Tag Archive: Volkswagen


“In the darkness, we found the light. Introducing a new era of electronic driving.” – Volkswagen’s new advertising campaign tagline

“Hello, darkness, my old friend; I’ve come to talk to you again …” – Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s, “The Sounds of Silence”

Is the best defense a good offense?

Is the most effective present-day defense utilizing a Baby Boomer anthem and harkening back to the 1960s with its brightly colored Volkswagen Beetles and (Hippie) Microvans?

After being rightfully bashed and bloodied starting in the autumn of 2015 for deploying defeat software to deceive anti-pollution testing of its vehicles (Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche), heads rightfully started to roll at Volkswagen AG corporate headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

On the line with “Dieselgate” was Volkswagen’s brand, but also the reputation of Germany’s legendary designers and engineers. Consider, there is probably no nation on earth that prides itself more than Germany for its commitment to the environment (note the recent electoral successes of die Grünen).

The Volkswagen cheating scandal was akin to catching a falling knife. Using another well-worn metaphor, the shocking story has legs and has been running unabated for nearly four years.

The scandal started in September, 2015 when the U.S. EPA charged Volkswagen with using illegal (air quality testing) manipulation devices. A related Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation was launched. Volkswagen’s chief executive officer Martin Winterkorn was fired.

A continuous chorus of charges, fines, lawsuits, increased governmental regulation, falling stock prices and recalls mounted against Volkswagen and its Audi and Porsche subsidiaries. Last year, German authorities indicted Winterkorn on aggravated fraud charges.

Almost DailyBrett noted that Volkswagen did not follow to the letter the four basic tenets of Crisis Communications: Tell The Truth, Tell It All, Tell It Fast and Move On. In many ways Volkswagen management was just hoping this mess would simply subside.

Volkswagen management, employees, shareholders and even Kanzlerin Merkel and the German government had to confront the metaphorical Scheisse-Sandwich … you don’t nibble.

Back To The Drawing Board

At some point, the world’s largest automobile designer/manufacturer would have to go back on offense.

In doing so, Volkswagen realized it could not assume a business-as-usual approach.

Ultimately, Volkswagen appreciated that it has to acknowledge its wrongdoing, beg for forgiveness, and somehow, someway commence the hard work of rebranding … essentially moving on.

Volkswagen of America hired New York’s Johannes Leonardo advertising agency, and secured the rights to “The Sounds of Silence.”

The question posed to VW management: Can a major ad buy (part of a reported $2 billion campaign) for its 1:45 second spot featuring a Baby Boomer/Yuppie anthem make everything right in the world for Volkswagen?

In and of itself, the answer is obviously: no.

Almost DailyBrett has always believed that Volkswagen is engaged in a marathon, not a sprint. Volkswagen’s story, which began in 1937, deserves another chapter.

Americans are credited for being an understanding people. They will not forget, but are they willing to forgive and give … even a corporate entity … another chance?

The Johannes Leonardo creative, which debuted with the NBA Finals and the NHL’s Stanley Cup last week, is edgy as it literally starts in the darkness with a news announcer directly referencing the Volkswagen scandal.

One suspects that securing VW’s management approval for an open acknowledgement of moral failure was easier said than done. As Chairman Mao found out, the long-march back starts with the first step.

In our world of advertising bombast and overkill, it’s the extremely clever advertisement that stops the viewer in his or her tracks and commands attention.

The dark Sounds of Silence images convey going back to the drawing board. The result is the coming resurrection of the VW microvan … a concept vehicle for now … with the message the company’s environmentally friendly electric vehicle does not contribute to climate change. Volkswagen envisions 22 EVs (electric vehicles) by 2028, and becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Volkswagen has stumbled for nearly four torturous years. The questions are with its new ad campaign and beyond: Has the company finally learned its lesson, and are we as consumers willing to forgive, while certainly not forgetting?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEvNL6oEr0U

https://www.fastcompany.com/90359361/volkswagen-aims-for-feel-good-redemption-in-new-major-ad-campaign

https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a27784322/vw-hello-light-commercial-column/

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/dieselgate-timeline-germanys-car-emissions-fraud-scandal

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/15/business/winterkorn-volkswagen-emissions-scandal.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidkiley5/2019/06/06/vw-goes-back-to-the-future-in-new-ad-campaign-to-put-dieselgate-in-rear-view/#1026a00d3aa5

https://www.vw.com/

http://johannesleonardo.com/

“A hippie is someone who looks like Tarzan, walks like Jane, and smells like Cheetah.” – Ronald Reagan

The author of Almost DailyBrett was asked recently whether he ever contemplated becoming … (gasp) a hippie.

Looking like Tarzan? Walking like Jane? Smelling like Cheetah?

Yours truly? Are you serious?

That interrogative took about two nanoseconds of personal processing capability to respond. The answer was negative: Never ever thought of this unpleasant prospect.

Which brings up the next question: Why is anyone an aging hippie today?

The glories of 1968, which ironically ended with the election of Richard Milhous Nixon, were 50 years ago.

Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones and Jim Morrison were still alive.

The Vietnam War was raging … Mercifully, it ended 42 years ago.

It’s time to let go. No, it’s way past time to let go.

To some their greatest days were sitting naked in the rain and mud a mile from the amplifiers at Woodstock even though they couldn’t hear Alvin Lee and Ten Years After, let alone see the stage. Woodstock was a “celebration” in 1969, Altamont, less so.

Maybe there are some who still wax nostalgic about being arrested for attempting to burn down the administration building? Or maybe they thought they were incarcerated? Details, details.

Volkswagen is trying to resurrect those magical days with its Joe Cocker ad (“With a Little Help from My Friends”) in order to remind the aging hippies about love vans with wood paneling and cramped VW bugs. These vehicles had no guts then, and who would really buy one now?

Isn’t it time to grow up, wake up and smell the Geritol?

Celebrating Communal Misery?

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries” – Winston Churchill

Your author winces when he hears accounts of those who excitedly scan for throwaways on the other side of the street … in 21st Century America.

… Or those who don’t have two shekels to rub together, based on their own bad decisions. They choose and cherish the hippy lifestyle, and for some reason want others to join them in … poverty.

They still hold grudges against America for the Vietnam misadventure. They are jealous of entrepreneurs and all of those who overachieve in life, even though they themselves have the mental horse power/ talent to build their own personal success stories.

There is always an excuse for not going to college, for not attaining a degree, for not pursuing that five-figure position … not just a job … with full benefits, for not saving anything for retirement.

Instead of sirloin, chicken, pork and fish, there are beans, sprouts, kale and tofu followed by more beans, sprouts, kale and tofu. Doesn’t the same old, same old … get old?

They worship at the altar of Darwinism and rail against Climate Change, but vaccinating their kids to combat diseases of the ages …? Guess there are sciences that find favor and those that don’t.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Isn’t there a need to finally acknowledge the hippie era is dead and buried? Some are attempting to resurrect the tie-dyed nostalgia, which wasn’t that good in reality.

Almost DailyBrett is unafraid to embrace the desire for the good things of life: a wonderful spouse, a comfy house, a decent paying intellectually challenging job with full benefits, a Wall Street portfolio and his health … at least for now.

When it comes to Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll, two out of three ain’t bad. To an aging hippie getting stoned was a ticket to Nirvana way back then and apparently now as well. Isn’t it time to move on?

For some odd reason, Almost DailyBrett was instead celebrating Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon and implanting the red, white and blue on the lunar surface. Some things change, some things don’t.

Ronald Reagan has been described as “The Counterculture to the Counterculture.” Taking a few moments to move past the era of The Gipper … As we contemplate the opioid epidemic, one-third of all American working age males voluntarily not working, and way too many still detesting the last great hope for the world (e.g., America).

… Is it any wonder … the dishes are still piled up in the sink?

https://brians.wsu.edu/2016/05/19/hippie-hippy/

http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/volkswagen-takes-a-trip-back-to-the-1960s-in-nostalgic-ad-saluting-its-free-spirited-owners/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/wildfires-scorched-marijuana-crops-possibly-complicating-californias-rollout-of-legal-sales/2017/10/20/037d36a4-b41b-11e7-be94-fabb0f1e9ffb_story.html?undefined=&utm_term=.e4621d716d1f&wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/the-permanency-of-altamont/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/the-worst-generation/

 

 

 

This is an upsetting event for all of us at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.” –PR Week’s “Communicator of the Year,” United CEO Oscar Munoz

Do you really think so, Oscar?

Last Sunday morning, United Continental Holdings, Inc., or more commonly known as United Airlines (NYSE: UAL) positioned its brand as a global airline with the tagline “The Friendly Skies” and backed by the music of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

By Sunday evening the airline’s brand was radically changed, maybe even permanently altered, by what happened on a commuter flight (United Express #3411) from Chicago’s horrible O’Hare Airport to the home of the Kentucky Derby, Louisville.

Note that horses are treated better than United’s overbooked passengers, one in particular.

Almost DailyBrett has researched and written extensively about the loss of branding control. With social media and easy-to-use and outstanding-quality smart-phone cameras and recorders, everybody is a potential reporter, even one sitting in an aisle seat on United.

Just as BP is no longer seen as an oil and gas company, but rather one that caused the massive Deepwater Horizon “spill,” United is now linked to inexplicable violence against one of its own paying customers, whose only crime was wanting to fly home to treat his patients.

The inexcusable exercise of violence and brutality against a 69-year-old Vietnamese refugee, Dr. David Dao, including losing two front teeth, sustaining a concussion, and suffering a broken nose — all because he committed the cardinal sin of refusing to leave a seat he purchased on an overbooked flight to accommodate a United employee — is now a viral social and legacy media legend.

Most likely, this horror video could also be the topic of a heavily covered jury trial (United will try to avoid this scenario at all costs by attempting to settle out of court), and possibly a congressional investigation (United probably will have to respond to a subpoena). There is very little chance United could prevail before any jury regardless of venue.

The author of Almost DailyBrett has repeatedly told students at Central Washington University that company, non-profit, agency, government, politician brands are now “traded” on social media and blogging exchanges every second of every day.

These brands can soar (e.g., Tesla and Elon Musk) on glowing reports (and company common stock usually moves in tandem). They can also plunge into binary code oblivion triggered by a game-changing incident (i.e., Chipotle and E. coli; Volkswagen and “defeat software”; Wells Fargo, phony accounts; Anthony Weiner and his tweeted wiener).

So far, United investors and employees have lost an estimated $1.5 billion in market capitalization on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). On the social media stock exchange, the company has lost even more as millions around the world are shocked and appalled by about 60 seconds of gratitous violence video.

In China as well as other countries in East Asia that serve as United destinations, the bloody treatment of Dr. Dao is seen as a racist act. Is United racist? The answer really doesn’t matter when the perception in the Asian community (and other ethnic communities) is that United perpetrated a racially motivated attack.

Does PR Week rescind Oscar Munoz’ “Communicator of the Year” Award just as the Heisman Trust recalled the famous statue from Reggie Bush? The call seems easy.

What’s Next For United?

“I think corporate America needs to understand that we all want to be treated in the same manner with the same respect and the same dignity that they would treat their own family members. If they do that, wouldn’t it be great? So, will there be a lawsuit? Yeah, probably.” — Attorney Thomas Demetrio

United knows as evidenced by the live coverage of today’s Chicago news conference by Dr. Dao’s lawyers on CNN, Fox News, CNBC, Fox Business and others, this story has “legs.” Just as BP found that out every day the Deepwater Horizon well was leaking, United will also realize this public relations nightmare will endure for weeks and months.

So what should United’s PR team do in the interim?

  1. The “service” company needs to dramatically alter its way of doing business. Literally thousands upon thousands are justifiably angry at United and other carriers for their well-documented and long-endured arrogance and disregard for their customers, the passengers.
  2. United needs to forever foreswear the use of violence on its aircraft except in the rare circumstances in which a passenger is a threat to themselves or others.
  3. The days of “overbooked flights” need to come to an end. If someone buys a ticket to a football game that person is entitled to that seat on the 30-yard line. If a passenger buys a ticket for a plane that passenger is entitled to seat 9C.
  4. The airlines need to enshrine this simple notion as a new policy and champion it. If they don’t, one suspects that Congress will do exactly that. Don’t try to lobby against this change. Be a part of the solution.
  5. Be nice. United, American and Delta – the so-called legacy carriers – need to shed their well-earned image of being rude, arrogant, un-empathetic and uncaring. For once an attorney is right: We all deserve respect and dignity.
  6. The lawyers will have a field day, starting with the discovery process. Sell-side analysts will downgrade the stock. Congressional committees will beat up Oscar Munoz. For United’s PR team, this is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.
  7. Time can heal. Keep in mind, United’s brand will never be the same and will literally take years to turn the corner. One suspects United will somehow move forward. A little humility and the willingness to admit wrong, to learn and become change agents on behalf of customers and not just the bottom line, may one day lead to a better tomorrow.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2017/04/12/united-ceo-oscar-munoz-the-rise-and-fall-of-a-communicator-of-the-year/?utm_term=.c0660d2cfa9b&wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/loss-of-control-how-to-safeguard-reputations-and-brands-in-a-digital-world/

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/13/attorney-for-united-airlines-passenger-dao-says-there-will-probably-be-a-lawsuit.html

 

 

 

 

Glad we got that all cleared up.

Vielen Dank VW CEO Herr Matthias Müller (many thanks, Matthias).

We can now rest assured that Volkswagen is not a criminal brand.mueller

Richard Nixon told us he was not a crook.

And Bill Clinton did not have sex with that woman.

What is it with chief executives and their repeated association with the permanent stigma of a negative declaration with super-charged adjectives?

Criminal? Crook? Sex?

These are notorious words that stand the test of time. They are ominous and eternal. And once they are uttered, there is simply no way to take them back.

And yet this mistake happens again and again to the best and the brightest.

Words That Make You Wince

“We are not a criminal brand or group. We haven’t been that. We have made a huge default, technical default, but there was no intention against customers or authorities.” – Volkswagen AG Vorsitzende Matthias Müllervolkswagan

As Almost DailyBrett can attest, PR folks certainly love our metaphors:

You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

You can un-ring the bell.

You can’t put the bullet back in the chamber.

And sometimes we are guilty of drinking our own bath water.

And now you can’t separate German auto designer/manufacturer, “Volkswagen,” with the extremely unfortunate phrase, “criminal brand.” Thought those two words apply to the Mafia and North Korea, not a car conglomerate (e.g., VW, Audi, Porsche …) long associated with legendary German engineering.

The VW PR team accompanying Müller to Detroit for his first exchange with American media since the company’s “defeat” emissions-standards software scandal broke had to be cringing when he uttered these infamous words.

Müller also said: “We didn’t lie,” another negative declaration attached to a super-charged word.

Hopefully, he did not beat his wife … Please don’t ask him that specific question.

Was he coached to not repeat loaded, supercharged words contained in reporter queries?

Was he told to respond always in a positive vain, and to never use incendiary words?

Remember: When it doubt, declare victory.

For example, how about the following for Volkswagen: “We are a firm that will always be dedicated to observing all rules and regulations. We will overly comply. We will cooperate with authorities.”

Here’s another answer: “We are sorry. We pledge to adhere to all environmental regulations and standards, including those passed by the United States, European Union and other governing bodies. It will be hard to regain public trust, but we are beginning our quest to do just that.”

Americans are a forgiving people. We will give those, who deserve it, a second chance … but only one second chance.

To be fair to Matthias Müller, this debacle is not of his doing. He was the head of Porsche, when his predecessor Martin Winterkorn was shown die Tur. The media, regulators and lawyers are circling like a pack of vultures, looking to pick apart the legendary Volkswagen brand.

There will be even more screaming headlines in the coming weeks and months for Volkswagen as recalls start, lawsuits are adjudicated and fines are levied. Volkswagen will most likely survive, but the unfortunate linkage to a “criminal brand” will ensue.

“This Is the Worst Disaster Since My Election” — Pat Brown

Former California Governor Pat Brown (Jerry’s dad) was touring the flooding of the Eel River near the Northern California coastline in 1965.

We all know what he was trying to say, but the words didn’t come out quite right … worst disaster since his election. Was the Eel River flooding the disaster or his election?pat-brown

In some respects the late-Pat Brown can be excused even though those words haunted him for the rest of his governorship and life.

Volkswagen’s Müller is more of an engineer, who made an eternal mistake, forever attaching “criminal brand” to VW. He deserves his share of blame, but the same applies to his undoubtedly well-compensated PR, marketing and reputation management teams.

These are words that should never have been spoken.

Alas, they will live in infamy.

.http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2016/01/10/volkswagen-detroit-auto-show-naias-matthias-mueller-emissions-scandal/78603744/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthias_M%C3%BCller_(businessman)

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/TheStrategist/Articles/view/11344/1120/In_the_C_Suite_Scandals_at_VW_and_Takata_Highlight?spMailingID=12579553&spUserID=ODkxMDgzMDgwMTkS1&spJobID=663351066&spReportId=NjYzMzUxMDY2S0#.VpaMhPkrLIU

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/11/462682378/we-didnt-lie-volkswagen-ceo-says-of-emissions-scandal

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Winterkorn

http://www.volkswagenag.com/content/vwcorp/content/en/investor_relations.html

http://articles.latimes.com/1994-01-19/news/mn-13310_1_human-suffering

 

 

 

 

 

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