Friday, October 26, 2007

The Big Chevrolet Kiss Off

I saw this image of people kissing a car a few weeks ago and to be honest, it passed me by. Endurance tests have a flavor of that classic movie They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and don’t do a lot for me. Now it occurs to me that this competition belongs back in the Attention Economy and needs some discussion. The thing I have always liked most about Lovemarks is that people get it. Professional communicators might get tripped up by the directness of the language, but most people understand that a Lovemark relationship means Loyalty Beyond Reason to something they are passionate about. And so on to this mall competition for Chevrolet. The idea was that the person who could hold the kiss for the longest won the right to buy the car for the equivalent of ten cents. This competition used a powerful symbol of Love: the kiss. What troubles me is that the only emotion possible in this kiss is grim determination. There is no empathy, no mystery and every sense must be shrieking in pain. This is a symbol being used in a way that devalues it. Symbols are always open to this and usually they bounce back. The American flag and the Union Jack, for instance, have been used and abused over the decades but through it all remain proud symbols for their people. The kiss too will surge through as the passionate, loving human expression it is. This competition reinforces to me that in the Attraction Economy you have to go for engagement, not interruption, intimate gestures, not big promises, and connect with people, not manipulate consumers. Good luck to the young woman who lasted more than 24 hours and won the competition, but for Chevrolet it was just a big kiss-off.


Susan Plunkett said...

Hmm.. I'm having a mixed reaction. I'm not sure I've ever totally agreed with the "loyalty beyond reason" element. It's such a debatable proposition.

I find this article a mixed bag of propositions and I weave in and out of agreement.

I think there's a danger in assuming a perspective and the emotions inherent in said perspective are always going to be experienced in one way. The danger being that YOU wind up losing empathic people who feel unless they conform to a behaviour and interpretive response then they haven't 'got it'.

Oh, and determination being seen as anti lovemarks? I see the opposite in many ways. Lately I have to try and post up to six times here, constantly dropping out my browser or the comment frame and re-opening it and trying again. If I'm being told that repeated efforts of determination aren't valued then why bother.

Susan Plunkett said...

To comment then took me six repeats of closing the comment frame down.

I really regret that individuals see efforts of determination as 'devaluing'.

Susan Plunkett said...

"Nothing is Impossible" is also a statement that many will respond to with a behavioural determination. I find no lack of love and no lack of empathy in many activities of determination. Just remember that those of us in the gutter reaching for the stars often have to be determined and often feel very passionate.

I'm upset at this piece today and will admit I find aspects of it offensive. I feel it discounts those struggling for evolution.

Kempton said...

Hi Susan,

I guess I am confused why were you upset with this post and your discussion of "determination" in the context of this post.

To me, calling what these people did as "kiss" was probably an insult to the idea of a kiss. What I saw was a simple silly act of "meaningless determination" of putting one's mouth on the surface of a car. And try to do that for the longest time for the reward of a car. This act has none, zero, nada relation to what we relate as the noble concept of determination.

I am willing to bet a Canadian dollar (worthing more than a greenback buck at the moment (smile)) that even the woman who won that car by "kissing" it for more than 24 hours would LOVE a bed to sleep on much more than the car she won when the torture was finished! Being tortured, even willingly, doesn't really makes one feel "love".

So I essentially agree with Kevin's comments. to me, what that car company got the most out of was probably short attention media mentions without any of the longer lasting impact of a better conceived campaign.

As usual, just my 2 cents.


Susan Plunkett said...


Well, thanks firstly for the response.

I don't know enough about the scenario with the girl and the others kissing the car to 'know' what must have been going on for her (and the other duco smoochers).

Has the girl ever done this before? Would she have walked by two other car brands but gone through an ultimate ordeal for Chevrolet?
Would she have kissed any vehicle no matter what it was because she wanted a car?
Is desire for 'car' significant here as opposed to desire for 'brand?

This is one issue. Then we have the issue of 'determination'. This word can mean very different things depending on philosophy and context e.g. "the diaspora sought self determination" is different socio-politically than "I am determined to......"

However can one can so readily sift love from determination I don't know.

I agree, most people doing these contests are in agony at the end. You've never experienced agony for love? You've never known anyone give bone marrow or go through pain because they are determined to do what they can to help someone? You've never experienced personal starvation JUST so you could accrue money for someone else and some'thing' that you desperately wanted them to have?

Desperation and fear can be as much a part of love as soft sensuality and comfort.

A lot of my response can be summarised by talking or comparing 'well-to-do' and 'strugglers'. A lot of topics on this blog are about items or services that are affordable, not so much for the general public more broadly, but for select shoppers.

I would contend that the mind set of upper market shoppers and how they view activity and desire and love and determination may be ENTIRELY different from those on lower incomes; not always, sometimes. And if marketers and ad and campaign designers don't 'get' the struggle and difference then I suggest they may - unwittingly - have lost touch with the very people they should want to empathise with AND understand.

Love is not just about fluff and ease. Not in my world and I hope people try to understand what I know about the world as much as I try to understand their perception and experiences.

Kevin Roberts said...

Susan – I’m sorry that you feel this way Susan. You've made some interesting points but please remember that this was a giveaway and the main reason for the giveaway was promotion. There’s no skill, nothing was learned ‘reaching for the stars’ is not a good way to describe what’s going-on here.

Susan Plunkett said...


My comment about reaching for the stars was intended more generically and to urge you to consider how people vary in their stance and perception.

For you, this sort of 'event' appears a little distasteful. How could you, or I, claim that person 'J' may, or may not, view the event as their potential manna?

Distaste is opinion and perspective. The right to feel distaste, in the broader sense, MAY BE a right borne from the ability to make different choices. Sometimes individuals don't have those abilities.

And no skill? I couldn't have done what these (primarily young) folk did. I'm not so willing to condemn the act of the individual. I may feel the promotion lame or worse thought of the month or whatever, but I'm not so casual about labeling the act of the competitor given I didn't speak to any of them or know what was leading them to do what they were doing. That's all.

Susan Plunkett said...

By the way Kevin, it's not a problem having a difference of opinion on certain things. I agree with you on much, however we've always held our differences on certain concepts and so we should given our completely different life experiences and so on.

Learning is generally catalysed more by challenge than by agreement imo.

Perhaps it's simply that I own no fridge magnets and my fridge door is bare? :)

Piotr Jakubowski said...

I'd also have to agree that the comments are valid. It's a great, different way to bring promotion to a brand. Something new, unseen, fresh and something that will most likely garner quite a significant amount of media.

That being said, I fully agree that this is pure determination. It's an endurance test. There's no love, emotion tied to it.

Susan, I'd have to agree that this is desire for a material good. Regardless of whether it was a Chevy, Mercedes or Holden, there would still be people's lips attached to the thing for 24 hours. People like free stuff, and if it takes 1 free car to cause this amount of buzz, I'd say it's a good investment.

Susan Plunkett said...

So Piotr, even though you agree with Kevin that there is no love or passion in this kind of act (I'm saying I have no definitive idea - although I could offer an educated guess I believe), you believe the competition is a good investment because of the attention it draws.

Now, if consumers are drawn to such activities and are happy to be involved where does Kevin's argument position vis"you have to go for engagement not interruption etc".

Kevin is basically arguing on a couple of levels about these kinds of comps not being part of the attraction economy and yet people line up for said comps. You agree with that.

So, if people are lining up and are more than willing to compete (as they usually are on all these comps) then aren't these consumers seeing the activity as part of their notions of 'attraction economy'?

I have this sense of 'parent' re this topic by the way and I'm still to be convinced that there is one mass of people out there all looking at attraction economy the same.

Who is currently defining what attraction economy is and how they are reaching their conclusions about how the populace views the concept?

I'd welcome exploring this topic from a couple of different example angles if Kevin wants to pursue it theme wise.