Chapter 1

The Old Rules of Marketing and PR Are Ineffective in an Online World

Several times in the past few years, I have thought about buying a new car. As with hundreds of millions of other consumers, the web is my primary source of information when I consider a purchase, so I sat down at the computer and began poking around. Figuring they were the natural place to begin my research, I started with the big three automaker sites. That was a big mistake. At all three, I was assaulted on the home page with a barrage of TV-style broadcast advertising. And all the one-way messages focused on price. At Ford,1 the headlines screamed, “Model Year Clearance! 0% financing! 0 for gas!” Chrysler2 announced a similar offer: “Get employee pricing plus 0% financing!” And over at GM,3 they were having a “72-hour sale!” I'm not planning to buy a car within 72 hours, thank you. I may not even buy one within 72 days! I'm just kicking the virtual tires. All three of these sites assume that I'm ready to buy a car right now. But I actually just wanted to learn something.

Although I didn't know exactly what I wanted, I was sort of thinking about a compact SUV. Only GM offered a way to check out all of the company's SUV models in one place. To learn about all the Ford products, I had to go to the Ford, Mercury, and other brand sites separately, even though each brand is owned by Ford. These individual sites were no better help to me, a person who was considering a new car purchase possibly many months ...

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