Letters, July 21, 2008

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Maybe airlines do need a break

RE: "Airlines Mount PR Push to Win Public Support Against Big Oil." Seriously, now, you really have to feel sorry for an industry that has never been profitable, regardless of cheap or expensive oil.

This is an industry that serves over half the adult population in the U.S. with one of the highest average prices of any consumable. It is a business that can't profit from a $500 seat, so it expects to make money from $20 bag checks, $6 beer and $1 peanuts. It is a business that continues to advertise the promise of an enjoyable experience in the face of consumer reports of all-time-low satisfaction ratings.

This is an industry that simply stretches the travel time to get good reports of on-time arrivals (who knew New York and L.A. had more miles between them since it now takes seven hours to get from one to the other?).

How about the abuse of the bankruptcy courts and the bankrupting of retirement funds?

I support the airlines' push for support. They obviously need a break somewhere.
Larry Smith
Live Idea
New York

Thoughts about Apple and autos

RE: "What the Auto Industry Can Learn From Apple." Good ideas, but the reality of the situation is that the auto industry in the U.S. can't do what you suggest. Part of it is law. Forty of the 50 states make it illegal for a carmaker to sell direct to consumer. That's not going to change.

Part of it is the fact that Apple products are not made in the U.S., so if you were to implement a "star" program, you'd need to do it with imports.

There's only one carmaker out there that fits the "must-have" and "radical" model, and that's Tesla Motors. But the price puts the Tesla Roadster out of reach for most people.

The next big thing in cars is not going to be some sleek, Apple-inspired whizzamagog. It's going to be the Simple Car -- sort of a revisit of the Dodge Omni. No DVD players, no GPS, no power moonroof or HDTV screen, no light-up ashtray, no washer/dryer.

You make a car that has a drive-home cost of $9,500, seats four and has a place to put your iPod, you're going to sell millions and millions of them.
Mark Focazio
New York

What the auto industry can learn from Apple is that customer service is the first and foremost step in the marketing mix.

I just bought my wife a new car, and I now have a better understanding of what the Bataan Death March must have been like. The whole dealer model needs to be blown up and rebuilt. In no other category does the sales process make it harder to purchase a product. It's so bad that by the time you drive off the lot, you're no longer excited about your new car but, instead, have a sense of buyer's remorse and a strong belief that the guys in the proverbial "back room" are having a laugh at your expense.

On the flip side, a trip to the Apple store is a treat.

Apple gets it: Customer service is marketing.
Jason Smith

A brief word of advice for Starbucks

Hey, Howard, why not first get your remaining stores back to a great cup of coffee, the best beans and excellent service? What do fruit smoothies have to do with the Starbucks brand?
Jan Libby
Santa Monica, Calif.

CMOs need to have impact on CFOs

RE: "Survey Finds CFOs Skeptical of Their Own Firms' ROI Claims." If marketing does not have enough impact to affect a company's forecast, then something is wrong.

When I was heading marketing for Dell in North America in the early '90s, linking marketing spending with sales forecasts was one of our critical processes.

A good question to ask for assessing the value of marketing to an organization: Are you involved in the forecasting process? If not, you can assume that marketing is viewed as a discretionary effort that will be funded in good times and cut in tight times.

If CMOs want a seat at the big table, what they do needs to impact CFOs.
John Ellett
Austin, Texas


RE: "Tall Task for New Top Man at UM." The story stated that Sony is a McCann Worldgroup media client. Sony is a direct client of Universal McCann.

RE: "Women to Watch." Before Sandy Constan arrived at MindShare in 2002, she was assistant media director at DDB Entertainment.
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