Smart Marketing

It’s a funny and educational tale that carries a positive message along with just a bit of bird scatology. The story starts with a series of negative Tweets focused on the diminutive Smart Car. The micro mobile had become the butt of jokes on the Twitter social network, but the company (Smart USA) decided to turn it to their advantage. Then the perfect Tweet came along:


Smartcar Tweet


The company’s response was nothing short of classic. Smart USA did the math, based upon the engineering specifications of their sturdy automotive frame. Here’s their response:


If you’d like to read the rest of the story and don’t mind a bit of fowl (pun intended) language, here’s a link to the Case Study The point is clear – Smart USA was listening, and responded in a very proactive way.

Connecting the Splots

The Smart story is about marketing, but there are some great takeaways for HR, too. The idea that there are connections between marketing strategies and HR strategies is beginning to dawn on both communities. On the marketing side, new age guru Seth Godin has chimed in, suggesting that it’s time Human Resources abandons it’s “forms/clerical/factory” focus and it’s view of employees as a commodity. His idea is simple . . . it’s the people that count. He suggests that the name of the HR department should change to “Talent.” On the HR side, there’s an ongoing discussion of “employment branding,” essentially the idea that company reputation counts when it comes to recruiting and keeping the best employees.

From the marketer’s perspective, the connections are relevant and mostly self-evident. Here’s the aspect that’s not often considered – both marketers and human resource managers are playing on a changing field.  A recent Adobe survey of marketers found that 76% agreed that marketing has changed more in the last two years than in the previous 50.  For marketers, outbound advertising has become much more difficult. Overt sales messages aren’t received well. Buyers research first before making a decision and they’re less likely to believe a sales message or want to interact with a salesperson. Consumer behavior has changed and marketers are making a shift to inbound marketing techniques that provide potential customers with objective information and seek to build relationships and trust.  Recruiters and HR professionals are seeing a similar shift in attitude, especially with the Millennial generation. Millennials seek to be engaged. They want to understand the story and be part of a cause.

Back to Smart Cars and pigeons. What did Smart USA accomplish with their repartee?

  1. They showed that they were listening – even to their detractors.
  2. They responded in a very intelligent way, making a great point about their product without disrespect to anyone.
  3. They showed a lot of organizational character – specifically, intelligence and a sense of humor.
  4. They hit the ball out of the park in terms of brand awareness – 22 million impressions and a 333% spike in searches for information about their automotive frame.

Most importantly, they made some friends. Clayton Hove, the originator of the sarcastic jab, called Smart’s answer, “the best social media response ever.” Many others saw the interchange, laughed, then learned more about Smart’s little vehicles. Their attitudes shifted positively towards the company. Relationships and trust were built.



So here’s the obvious question: How do you apply the story to the Human Resource department in a typical U.S. company? It only takes a little bit of imagination to translate the audience from consumers to employees or potential employees. There are certainly detractors within the ranks and maybe potential candidates who aren’t favorably disposed towards the company. What behaviors are suggested by Smart USA’s example? Are you listening? How will you respond?

is owner of DP Marketing Services and works with Georgia Employers’ Association on a range of projects. He writes regularly on marketing topics and will be posting occasionally on the GEA blog.