Smart’s Unmarketing: Is “Unclutter” Enough to Capture US Consumers?


Well, 59 cars are better than none. That was the net gain in sales for Smart USA‘s ForTwo model in September, when it released its first national US TV commercial, over September 2010. That’s right, Smart sold just 469 vehicles in the United States last month, about on par with its monthly sales total for all of the first half of the year, and hardly better than a year ago.

But give Smart credit. Mercedes-Benz just took over U.S.-market administration of its brand over the summer from Penske, and installed a new marketing team, and really has only taken the first halting steps toward building brand awareness for Smart, with that initial TV spot, called “Unbig. Uncar,” above.[more]

Still, Smart must begin acquiring some momentum among American car buyers soon. And we’re not sure the second TV spot, above and as noted by Mediapost, will do much to create any, either. In the spot, a twenty-something becomes overwhelmed by the detritus of his materialistic lifestyle, and an amalgamated horde of “stuff” chases him into his back yard — where he encounters the answer, a Smart ForTwo.

Really? “The tight-turning, space-saving, eco-friendly Smart” hopes to acquire U.S. sales and brand loyalty by urging Americans to “Escape your stuff” as the tagline goes?

While we’re not saying its “unmarketing” approach is UnAmerican, the brand’s return-to-simplicity ploy may not work with targeted young Americans who seem to be quite busy acquiring all sorts of non-automotive “stuff,” from iPads to Fendi handbags. That is, unless Smart is targeting consumers who simply can’t afford stuff anymore, and they’re probably not in the market for a new car.

Besides, unlike when 7-Up became the “Uncola” decades ago, Smart’s “Uncar” has lots of competition in its tiny-car segment, including the new Fiat 500 and the upcoming Scion iQ.

Beyond the U.S., Smart has been using the theme of “A Big Idea,” as seen above. Even though Smart’s first U.S. commercial wasn’t a world-beater, as we suspect the second one won’t be either, let’s await the October sales results.

Below, check out a recap of Smart USA’s 2010 “Against Dumb” marketing campaign, by StrawberryFrog: 

smart USA from StrawberryFrog on Vimeo.


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