Why Marketers Should Drive a Badass Car

Steve McQueen movie poster from Bullitt. He drove a Mustang and he was very, very cool.

If you work in Marketing, Advertising, or some kind or related field, you are probably familiar with the concept of personal branding. Or “Brand You” as it is sometimes referred to.

Your Brand You is something you live every day. It’s the job you do and how you do it. It’s also your clothing, your blog, your online footprint. It’s a little bit of everything that supports the brand that is you. It requires care and feeding.

For example, I was talking with a colleague, who is in a new-business development job. It’s part account manger, part business development, and all relationships. Anyway, he was lamenting the vehicle he drove, which is a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.

I asked him what was wrong with his Jeep. He told me that he felt strange picking up corporate clients in a Jeep, which he keeps immaculately clean because of his training in the military.  He motioned to the parking lot, which was a sea of cars from Audi, BMW, Infinity, Lexus, Acura, and Nissan. Those are the cars sales guys drive, he told me.

Yeah, I said, that’s is what they drive. And what you drive is different because you are different. Your brand is different. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Picture this: you’re a client. The sales guy has offered to take you out to lunch and for some reason, he actually has two cars with him. He says, “we can take the Audi or we can take the ’69 Corvette.” Which would you choose to go to lunch in?

My completely unscientific poll of industry colleagues and friends suggests that most people would go to lunch in the ‘Vette. Why? Because it’s a unique experience. It gives you something to talk about. The Audi is nice (which is why you buy one), but it’s not remarkable (unless it’s a performance model).

You want to be remarkable.

In Marketing and Advertising, you don’t have to be bland. In fact, it sometimes helps to be unique. Clients don’t have to look very far to get bland, uninspired ideas. They see them every day in PowerPoint presentations. Bland is safe.

Remarkable isn’t safe. It’s about living Brand You, as a reflection of who you are and who you want to be. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably not dull and don’t want that to be your Brand You image.

I’m assuming now that your company makes remarkable campaigns. That you deliver great work on time and in budget. That’s sort of the minimum here. Being a hot marketer is meaningless unless you deliver great campaigns and measurable results. I suggest you get all that stuff aligned in the office before you go buying a hot ride.

To paraphrase a line I once heard: “You’d better be a good outfielder if you want to wear a paisley mitt.”
Caveat ended.

So, if you are a marketer or advertiser and you want to make a personal Brand You impression, give some thought to your ride. If you want to be remarkable, maybe you need a badass car.

There’s nothing wrong with pulling up to a client in a Toyota Corolla. It’s economical, practical, and reliable. In fact, if you want to go for a ride in one, my mom drives one. She’s a grandmother. Did I mention that it’s practical?

Oh, and one more thing. This may not be your daily driver. It could be your second car; the one you use to meet clients on a Friday for lunch.

Here are a few cars that are badass worthy, conversation starting, and remarkable personal branding for Brand You:

1970 – 1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
This is a badass car that was a step up from the Chevelle, more civilized than the Camaro, and not quite as ritzy as the Cadillac. You can usually find them in nice condition with some nice luxury features. Go one step further in your quest for badass and get the old leaded-gasoline engine replaced with a more modern engine. Reliable is a virtue. It’s not cool for you and your client to be waiting for a tow truck.
Check out: The First Generation Monte Carlo Club

Vintage BMW or Mercedes
I have nothing against new BMW or Mercedes Benz cars. I actually quite like them, especially the performance models. But there’s an undeniable charm about a classic Euro-ride from the 60s or 70s. A Mercedes with the hint of a tail fin? Wow. Talk about German engineering and that will make for a genuinely interesting conversation. Plus, they are usually four-door vehicles, which makes it convenient for a few clients to join the meeting. If your client currently owns a modern BMW, Mercedes, or other high-end Euromobile, they will enjoy this blast from the past.
Check out: BMW Car Club of America or Mercedes Benz Club of America
The 1970 Mercedes was good enough for Elvis.

The Corvette has always symbolized American sports cars and it’s definitely not for everyone. People debate which Corvette years are most desirable, but it really comes down to styling preference because. It is a polarizing vehicle and typically, you love it or hate it. (But honestly, have you ever driven one?)  True story: once I had asked a Corvette owner how fast he drove his Corvette. He just smiled and said, “I have a ‘Vette. I don’t have to drive fast.” That, my friends, is a great answer.
Check out: The Corvette Story – I am partial to the 71 Corvette

Speaking of fast, we all know that “my Maserati does 185” from the song by Joe Walsh. That’s all well and good, but the Maserati sits in a rarefied place among luxury sports vehicles. They tend to be a bit larger and more comfortable than a hot German sports car. And they aren’t fire breathers like a Ferrari or Lamborghini, both of which cross into a different personal brand message. The Maserati is unique. It’s luxurious and fast. It’s got an Italian attitude, but not the one you see on the “Jersey Shore.” Unique is good.
Check out: Maserati US website

Cadillac CTS Sports Wagon or Dodge Magnum
They don’t call them “station wagons” anymore, but that’s exactly what they are. Cadillac makes a station wagon and it is one of the coolest cars you’ve ever seen. It’s one of the cars that turns heads because people automatically know that the Cadillac brand is all about luxury. You get the practicality of a station wagon, the comfort and class of a Caddy, and you look good getting there. Oh, and the discontinued Magnum offers a similar solution in a car that looks aggressive, sharp, and more than just a little badass. Go ahead, call them station wagons. Make my day.
Check out: Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon
Check out: Chrysler May Revive the Magnum

The Jeep is what started this conversation. The guy who drives is is ex-military. He wanted something rugged and made in America. Get a Wrangler or some variation if you want to drive an American icon. It’s an American flag on wheels. If that’s your brand, your Jeep will say it for you.
Check out: Wrangler Unlimited

Yeah, the Back to the Future car. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I suspect most adults would love to sit in a DeLorean. It’s more than a conversation piece. It’s a reason to bond over old movie lines. Best of all, they make them new, so you actually get a reliable car that will take you back in time, in more ways than one.
Check out: DeLorean New Build

Gas and emission requirements of the 70s and 80s damn near killed the American hot rod. But great engineering and a nod to past styling has brought back the American hot rod. There are now new, updated versions of the Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger. They look great, drive well, and have all the safety features you’d want for a daily ride.
Check out the Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger

Anything Hybrid or EV
Wait, the Toyota Prius makes the list? You bet. So does the Chevrolet Volt, the Hybrid Highlander, and the Honda Civic Hybrid. Why? Because it’s a car that drives on your principals. It says that you’re willing to put your money where your beliefs are. What’s more patriotic than burning less foreign oil? Gas was cheap in 1992. You can’t slow global warming with one car, but by driving a hybrid or electric vehicle (EV), it says that you’re willing to think globally and act locally. These are the dark horse vehicles that acknowledge that you are doing less to reduce your personal carbon footprint. If that’s part of your personal beliefs, then maybe these are the badass cars for your Brand You.
Check out: Prius, Volt, Honda hybrids

So…there’s my initial list of badass cars. Do I like modern cars by Acura, Infinity, BMW, and Audi? Of course I do. If you missed that, reread the article before you comment. I like Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, and lots of other cars too. But this post isn’t about good cars. It’s about being remarkable.

Two important things to note:

  1. If you get a badass ride, take some time to learn the history and trivia associated with the car. You can pepper the conversation with useful “did you know” facts that make the whole experience more fun.
  2. Your car should reflect your personality. Clearly these reflect parts of mine and the people who helped me. Special thanks to my car consultants Jerry Barbara and Rus Wooton for contributing ideas.

So what do you think? Am I crazy or on-target?

What cars would you include in this list? Any that need to be removed?



9 thoughts on “Why Marketers Should Drive a Badass Car

  1. Falling into the category of people who drive cars that may lack luster, you are missing an opportunity to showcase your true marketing prowess by identifying a brand like Ford or Hyundai. Ford for having turned around, mid recession and dominating many classes with attractive and reliable cars. Hyundai for transforming themselves from an econo-box, 3rd tier brand to one that is on par with Honda and Toyota.

    Identifying these trends and the power of marketing can show the driver as one who recognizes the tide before it turns.

    Of course, there is no substitute to rolling up in a vintage GTO racer.

  2. I’ll agree with you on the GTO racer. I mean, if you can pull up without stalling. 🙂

    Not sure if I agree on Ford and Hyndai. I mean, they both make great cars. And they’re both on a roll, that’s for sure.

    But do you think that the Ford Explorer gets that halo effect when someone steps inside? I think those cars are so familiar that people don’t even think about it when they get inside and close the door.

    Reliable? Sure. Remarkable? Not so sure.

  3. I’m a 1968 Dodge Polara -12 cylinder Mopar engine, bench seats, chrome bumpers and hub caps, beautiful fins off the rear side panels, and made of solid American steel!

  4. Sean,

    That’s quite a vehicle. A car like that passes everything the highway. Except a gas station.

    That said, you can probably fit several clients in that car and still have room for golf bags.

    Well chosen, wise one.


  5. Excellent point. Standing out from the crowd helps people remember you. Although I used to own a Wrangler and they’re not as fun to ride in as most people think.

  6. I just bought a twilight blue 2012 Kia Sportage. I think it fits my personal brand. Vanity plates = WARD-OH

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