When the Ford exec stood up and started talking all about social media at the Digiday Social conference, I tweeted a challenge to him: Sure, you’re tweeting with customers, and training your top execs who are learning all about social platforms, and relating personally with customers. But what about doing what Jeff Jarvis recommends in his new book, “What Would Google Do?”, namely, make cars a sort of blank canvas which every car buyer could customize?
Then he cracked the very joke I cracked on Naked Media’s “Shallow Thoughts” segment (which will be live on-demand soon), to poke a little fun at Jeff: The Homer Simpson vehicle, a really really expensive car with a jillion cupholders, would be the ultimate outcome. He sent me a link to a rendering of Homer’s dream-mobile. (My outline script is below.)
@DorianBenkoil We do listen to customers re car design, but we don't let them do design, or else: http://tinyurl.com/bpch8j
Of course, if Ford were truly Googly, maybe you couldn’t have to pay for the car at all, but every time you drove to a mall, you’d get a windshield full of ads the car’s brain though was relevant. Drop your wife at the lingerie shop? Here’s ads for pantyhose! Bring your husband to the gun store? Want some cheap bullets? Just click HERE for directions -- or better yet, let our Googly-mobile drive you there.
But though I admire the conversational tone the exec, Scott Monty, has in his Twitter feed, and believe the story he told that he’d swayed a mom whose son had been killed in an accident in a Ford vehicle, not to love the company but to feel better by Scott’s openness, I also wonder how much effect he can really have, at least today. His Twitter feed on the he spoke had 800-some followers, and while he wanted to reach people wherever they are -- from Twitter, to Flickr to YouTube to Tripit -- and said the right things about respecting the community (“It’s not going to be authentic if I drop into a knitting forum” where someone has happened to mention the need for a car), I also though the way he was framing it all was a bit conventional: Ford would spread its message, open up opportunities for people to create impressions and blog about the vehicles, get more of Ford’s message.
Still, the company was number twelve on the Virtrue list of most-social companies, and it is a start. I hope I get the chance to ask Monty about Ford as a social media company -- perhaps on Naked Media.
The Script, which is really more a loose outline I try to follow (and there's some fun cuts in the video, if you get to watch):
'What Would Google Do'"?
The book's been making the rounds, and is on the top ten of a few lists, and Jeff's been flogging it mercilessly.
His basic idea: everyone, every company -- restaurants, schools, banks -- should be (FINGER QUOTES) "googly" -- should let customers decide what they want, be in perpetual Beta testing m ode, constantly be improving their algorithm. Every company, Jeff says, should behave like what's now the world's largest advertising company.
One of Jeff's big examples is car companies. They should ask us what we want and let us build the cars we want. So what would happen if GM was all "Googly" and made cars the way Jeff says?
Well, sometimes, maybe, the cars -- which are in Beta, after all -- would just turn left for no reason, or stop dead in the middle of the freeway. But don't worry, it would start up again soon.
Sometimes, after driving your spouse to a store in the mall, little ads would pop up on the side of your windshield for whatever it was that your wife or husband was looking for.
Everyone would have their car customized, and we'd get a whole bunch of Homer Simpson, $84,000 vehicles with dozens of cup-holders. NO, wait. The cars would be FREE, and supported by ADvertising!
Of course, Jeff, I'm teasing. And I'm helping you promote your book. And, heck, if GM does what you say, and it works, then, HEY, they'll be saved, and we won't have to bail them out!!!
Aside (I just happen to have written about Jarvis a lot recently. I am not a stalker and will try to ween myself from it.)