Posts in Where's The Beef?
Chromjuwelen.com: WHERE'S THE BEEF?
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"Your stories, your international network, your multidimensional brand Chromjuwelen — DUDES, YOU ARE SITTING ON A GOLDMINE!" — that's what Chris and I often have heard since we launched Chromjuwelen.com back in 2005. But as stated in "It’s time to get focussed" we suspect that we buried — faced with so many funky and irresistible interweb opportunities — our Unique Selling Proposition — STORYTELLING. So it’s high time for digging. First of all for our USPs, then for gold.

We decided we'll to do it publicly, with opened visor. In short: We'll use storytelling to hack our broken storytelling. Virtually as a a self-prescribed therapy. To illustrate our mission, we'll borrow Wendy’s famous claim as our battle cry. 'Cause "WHERE'S THE BEEF?" hits the nail on the head. Especially these days, where the media scene seems to explode and everybody affirms he's making millions. We don't believe the hype.

We've got a long list of topics we would like to discuss, including things like money (of course), reach, trendsetters, language and culture — just to name a few. So stay tuned and let us know in the comments what you think. And of course, we still speak Deutsch. So don’t hesitate.

Chromjuwelen.com & Ralf Becker Consultants: It's time to get focussed
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Facebook closes it’s @facebook-email-service ('cause nobody wants it), Germans are ditching WhatsApp ('cause they are paranoid) — and for me it’s time to end up my Tumblr-blog-excursion. We are still in a digital stone age, and you know how it is: "Don't be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try." 

I still believe Tumblr is one of the best blogging tools out there, but either I stuffed way too much web finds in my Tumblr or used it in an inconsequent or wrong way. Tumblr works perfectly for our Chromjuwelen Motor Oil blog, but it never worked out as a full replacement for my "Ralf Becker Consultants" business blog.

It’s time to bring ralfbecker.com back. For branding-/marketing-topics, cherry picking and agency communication. "Lose Sight — Lose Fight" is written on the back of my business card of Ralf Becker Consultants. And "Losing Sight" is exactly what happened. With too many channels my communication got more and more frayed. So it’s time to regain the lead again (which is also written on my business card). Let's return to go!

Another MASSIVE PROJECT we are just working on is to rethink our lovely mothership, chromjuwelen.com. In the last eight years chromjuwelen.com got fat, felted and sluggish. When we — Christopher Stegemann and I — started chromjuwelen.com 2005 we had (to be honest) no idea where the business would be. In the meantime we figured out that we aren't that bad in things like storytelling, curating and content strategy. But it seemed we buried our skills, and it’s high time to expose them again. For our fans and readers, and for our clients.

Ha — coming home feels good!

The Blog Is Dead. Long Live The Blog!

You may — or may not — have noticed that over the past few weeks I have posted less and less. It's not that I have nothing to share (quite the opposite!), it's more due to the fact that I am disentangling my tools for publication and communication recently. Over the last years too many hungry, distracting and disruptive services/memberships had piled up — so a clean-up was long overdue.

One of my main concern was: how to go on with blogging. Fortunately I had some clients asking me the same question regarding their corporate blogs, so I spent some time to do a research.

And another one was: REACH. Starting a blog is like building a city in the middle of nowhere. Which means: after you've done your contentual work you have to run around with flyers ("social media"), hopefully bringing people over to read your brilliant stuff. You need to have a lot of stamina for this grassroots work. And don't forget all those white-/black-hat SEO one-trick ponies telling you what to do (my tip: just ignore 'em all and post awesome stuff instead).

I am glad I finished running this gauntlet, nevertheless I had the urge to move on. But before I explain my decision, why I will move my blog over to Tumblr, here is a quick overview, where I am coming from.

  • ralfbecker.com (this site) runs on Squarespace 5. Squarespace's support is awesome and it's high failure safety is tremendous. Even as Sandy boogied NYC, Squarespace kept up their good work. If you are looking for a portfolio site, you should definitely give Squarespace a try. Personally I like Squarespace #5 better than version #6.
  • chromjuwelen.com and motorkultur.com, our motherships, are both running on Joomla. Joomla is an extremely powerful open source content management system and has been downloaded over 35 million times(!). But as you can imagine, it's more a flattop than a lightwight powerboat.
  • I played around with WordPress as well (of course), but it just isn't doing it for me. I am no coder, and all this plugin- and template-huddle turns me off. Especially the backend — where you spend the most time when you are working — never worked for me. Ok, deciding against WordPresse means you don't belong to the 18.9% of the top 10 million websites that are running this famous software, but I don't mind.
  • Several years ago I was responsible for some blogs running on Moveable Type as well, but … err … well …. I think I just forgot about this platform. Which is truly not an indicative that Moveable Type convinced me.
  • Of course, there are a ton of other services: Blogger, Jimdo, Jux, Wix (oh boy, what a name), just to name a few of them. And don't forget about Facebug (which became kind of a standard in the meantime like your email address). But I never considered Facebook as a blogging platform. Although I know there are some dudes out there who are just doing this. 

Let me now turn to Tumblr. Originally I established our Chromjuwelen Tumblr for just one reason: collecting, clipping and curating inspiring stuff (long before Pinterest came up) and presenting it via Tumblr's stunning "/archive" function. Tumblr has always been good to me. Like a faithful soul, working in the background. My social media work horse for collecting, live blogging (via Instagram) and sharing. In the meantime I even became one of the Tumblr-editors for #cars, which means I can clip posts to Tumblr's own car channel.

To be honest: When I thought of changing my blogging platform, Tumblr wasn't the first thing which came to my mind. Sometimes you miss the forest for the trees. But finally, it sunk in. 

  • If you are blogging about highly visual topics like CARS, it's all about PHOTOS. Nothing else. The truth is: most of the time your visitors aren't interested in long copies (are you still with me?). Although you might think so.  
  • "Sharing is caring": It is much easier to share content on Tumblr than it is on a usual blog. Sure — you can install share buttons on your whatever blog. But did you ever use them? I barely. But once you are registered on Tumblr it is just a click to pay respect to a post.
  • I love the "/archive" feature on Tumblr, as I mentioned before.
  • Tumblr is responsive. Out of the box.
  • The templates are scaleable. You can start with a simple (micro-)blog and tune it later. Once improved, it has no need to shy away from any comparison to the above mentioned services.
  • Back to that catch-word "reach" — you don't have to annoy your Facebook- or Twitter-buddies with coaxing messages. You are already part of a huge community of 134 million blogs. Just share awesome stuff, get connected, and the rest will follow. Your reach will grow organically. No SEO wizzard needed.
  • No provider- and server-hosting-wrangeling, no coding. Same as Squarespace offers. Perfect. 

Along these lines: Farewell Squarespace blog, hello Tumblr. A big THANK YOU to everyone that has followed me here on my blog. If you want to stay in touch — which would really honor me — bookmark this address: chromjuwelen.tumblr.com. Or pull the feed in your reader. Or get registered at Tumblr and follow me.

I am going to keep up this site and blog for all the posts already here (even though I may bring some over and reshare) as a sort of archive. As well, this site will remain my "Ralf Becker | Consulting" corporate site. And if this is your first time here, please take a look and then head over to my new digs!

Liebe Autoindustrie, Ihr habt mich als Neuwagenkunden verloren.

— To my English readers: I am sorry, I will keep this one in German. Maybe I'll translate it later. —

Angefangen hat alles mit der Suche nach einem neuen Familienauto. Meine naive Vorstellung: Vier Türen, Klima (sonst wird man wahnsinnig mit dem randalierenden Nachwuchs) und ein halbwegs modernes Sicherheitspaket. Soll heißen: Gurte hinten, Kopfstützen, eventuell Airbags und ABS. Aber ansonsten bitte so wenig wie möglich Computerzeugs. Weder brauche ich einen Regensensor, noch einen Fahr- oder Was-Auch-Immer-Assistenten. Diese Dinge mitsamt ihren monströsen Steuercomputern sind sowieso schon in ein paar Jahren von niemanden mehr zu debuggen.

Eigentlich also eine einfache und kurzweilige Aufgabe. Sollte man meinen. Vielleicht, um das Bild abzurunden, noch ein paar weitere Details. Ich vermeide gerne Plastikessen und jeglichen Konsummüll, der in vietnamesischen Steuersparparadiesen produziert wird. Naomi Klein ("No Logo") hat übrigens Schuld daran. Soll heissen: Kein Sweatshirt aus einem Sweatshop, keine Erdbeeren im norddeutschen Winter, kein unnötiger Online-Kaufrausch (inklusive DHL-Retour-Amoklauf). An meinen Arbeitsgeräten, bei deren Produktion die Fabrikarbeiter aufgrund der widrigen Arbeitsbedingungen nicht selten lieber den Freitod wählen (Stichwort "Foxconn Electronics Inc."), komme ich aktuell nicht vorbei. Noch nicht. Aber das ist nur eine Frage der Zeit.

Ich wohne zentral und fahre überschaubare Strecken – insofern ist der Verbrauch zwar interessant, aber mehr auch nicht. Schlachtentscheidend hingegen sind viel mehr Dinge wie der "ökologische Rucksack" (Gesamtbillanz Herstellungsprozeß) und der Anspruch, dass man notfalls nochmals selber Hand angelegen kann (siehe Self-Repair Manifesto). Denn: "Plastic cars are for plastic people." Und: "Life is too short for ... er ... any kind of bullshit." 

Ich bin raus.

Also besuchte ich den modernen Autohandel und habe mich bewusst auf die andere Seite gestellt – also auf die des Kunden (für den ich auch mitunter Medien mache, damit er ein Auto kauft). Das Ergbnis war ernüchternd. Wer zur Hölle braucht eigentlich all' diese seelenlosen Peoplemover, die dadurch auffallen, dass sie nicht auffallen? Die alle krampfhaft versuchen, ihre Belanglosigkeit mit Techniküberfrachtung zu kaschieren? Ich zumindest nicht. Ich bin raus.

Ich habe mich erschrocken, wie viele Modelle ich noch nicht einmal auf dem Schirm hatte. Sicher, jetzt habe ich meine Wurzeln auch eher im Bereich der klassischen Automobile – aber dennoch bin ich potentieller Kunde. Nur, dass mich die lustigen, neuen Automodelle und deren Reklame anscheinend schon lange nicht mehr erreichen. Und überhaupt: "iFuel-Eco-Blue-Turbo-Move-Efficiency"? Wer denkt sich nur so einen Quatsch aus! Anscheinendend Menschen, die auf einem anderen Planeten leben, als ich es tue. Und die kein Interesse daran haben, jemals wieder andere (und vielleicht jüngere) Zielgruppen als ihresgleichen zu erreichen.

Kurzum: Die zu Tode diversifizierten Modellpaletten und die Inflation der gesichtlosen Cross-Over-Modelle schrecken mich ab. Liebe Autoindustrie: Das alltägliche Leben ist schon kompliziert genug. Warum macht Ihr es mir so schwer? Ich befürchte, Ihr habt mich verloren. Zumindest, wenn es um den Bereich der einfachen Brot-und-Butter-Autos geht.

Neuwagenkäufer und Automedien im Schnitt: 50+

Man mag es ja der Autoindustrie nicht verübeln. Schließlich erfordern internationale Expansionen, das bei Laune halten der Shareholder, der weltweite Verkauf neuer Modellserien und Themen wie Eigenzulassungen vollste Konzentration. Und was spielen da schon Meinungen einzelner Querulanten (wie mir), die weder in einem Boom-Land wie China zuhause sind, noch dem Alter der Zielgruppe der typischen Automedienleser und Neuwagen-Erstkäufer (50+!) entsprechen, für eine Rolle. Ungemütlich wird es nur, wenn mehr und mehr Leute so denken. Und ich persönlich kenne eine ganze Menge, die das tun. Darunter übrigens nicht wenige Experten, die den Automotive Markt in- und auswendig kennen.

Sei es drum. Es gibt zum Glück heute genügend alltagstaugliche Klassiker, sodass ich beruhigt auf einen modernen Assistenzbomber verzichten kann. Der Markt wird es locker verschmerzen und (viel wichtiger) die Ökobilanz freut sich. Bleibt nur zu hoffen, dass in Zukunft doch mal ein Unternehmen – vielleicht sogar aus einem Non-Automotive-Bereich (Google? Apple? Tesla?) – um die Ecke kommt. Mit Produkten, die meinen einfachen Wünschen entsprechen. Und denen ich eher vertraue.

Aber – was kauf' ich jetzt?

Ich denke, es wird wohl auf ein 70er-80er Luxusmodell mit einem Stern auf der Haube hinauslaufen. Oder auf einen Vintage-SUV (nein, keinen modernen MILF-Laster) wie zum Beispiel einem G-Modell oder einem Land Rover Defender.

Ins ökologische Beuteraster passen würde übrigens laut seiner Fakten auch ein Jeep Wrangler. Denn schenkt man diesem Artikel Glauben, dann weist der Jeep TJ Wrangler den besten Ökowert aus. Zumindest im Vergleich mit Hybrid-Modellen.

Schon amüsant: "[...] But you could also serve the environment better by choosing a Hummer H2 ($3.027) or H3 ($1.949), a Cadillac Escalade ($2.753), a Lincoln Navigator ($2.617), a Dodge Ram ($2.484), or pretty much anything else for less than an Accord Hybrid ($3.295), Toyota Prius ($3.249), Honda Civic Hybrid ($3.238), or Ford Escape Hybrid ($3.178). [...]"

Und der Spritverbrauch von 'nem Wagen im besten Alter? Zur Hölle damit!

(Foto via Justin Lippert)

Dear Auto Industry, It's time To Roll Up Your Sleeves And Get To Work

Our friends from Amy & Pink just posted this Rammstein video of "Mein Herz brennt". There's one sentence in Amy & Pink's article, which made me laugh:

"Etwas, das dein großer Bruder, der jetzt um die 40 ist, hört, wenn er an seine Exfreundin denkt, die ihn wegen Torsten, dem stellvertretenden Filialleiter des lokalen Tengelmanns verlassen hat." (Rough: "Something your 40 years old brother is listening to, when he thinks of his ex-girlfriend — who left him for Torsten, the manager of the local supermarket.")

A moment later the laugh sticked in my throat.

For some time past we are asking different automotive industriy, marketing and media decision makers about the average age of their readers and clients. And without the ability of attesting it — the average age seems to be something between 35 and 50 years. If not even higher. Once again, this is just a gut feeling. But it seems car enthusiasts are at the least 40+.

So – compared to Amy & Pink's article – are (we) car enthusiasts just as the above mentioned old (fashioned) brother? Recapitulating the majority of our meetings we had with the German Auto(motive) Industry recently, I would go so far to say: Yes, we are.

Here are some more interesting details. Sorry for linking to German articles, but I am sure — if you ask a search engine — you'll find similar articles written in your language as well:

Ok, there is one (courageous) star in the (media) sky which gives hope, because he is doing a lot of things properly. But what about the rest? And what about the auto industry suppliers? If the trends will prove to be true — will any younger person ever be interested again in the product differences of tires, dampers, wheels? The risk of being buried in oblivion is high.

Dear Auto Industry: Awake – Dein Herz brennt. It's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Bethink yourself of your core (brand) values and start communicating — but be aware of all the filters that are installed to avoid annoying advertisement. Please start surpriseing us again — like Tesla does, like Car2Go does. But stop acting that stony. 

If you need any help, let us know.

Now, what shall we do with all the money?

We often get asked, what the heck we are doing the whole day long. With our nerdy computer stuff and those geeky tools. And how we even can achieve to earn money with it. It seems it's still a kind of a miracle what we are doing, especially for those who are working in the traditional (German) marketing and media scene.

You think this sounds weird? Especially as Germany is internationally considered to be THE automotive paradise — with its Autobahn, "The Ring", its cultural backgorund and all those premium car makers? Yeop, it's strange. But we got used to it.

It's quite easy (… er … for us). Let me explain.

When we rolled out our mother ship http://chromjuwelen.com back in 2005, it wasn't our intention to create another website, magazine, forum or community. Our vision was — and still is — to build a brand. A strong and on it own terms evolved brand which embodies a cultural habitus. A sender which inspires through its diversity. A winged word or "meme" which helps like-minded people to get connected to each other.

Of course — we know it's absolutely maniac and ambitious. Especially when you choose a German brand name like "Chromjuwelen" (= Chrome Jewels) which nobody will understand behind our German borders. Maybe we fail, because we overestimate ourselves. But as products — like cars or automotive parts in particular — have become evermore (ho-hum) equal, and most responsible decision makers believe (due to ignorance) more and more in crippling controlling aspects than in vision, passion and gut feelings — we got bored to the same extent.

We had a hunch there must be more people who feel the same. And getting feedback for our work substantiates our assumptions. Today we are convinced: People miss Movers & Shakers. But it seems there aren't too many courageous and visionary doer out there. And to make matters worse: We learned most people — especially car-minded — are hardly able to sort the daily info overkill produced by magazines, blogs and communities. Which means: they are gone. Because it's impossible for them to trace their 24/7 news feeds. Call it RSS, call it Facebook, call it Twitter, call it Tumblr ... call it THE INTERNET.

To keep it short: Our aim is to establish our brand Chromjuwelen as a lighthouse. A trusted beacon which helps sorting the good into the pot, while the bad ones go in the crop. In doing so we never intended to set the rules what is "kool" and what it is not — it is more that we are trying to curate as much inspirational content as we can find. The judgement, what is cool and what is crap, will be done be our readers.

Over the years we gained a certain amount of reach. Not only national, but also international. It has been a mountain of grass roots work, as the differences between Germany and the rest of the world is sometimes ... well ... disenchanting. It's not only this funky language called "Deutsch" that differs us from the rest tot the world, it is more the mindset which is totally divergent. And no – we don't not push our luck by claiming everything "awesome", "amazing" or "magic" to succeed. Don't forget — we are Germans. This would not work.

But anyway – we managed it. Which leads us to our first mainstay.

$$$ #1. We get hired. As brand ambassadors. To produce content and media – or just for advertising.

Of course we are aware of the whole discussion about "the industry is buying content". But honestly: we give a damn. If we like things, we will post 'em. If not, we don't. Needless to say: If we would present stuff which is smelling fishy, we would kill our brand. Comprehensible, right?

At the moment a handful of car-makers and brands are rediscovering their roots, which gives us hope. New Mercedes-Benz SL? Absolutely! Showing your tires in a passionate environment? Of course! Combining "Art & Auto"? Yeah! But presenting a faceless product or service? No way.

This leads us to our next business.

$$$ # 2. We are an agency. We consult and create strategies.

Because we learned to communicate over most different channels and act like daywalkers between the different scenes, we have the ability to advise companies. Nine times out of ten this is a job where we work in stealth modus — which means we don't publish our work. Instead of that we produce PPT-slides, conceptualize strategies, use our network.

Apparently there are still some people out there who think buffoons like us who slam their cars are not able to read sources like "Business Insider". If you belong to those people, take a long walk off a short pier. Seriously — are you still convinced bloggers are dirty or communities like Facebook will harm your product? Didn't you ever come up with the idea most major publications produce solely streamlined SEO chow instead of honest opinions and valuable journalism? Good luck.

But if you understand that things have changed, but you are not savvy enough — this is where we get into the game. Call it "blogger relations" or "social media". We have the ability to help you. Without those tools and strategies we wouldn't be able to feed our monsters like the "Monthly Grid". Not to mention we would fail to communicate with our worldwide network.

Would we go so far to call ourselves "Social Media Consultants"? No. In our opinion social media is a totally overhyped marketing bullsh*t bingo phrase. It's crucial that you know what you would like to tell. And the rest will follow. Once your mission is set, social media is a perfect PR tool. No more, no less. Oh — you haven't got a mission? Go to work. Or ask — maybe we could help you.

Oh, wait – you are looking for a huge number of Facebook fans to present 'em to your boss? Buy 'em – and whatever!

$$$ # 3. Chromjuwelen Products.

In the past we often got asked why we do not sell t-shirts. And hoodies. And lanyards.

The truth is, that we are a.) living in Deutschland (where nobody wears t-shirts) and b.) those products are not scaleable. For most people, especially in Germany, this stuff is just merchandise. Don't get me wrong: I love wearing a Crank & Piston, Motoraver, Style-Deluxe, Höing Sportmotoren or Oldschool Racing Association t-shirt — to show who inspires me. But for Chromjuwelen it has been crucial to debut with a product which is custom made for our family. Like we just did with our Chromjuwelen Motor Öl.

We understand it is a rocky road to establish something like a motor oil. And you know how it is: "Good things come to those who hate". But starting with something like a motor oil makes clear what is our benchmark. In our case: It is more the classic products we are interested in. Products like an understandable auto detailing line or a tailor made and handcrafted goodie for your EDC.

A question: If everybody is keen on products like the Deus X Tool Roll (Deus Ex Machina & Makr Carry Goods), Wrenchmonkees vs. Kansas, or brands like Eat Dust, Pike Brothers, Red Wing Shoes or Filson … why should we offer something stupid like a tacky soft shell jacket? Do you think that would match your $30k classic car? Hmm. We don't.

At the moment we would even go so far to reverse the system: Offering our brand to anybody who wants to create something special. On one condition: It has to deal with "Motorkultur" and "Chromjuwelen". And it has to be sustainable, which means produced by small companies, not by Far East sweat-shops ... but this is another idea ...

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Ok, this article took me longer than I expected. But writing it has been long overdue. Feel free to tar and feather me ...