Penske Is Feeling Very Anti-Social Media

August 17, 2010
Roger Penske

Roger Penske

New technology always comes with its share of detractors. Renaissance Brits hated the fork. Silent film vamp Clara Bow hated talkies. And now, Penske Automotive Group has taken a stand against social media.

In a brief interview with Automotive News,  the company's vice president of business development, Terri Mulcahey, admits that she doesn't see much value in using social media as a marketing tool. She views social networks like Facebook as places for families and friends to stay connected, but not means for businesses to interact with customers. In fact, she's even wary of giving employees access to those networks on company computers, for fear that they'll fritter away the hours chatting instead of closing deals.

And writer Donna Harris doesn't seem to question Mulcahey's assumptions at all.

Of course, it's hard to criticize a company as big as Penkse when it comes to marketing. They know what they're doing, right? Surely they've done their marketing research just as thoroughly as, say, Coke did its research before launching New Coke, or all those tech companies did in the 1980s when they sided with Betamax.

But just to be on the safe side, we'd like to remind Mulcahey that social media isn't just Mafia Wars and Farmville (thank goodness). True, Facebook has a lot of that junk floating around, but apps like Twitter are nearly tailor-made for businesses. In fact, many people of our acquaintance use Twitter solely for wheeling and dealing. There's probably a reason for that.

Social media is set to become -- and for some, already is -- the dominant form of interpersonal communication. A smart marketing executive wouldn't just shove something that big under the rug. She'd see the potential laying dormant in social media and capitalize on it -- like maybe having Ford dealerships hype the Fiesta Movement campaign, or Jeep dealers hold social media-based contests for a Wrangler-themed weekend getaway. (Just a couple of suggestions there.) New technology requires new ways of thinking and a lot of trial-and-error, but the payoff is worth it, and the cost of not adapting is high. Hey, just ask the inventor of the mimeograph or Ms. Bow.


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