Truly understanding your market

I didn’t realize Winnipeg had earned the dubious distinction of being the ‘car-theft capital of Canada’. (I did know that during especially cold spells, people left their cars running and other people ‘borrowed’ them to avoid freezing.)

But I guess if you were living there, the car-theft moniker is something you would have been all too familiar with. And, if I was planning any sort of car marketing program in Winnipeg, that little detail would have been easy to suss out.

However, in yesterday’s Globe and Mail (subscription required), there was a story about how Ford of Canada had to apologize to Winnipeg for an SUV print ad they ran with the slogan, ‘Drive it like you stole it’. The company has since pulled the campaign.

I suppose the marketing agency thought the concept was creative and edgy. What they didn’t realize was that in addition to calling out the City’s epithet, the ad ran on the same day as a front-page Winnipeg Free Press story about a youth who was being sentenced for killing a cyclist, while driving a stolen car.

So who’s to blame? Ford? The advertising agency? I’d say they’re both responsible.

This type of situation should be fairly easy to avoid if an organization takes the time to get to know its market, build relationships on a grassroots level and not simply apply a one-size-fits-all approach.

Sounds like PR doesn’t it?

We develop an understanding of a community by thoroughly researching and identifying local issues, idiosyncrasies and trends, and conducting in-depth environmental scans that help spot potential hot buttons.

Perhaps companies should look to their PR counsel to provide this type of strategic intelligence at the outset of a marketing program, so they can avoid backing up into a brick wall.

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