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Box me in?

By Dr. Burt Smith March 28th, 2014

Many organizations live and die by personality or behavioral typing. Personally, I’ve always been a little skeptical of how it’s possible to take a creature as remarkable as a human being and type them as this way or that way based on a few questions or on some limited observation.

Here’s a free resource for personality typing, and it uses the Myers-Briggs/Jung Typology system, one of the most popular.


Though this is a widely respected tool, and I think it has some uses, I am still strongly opposed to trying to “categorize” people and I caution us all about doing so. That’s a good way to misjudge and alienate people.

I’ve often wondered if a good character actor could take this test and produce whatever results he or she planned on in advance. This guy appears to have done just that.

Years ago I had to take a psychological test to land a corporate gig. I knew there was no shot if I answered honestly and directly (two qualities right there that would’ve disqualified me). So I imagined what, and who, the ideal candidate would be, and responded accordingly. I simply counter-programmed myself for a wider audience. I became Mr. Opposite. (Remember that episode of Seinfeld when George went against his basic instincts and uncharacteristically succeeded every time?)

I was no longer an introspective loner; I was a jovial team player. I valued obeisance over individuality. I preferred tranquility to creative tension. It was the most fun I ever had on a written exam. And I got the job. (Fortunately the division merged after three months, and I was not offered another position.)” – Lee Robert Schreiber, Poker As Life


Keep that in mind next time someone tells you how powerfully predictable these instruments are.



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Kia Luxury

I’ve gotta admit, this is one sharp car!

Kia used a Super Bowl ad to boldly roll out its attempt to enter the luxury car market. What Kia is attempting to do is use a line extension to move into a new category. Sometimes this works, but for the reasons such as those we shared in the previous entry, often times it does not. More on why that is (along with a cool quote from Mike Bosley) here.

That’s not to say that a brand can’t leverage its strengths. It just has to be careful how it does so. As authors Ries and Trout taught us years ago, rather than try to change a customer’s perception through a line extension, a brand should work its way into the mind with a new concept. Note: I know not all of you readers are devotees of Ries & Trout, so feel free to keep that hate mail coming if it makes you happy!

One example Ries & Trout love to use is how Toyota worked its way into the luxury category. Years ago, Toyota had a respected reputation for value and quality, but they were by no means considered a luxury auto brand. To try to convince the market that a high-end Toyota was worth the same price as a Mercedes or BMW or Cadillac would have been a difficult, if not impossible, undertaking. So instead, what Toyota did was to create a totally new brand with a totally new story. Thus was born the Lexus!

When Honda wanted to enter the luxury segment, rather than create a “high-end Honda,” it created a whole new story in the form of the Acura brand. New story, new position in the mind. Typically this is much better than trying to change a perception.

And that’s what Kia should have done, in my humble opinion. They should have developed a new brand with its own unique story But time will tell, and time may tell that I’m totally wrong.


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Kia is trying to move into the luxury car category. They blasted onto the scene with an impressive Super Bowl commercial (one of the few that were truly Super Bowl-worthy in terms of grandeur, in fact). Just in case you missed it…

Wow!  A noble effort, to be sure. The commercial is an impressive piece of work that tells a good story. To Kia’s great credit, they have earned a very respectable reputation for quality and reliability.

But there’s a big problem.

In the mind of the market, which is the real battleground on which branding takes place, Kia isn’t considered a luxury car. And trying to change an attitude toward a brand is a tough, expensive undertaking. One that’s best avoided, in fact. There are a number of examples I could share for why this is, and I could cite some of my favorite marketing authors to support my point, but I’ve got a better idea.

A good friend – and frequent commentator here (in the “Comments” section, anyhow) – Mike Bosley, presented a superb example of how the market is likely to react to what Kia is attempting. Here’s a response he offered to a previous post and he told me I could use it here. Thanks Mike! (He’ll stick around after you read this post to sign autographs if you wish.)

I’m ALWAYS fascinated when a company like Kia takes on the challenge of telling a new story about themselves. Considering how well received were their life-size Kia hamsters, I think they have a ways to go. I still don’t even view Hyundai as a luxury vehicle but I’ve now been fooled twice from a distance into thinking their flagship luxury car was a Bentley! Sometimes, I’m not sure it’s possible. The time-telling features of a Timex and Rolex are indistinguishable but the apparent ‘benefit’ is that each tell a very different story about the wearer. Can you imagine your buddies all walking up to your new Kia when they see it pull in the parking lot only to find out it is, in fact, “just a Kia?” I love Kia’s boldness and I must say the car in the commercial is beautiful. Of course, my heart will always belong to Toyota.”


Exactly, Mike! The commercial may garner the attention of the target market, and the target market may even concede, if not heartily agree, that their reputation for service, quality, and overall VALUE is noteworthy. But when it comes time to sign the deal, are they really going to pay 70 grand or whatever for a…a…Kia? Don’t bet on it.

What can they do instead? That, my friends, will be the subject of the next entry…


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