Saturday, April 12, 2008

Zima and the Q45, Victims of Zucky Adz

In our hyper-consumerist society, advertising firms and mega-corporations successfully push almost anything and everything-- the tacky, the useless, shit-- on the mindless public. We love stuff, especially if it comes in a super economy 18-pack, super sized, or best yet, if we buy one and get one free.

The reverse of this phenomenon is when a large company and its advertising accomplice try to sell a really great product, and fail. Two corporations, Coors and Nissan, failed miserably in the early 1990s in selling Zima and the Infiniti Q45.

In 1989, the Lexus and Infiniti marques were introduced to battle BMW and Mercedes. Their flagships, the LS400 and Q45, had V8s and were priced around $40,000. Design-wise, the Infiniti was edgier. Performance-wise, the Q won hands down, in power (278 versus 250 horses) and 0 to 60 times (6.7 versus 7.9 seconds). So why did Lexus outsell Infiniti by a ratio of 4 to 1?!

The best 1990s full-sized luxury sports sedan that no one ever saw.

It was the ads. The ill-fated zen ads Infiniti aired showed rocks, zen gardens, and waterfalls. In fact, the ads showed everything but the friggin' car. It was a disaster. I would not be surprised if the campaign is used now as a case study in B-schools. In fact, it was not until the introduction of the G35 in 2003-2004 that Infiniti's sales figures finally awoke from its decade-long slumber.

The rocks and cascading water make you want to buy an Infiniti.

Now, we come to Zima. Yes, it was the butt of a lot of jokes in the 1990s. E, a good friend from college, loved Zima. Mind you, he's anything but your stereotypical Zima drinker (see picture below). As typical guys, we would insult each other. He would call me a chimp or a moron. But when I needed a comeback, I would simply tell him, "At least I don't like Zima."

Typical Zima drinker, or so its ads would suggest.

Truth be told, I actually liked Zima, a lot. I would hang out with E when he was drinking Zima just so that I could partake in a bottle or two. As the pitchman in those lame ads proclaimed, Zima has "no zuds" like beer and is "not zo zweet" like wine coolers. It was light, refreshing, delicious, and buzz-inducing.

But alas, because of the initial Zima ad campaign, an otherwise great beverage will forever be derided and mocked. I guess the lesson we can take from the Q45 and Zima is that no matter how crappy an ad is, the product may not be all that bad. Juzt zomezing to zink about.



Anonymous said...

the original Q45 was an awesome car, but the ads were atrocious. I think the sales numbers were worse than 4:1 relative to the LS400. and the LS sold more cars as time went on, but the Q45's numbers fell further and further behind.

And their other offering was the ill-suited G20. You are absolutely correct, Infiniti never found its legs until the G35 and FX which debuted on the FM platform along with the revived 350Z, 15 years later-------in 2003.

Anonymous said...

Au Contraire! They seduced completely. Whatever was being flogged became immediately appealing - in this case a car.