Smart Launches All-Out Assault On Dumb

November 8, 2010
Smart campaigns 'against dumb'

Smart campaigns 'against dumb'

Smart has published a manifesto on its Facebook page -- a manifesto against "dumb". 

The headline spells out the concept pretty clearly: "smart is against dumb, mindless consumption. Are you?" The manifesto goes on to list examples of the "dumb" that smart seeks to eradicate:

• Dumb is Venti when Tall is plenty.

• Dumb is 2-for-1 when all you are is one.

• Dumb thinks 12MPG is A-OK.

It would be an understatement to call this campaign "unusual" -- but then, smart’s vice president for marketing and advertising, Kim McGill, is quick to point out that this isn't a campaign. Rather, it's a "social media initiative". (Which sounds a lot like a campaign to us, only cheaper.)

Whatever we call it, smart's message is that we're all guilty of overconsumption. We purchase things we don't need, we accumulate things we don't have room for, then have to buy houses we can't afford to store all that junk.

This isn't the first time we've been admonished to make do with less. Monks, nuns, and hermits have lived by that precept for centuries. Hippies preached it. And more recently, AdBusters has turned it into a global phenomenon with its annual "Buy nothing day" -- which, like smart's campaign, coincides neatly with the holiday shopping season.

And to be fair, as a message, that's fine: most of us have too much junk in our lives, and in troubled economic times like these, who can really argue with saving dough for important stuff? But as advertising goes...well, it's a little weird. Perhaps not as weird as Olivier Francois' ads for Chrysler, one of which used Mikhail Gorbachev and Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi in a spot for the Chrysler 300, but still: offbeat. 

How smart itself fits into the campaign/initiative is somewhat vague. We have to assume that smart (the automaker) envisions itself as smart (the adjective), but while the fortwo's 33/41 mpg seems pretty smart, it's not quite genius level. And although the fortwo has fared well in safety tests, our own John Voelcker found driving it pretty harrowing at times: "The 2010 Smart ForTwo is in its element on crowded city streets, but at speed or almost anywhere else, it can feel uncomfortably toylike."

Smart likely hopes that the general public will follow this train of thought: small cars = spatially efficient = not wasteful = not dumb = smart (the adjective) = smart (the automaker). We have no idea whether that'll result in more sales for the ailing brand, which sold less than 83,000 units worldwide during the first ten months of 2010, down 14.9%. But hey, who doesn't love a manifesto?

[Forbes, Facebook]

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