the little guy to be run over. The deals havenât been good for New Zealand in many respects, a small country that believes in its place in the first world but which can be deluded about this very fact. Our economy just isnât that solid to take it on the chin. Look at our banks, mostly foreign-owned and more unreliable than ever: remember how 40 years ago cheques would take 24 hours to clear? Yet now our computerized systems take three to five working days? Insiders tell me this is the consequence of less reliable Australian systems being foisted upon us; so much so that we have a wire transfer that has been taking weeks, and no one knows where the money has gone. Just how do you misplace tens of thousands of dollars? Why do we assume Australian bankers are smart enough to answer? And those who question such agenda donât get much truck in a media landscape also dominated by foreigners: Iâm looking at one newspaper publishing group at the least. The ways of the big countries are not always the bestâyet somehow the powers-that-be in this country have been hoodwinked by this consistently since 1984. I can’t understand it, and my initial reaction when there is such a lack of logic is to follow the money.
Brexit has made me refine my thinking: I might not like a system where New Zealandâs the little player that doesnât benefit from a level playing field, but at the same time I believe we need to find ways to influence the globalist game for the better. We love looking at Scandinavian countries because of their comparable size. They may have higher taxes but at the same time they donât seem to balk at innovation for the greater good; they believe in the freedom of movement of capital and of people, and, despite their general humility, they actually arenât afraid of creating global companies that take on the rest of the world. Look at Vattenfall or Statoil. We might not like Statoil for what it wants to do to our own environment, but we do have to ask what our equivalent is. We lost our lead in hybrid cars, which we held for most of the 1980s, but itâs an example of what we can do when government and private enterprise cooperate on something that is future-oriented. Whatâs the next big thing? Is it renewable energy tech that we can export? There are companies here already doing frictionless exports, and more need to be encouraged. Government shouldnât try to create groups of them or force mergers upon them; that can be left to the market. But there needs to be a vision or a direction that we take to create a new brand for our country where people naturally think: innovation for the greater good = New Zealand. And, maybe, to go with that, a fairer version of globalization can emerge, certainly one that is not coloured by the next quarterly result demanded by Wall Street.
Yes, there is some national fervour involved here, too, but applied correctly, it wonât be false flag-waving thatâs dependent on the past. Iâm all for being proud of your country when the victories are real and measurableâlike on the sporting field. There itâs real, and itâs often about the next game or the next season: itâs future-oriented, too. With Brexit, I canât see the vision; and the most visible foreigner among this, the Turkish-American politician, Boris Johnson, hasnât communicated one that I can discern.
And maybe this confusion is the opportunity we need for New Zealand.
After the UK abandoned the Commonwealth markets in favour of one right next door, our country found new export markets, so much so that the UK accounts for 3 per cent today. Even in 1973, when it was 40 per cent, it had been falling consistently for half a decade, if I recall correctly, and the notion that Britain would reach back out toward the Empah for trade is fanciful at best.
Being someone who has enjoyed looking at world history play out through maps, ever since I discovered a book on the subject as a third former at Rongotai College, it hasnât escaped my thoughts that this is a further retreat for the UK in terms of its global influence.
So whoâs on the rise? It might be us. The centre of the global economy has been shifting eastward in recent times and weâre well placed to take advantage of it. Weâre part of the Anglosphere so we bridge the past, where it was the dominant global culture, with those trading partners who might be on the horizon. But it has to be real. Weâre nimble enough, and I canât see why weâve been so fascinated with apeing the US and the UK for so long. Once again we need to set our own direction: we have a culture thatâs ready for it with a greater sense of identity than weâve ever had. I just wonder if we have a government, local or national, courageous enough to embark on this.
Above: The Mitsubishi eK Wagon, one of the cars at the centre of the company’s latest scandal.
One thing about creating and running Autocade is that you gain an appreciation for corporate history. Recently, I blogged about Fiat, and the troubles the company is in; it wasnât that long ago that Fiat was the designersâ darling, the company known for creating incredibly stylish vehicles for all its brands and showing how you could use Italian flair to generate sales.
That was the 1990s; by the turn of the century, Fiat had lost some of its mojo, and by the time I got to Milano in the early 2000s, the taxi ranks had plenty of German and French cars. Once upon a time, they would have been nearly exclusively Italian. Today, a lot of Fiatâs range is either made by, or on platforms shared with, Ford, GM, Chrysler (which it now owns), Peugeot, Mitsubishi and Mazda. Sharing platforms isnât a sin, but a necessity, but Fiat seems to have taken it to a new level, looking like a OEM brand whose logo is freely slapped on othersâ products.
Mitsubishi is the other car company to find itself in trouble in recent weeks. The company admitted that it had lied about the fuel economy figures for its kei cars, the micro-cars that it sells predominantly in Japan.
It wasnât as troublesome as Volkswagenâs defeat device which fooled the US EPA, running differently when it knew the engine was being tested. Mitsubishi kept things simple, and overinflated tyre pressures.
It would have got away with it, too, if it werenât for Nissan, a company to which Mitsubishi supplied, under an OEM deal, kei cars. The customer started to ask questions and tested the cars for itself.
Mitsubishi had supplied 468,000 cars to Nissan, all of which are affected. It had only sold 157,000 under its own marque. Production of the cars, from the eK range, and the OEM equivalent for Nissan, the Dayz, is now suspended, while Mitsubishiâs shares plunged 15 per cent on the news last week. Sankei, the Japanese newspaper, believes that Mitsubishi used the wrong test method on the I-MIEV electric car, RVR (ASX), Outlander, and Pajero, which are exported.
You have to wonder what the corporate culture must be like for these matters to recur so regularly. But then, collectively, people tend to forget very rapidly, and companies like Volkswagen and Mitsubishi must bank on these.
VW isnât the first to cheat the EPAâUS car makers have attempted less sophisticated defeat devices in the latter half of the 20th centuryâthough it has had a chequered past. Just over 10 years ago, there was a scandal involving VW colluding with a union leader to keep wage demands down, and a few low-level employees took the rap. Go back to the 1980s and the company found itself in a foreign exchange scandal. But these were known mainly among specialist circles, principally those following car industry news.
Mitsubishiâs scandals, meanwhile, were more severe in terms of the headlines generated. Last decade, when the media called Mitsubishi Japanâs fourth-largest car makerâthese days they call it the sixthâthe company was implicated in a cover-up over the safety of its vehicles. Japanese authorities raided the company in 2004, and revealed that Mitsubishi Motors Corp. hid defects that affected 800,000 vehicles, and had done so since 1977. Nearly a million vehicles were recalled. Affected vehicles were sold domestically as well as in Europe and Asia. Top execs were arrested that time, including the company president, although it was hard under Japanese law to punish Mitsubishi severely. There was no disincentive to conducting business as usual. The company was ultimately bailed out by its parent, the giant Mitsubishi Group, when it found itself facing potential bankruptcy.
People were killed as a result of Mitsubishiâs cover-ups, and at the time it was considered one of the biggest corporate scandals in Japan.
Go back a bit further and Mitsubishi Materials Corp., a related company, had used slave labour in World War II, including US troopsâsomething the company did not apologize for till 2015, even though the Japanese government itself had issued apologies in 2009 and 2010. While it was a first among Japanese corporations, and US POWs got what they had long awaited, descendants of Chinese slave labourers still have a lawsuit pending against a connected Mitsubishi subsidiary.
The other major difference between Volkswagen and Mitsubishi is that the Japanese marque is relatively weak in terms of covering its market segments. Itâs SUV- and truck-heavy, and its kei cars had sold well (till now), but it has little in the passenger car segments, which it had once fielded strongly. The Mirage (and the booted Attrage) and the Galant Fortis (exported as the Lancer to many markets) are whatâs left: the latter is now nine years old, though still fairly competitive, and in desperate need of replacement. Its only other car is its Taiwan-only Colt Plus, still selling there as an entry-level model despite having been withdrawn from every other market. In the big-car segments, Mitsubishi is actually supplied by Nissan in Japan, but doesnât make its own any more. âSixth-largestâ is shorthand for third-smallest, at least among the big Japanese car companies.
Mitsubishi looks set to quit the C-segment (Galant Fortis) since neither Renault nor Nissan, which it had approached, wanted a tie-up. And the company survives on tie-ups for economies of scale, and thereâs now a big question mark over whether potential partners want to work with it. Automotive Newsâs Hans Greimel questions whether the MitsubishiâFiat truck deal will go ahead (though I had thought it was an inked fait accompli).
But, most seriously, Mitsubishi hasnât completely recovered from its earlier scandal.
It is within living memory, and the timing and nature of the latest one, tying so closely to what rocked Volkswagen, ensured that it would get global press again, even if the bulk of the affected cars were only sold domestically. And when consumers see a pattern, they begin wondering if thereâs a toxic corporate culture at play here.
Weâre too connected in 2016 not to know, and while Mitsubishi is likely to be bailed out again, it will face the prospect of shrinking car salesâand sooner or later one will have to question whether the company will stay in the passenger-car business. Isuzu exited in the 1990s, focusing on SUVs, pick-ups and heavy trucks, forced by an economic downturn. Since Mitsubishiâs own portfolio is looking similarly weighted, it wouldnât surprise me if it chose to follow suit, its brand too tarnished, with too little brand equity, to continue.
Above: Facebook’s latest move: ensuring that notifications for messages go to its own app. If you choose not to install it, tough. (Actually, you can reach your messages if you had bookmarked your old message index, and through some digging you can still get there. However, your old habit of clicking on the number won’t work any more.)
I notice that Facebook has dropped to third in Alexa this week, but none of the tech press has covered it.
I know the usual arguments: Alexa isn’t the best way of measuring audience stats; everyone (including us) has dropped because of the way Firefox has changed its status bar, thereby omitting a lot of users from its sample; Facebook itself will have recorded no real drop in user numbers (though we also know a lot of these so-called active users are bots and spammers, as we see heaps each day); and that Alexa doesn’t capture mobile data, where people are spending far more time these days.
It does seem rather hypocritical, however, given that the same tech press applauded and wrote heaps of articles when Facebook overtook Google in Alexa. Some hailed it as the rise and rise of Facebook. There were tones of how unassailable it had become.
However, its number-one position was remarkably fleeting and it quickly dropped back to second, where it has been for years, apart from that one blip.
Facebook’s position has been usurped by Google’s YouTube. I make no predictions on whether this is fleeting or not, but it doesn’t look good for Facebook. I just don’t see any YouTube hate out there. If you dislike reading the comments from the world’s keyboard warriors sitting in their underwear at home, a few cookie settings will render them invisible. YouTube becomes a remarkably tolerable site.
Earlier this month, a report found by my friend William Shepherd showed that personal sharing on Facebook had dipped by 21 per cent.
I have said for years that ‘Facebook is the new Digg,’ a place where news is shared, not personal updates, though it appears it has taken a while for the company to realize this. Looking at some of the bugs on the site over the years, I’m not surprised Facebook missed it: for months it acted as though its entire user base was in California, with the website stuck at the end of each month till it got to the 1st in its home state. Now it is kicking users off over fake malware accusations when it’s more likely, and this is my guess based on how the site has behaved over the years, that its databases are dying. Liking, sharing and commenting fail from time to time.
Given this, and its many other problemsâincluding the breach of policies outlined by some of the groups it participates in, impacting on user privacyâno wonder it’s experiencing this drop.
I see personal updates again that I saw a day before, because relatively few of my 2,300 friends write them any more. The trend has shifted, and a lot of users must have noticed what I did many years ago.
At Medinge Group we have long advocated transparency in brands, and Facebook’s actions run counter to a lot of what we have proposed.
We believe that sooner or later, people wise upâsomething we said about Enron at one of the first meetings I attended in 2002.
In fact, the way Facebook behaves tends to be combative, and for a 21st-century firm, its attitudes toward its user base is very 20th-century, a “them and us” model. It’s not alone in this: I’ve levelled similar accusations against Google and I stand by them. Since my own battle with them over malware, and a more recent one over intellectual property (where I was talking to a Facebook employee who eventually gave up when things got into the “too hard” basket), I’ve found dozens of other users via Twitter who have been kicked off the service, yet are running clean, malware-free machines. The blog post I wrote on the subject has been the most-read of the pieces I have authored in 2016, and certainly the most commented, as others face the same issue.
While both giants will claim that they could not possibly have the sort of one-to-one relationship with their user bases in the same way as a small business can, it’s clear to me that big issues aren’t being flagged and dealt with at Facebook. When I read the link Bill sent me, my first reaction was, ‘Why did it take so long for someone there to realize this?’
Let’s not even get started on the way both companies treat paying their fair share of tax.
It’s not about the number of people experiencing any given issue, it’s about the severity of the issue that a small number of people experience. By the time a larger vocal minority experiences it, the damage has gone a lot further.
Facebook does listen to some of these cases: I remember when it limited bot reports to 40â50 a day, at a time when it was not uncommon to find hundreds a day on the site. I complained, and after a few months, Facebook did indeed remove this limit.
But I regard that as an exception.
Its forced downloads of so-called malware scans that even its supplier refuses to answer for (could they have nefarious purposes?), and now the latest last weekâensuring that all message notifications in a mobile browser link to its Messenger app, resulting in a 404 for anyone who does not have it installedâare rendering the website less and less useful. In my case, I just use it less. We’re not going to download privacy-invading apps on our phoneâwe’re busy enough. We want to manage our time and if that means we only get to Facebook messages when we are at our desks, then so be it. Some might abandon it altogether.
Its other move is ceasing the forwarding from www.facebook.com to m.facebook.com on mobile devices, so if you had the former bookmarked, you’re not going to see anything any more. Some browsers (like Dolphin) came with the former bookmarked. Result: a few more legit users, who might not know the difference, gone. If there’s no trust, then regardless of the money you have, you’re not a top brand, nor one that people really wish to associate with.
Facebook, of course, knows some of this, which is why it has bought so many other firms where there’s still personal sharing, such as Instagram and Whatsapp.
It knows if there’s another site that comes along that gets public support, as it did when it first started, people will abandon Facebook en masse.
Curiously, even this past week alone, it seems intent to hurry them along. There must be some sort of corporate goal to see if it can reach fourth, just like Flight of the Conchords.
Iâve always been surprised when I see Google or Facebook appear on any âtop brandsâ lists. Itâs branding 101 that a strong brand must have loyalty, awareness, positive associations, perceived quality, as well as proprietary assets, based on the model from David Aaker, and implicit in this, I always thought, was trust. You can neither be loyal to something you donât trust, nor can you have positive brand associations toward it, nor perceive an untrustworthy thing to possess quality. According to a survey from a consultancy, Prophet, which looked at over 400 brands across 27 industries, polling nearly 10,000 customers, we donât trust either Google or Facebook. Neither makes it into the top 50; those that make it into the top 10 are Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Netflix, Nike, Chick-fil-A, Amazon, Spotify, Lego, and Sephora. Google slots in at 55th, and Facebook at 98th.
To me, the Prophet approach makes far more sense, as for yearsâlong before Edward Snowden revealed the extent of us surveillance under PRISMâI had been blogging about privacy gaffes and other serious issues behind both companies.
People may find Google and Facebook to have utility and enjoyment, yet we willingly volunteer plenty of private information to these sites. We do not trust what they do with this information. Adweek notes that in a separate survey, Facebook was the least trusted brand when it came to personal information, making it worse than the US federal government. There have been so many occasions where users have found certain privacy settings on Facebook altered without their own intervention; and Iâve constantly maintained that, with the bots and spammers I encounter daily on the social network, its claims of user numbers are difficult to accept. In fact, if you have Facebookâs advertising preferences set to reject tracking, the site will not stop doing so, compiling a massive and sometimes inaccurate picture of who you are. What it does with that, given that you have told the site that it should not use that information, is anyoneâs guess. It makes you wonder why that data collection continues. At least Google (now) stops tracking advertising prefÂerences when you ask it to.
These surveys indicate that consumers are wising up, and it opens both Google and FaceÂbook up to challenge.
Google dethroned the biggest website and search engine in the world when it was released, so no oneâs position is guaranteed. Duck Duck Go, a search engine far better at privacy, has chipped away at Googleâs share; and I find so much Facebook fatigue out there that it could follow Myspace into irrelevance. When I hear those speak of these two companiesâ positions as being unassailable, I take it with a grain of salt.
We already have seen peak Facebook (and Twitter, for that matter), for when it came to Super Bowl stats this year, there was a massive 25 per cent drop in activity. Interestingly, despite the trending #RIPTwitter hashtag last week, I don’t agree with those who think Twitter is heading into oblivion, for the simple fact that the site is less invasive and seemingly more honest than Google and Facebook. Those same experts, after all, said that Google Plus would be the Facebook-killer, while I consistently disagreed from day one.
The Medinge Group predicted correctly in the early 2000s when it was stated that consumers would desire greater integrity and transparency from all their brands, something reflected in our book, Beyond Branding. I donât believe that we are so different when it comes to dealing with online brands.
In the last 24 hours, author Holly Jahangiri found an illustration depicting child pornography on Facebook that had been reported by many of her friendsâonly for Facebook to deem it constantly acceptable, despite what it states in its own terms and conditions. It was only when she Tweeted about it that Facebook finally responded publicly; and only when she involved a US government agency did the page disappear. The pressure of accountability like that against dishonest companies tells me Twitter will be around for a while yet.
@facebook apparently, hardcore digital kiddie porn doesn't bother you at all. In spite of this section in your "Community Standards."