Fisker, a luxury car manufacturer hopes the answer is yes. On June 22, Fisker ran several ads in The Wall Street Journal. The ads come after several recalls and embarrassing reviews of its only car on the market, the Karma, a luxury hybrid sports sedan. Since its founding in 2007, Fisker has recalled almost 260 Karmas, while another broke down during testing by Consumer Reports. The incident triggered many complaints from other Karma drivers. Fisker also drew some bad press for accepting a loan from the federal government that sparked comparisons to the bankrupt Solyndra.
However, Fisker’s advertising team that consists of two agencies said these ads will introduce the car and offer a “sneak peak of the brand voice” and are not related to the negative attention the car maker has received recently.
Its approach to advertise after a string of bad press seems a little backwards to me. Companies that make a mistake or experience a crisis generally have a well a goodwill that has developed from good advertising, delivering a quality product, and responding appropriately.
Blaming others for not “getting what you do” probably isn’t the best strategy. The advertising isn’t honest or authentic. I suppose it is trying to sound inspirational but it falls flat. Fisker’s advertisement blames the naysayers for not recognizing the challenges of bringing new technology to the market. In an Ad Age article about the advertising, Fisker’s Global Public Relations Director, Roger Ormisher, said, “The ads are about celebrating the achievement of bringing a new car company to market during one of the worst economic downturns ever.”
The lesson I take from this and I hope Fisker does too, is own up to the mistakes and communicate to your audience. Toyota’s response to the 2009 recall could serve as a model for Fisker. The fallout included a Congressional hearing. Many Toyota customers remained loyal because Toyota had a well of goodwill to draw from and took steps to correct the problem; in fact it initiated the recall with the help from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Negative attention about your advertising to push back against embarrassing articles doesn’t seem like a strategy for success. The ads will never ring true until the message aligns with reality.
“The last time we worked together, Xenophon helped produce a strategic plan that ultimately transformed a bankrupt technology company with a stock option probe into a successful $2.1 billion acquisition.”