It’s fashionable to bash radio executives today. But radio G.M.’s and P.D.’s are among the smartest people I know.

And, now more than ever, I think radio managers get the idea of establishing a brand and being focused and consistent. They get it more than they did years ago. It’s been years since I’ve heard statements like: We need more 25-54’s…let’s add some oldies to our CHR station.”

Radio guys “get” brand integrity more than some big money execs in some other industries…

The auto industry has been a lifelong interest of mine and I follow it closely. As a marketing guy, I was astounded by something I heard recently from Chrysler brand CEO Peter Fong. He sees the brand moving “a notch above Lincoln, a notch above Cadillac.”

I say two things: (1) Mr. Fong, check your medications, and (2) I want my tax money back!

Even in the best days of the Chrysler brand, it was never more than upper-middle, like Buick. And that was a long time ago. When the corporation dropped Plymouth (another mistake), Chrysler became the purveyor of its low-end minivans and cheaper cars like the PT Cruiser. Chrysler moved downscale, not up.

Once you do that, there’s no turning back. It’s just not possible to move a brand up the luxury and prestige ladder. (Unless consumers didn’t know who you were in the first place.)

And that’s why Toyota, Nissan and Honda created Lexus, Infiniti and Acura back in the ’80s…because they knew consumers wouldn’t pay big bucks for “Toyota,” “Nissan” or “Honda”!

In contrast, it is quite possible to move downscale, but it’s not usually a good idea…

Until recently, the 3 Series was the least expensive BMW. In ’08, they launched a lesser model — the 1 Series. It’s not selling well.

Undaunted, BMW is now reported planning a new 0 series! Not only will the model be cheaper yet, but it will also be the first front wheel drive BMW. Front wheel drive has advantages, but optimum handling isn’t one of them. Ask any car aficionado…y’know, the kind that have bought “The Ultimate Driving Machine” for years.

Besides, who wants to say: “I drive a zero”?

Moving a luxury brand downscale is hardly limited to autos. Starbucks recently introduced Via — an instant coffee….hardly an upscale product.

Starbucks must know it’s on shaky ground here. Its website states: This is not instant coffee as you know it. This is rich, flavorful StarbucksĀ® coffee in an instant… Starbucks has found a way to offer a truly great cup of coffee that you can prepare by just adding water.

This is brand dilution…literally. Even if Via tastes as good as Starbucks claims, that’s missing the point. Starbucks isn’t just about the coffee…it’s about the total experience. Y’know, the rich smell of coffee in the air, the barrista skillfully preparing your Grande Java Chip Frappacino with a shot of espresso (note: not my order), the students spending hours on their laptops…

Why else would someone spend $5 for a coffee???

You’d think the folks at Starbucks would understand this, but execs often lose sight of the big picture when they’re chasing revenue in a down market. Even if Starbucks sells tons of Via, it hurts them long-term.

So, I have a suggestion for BMW, Starbucks and any other companies that are losing their way. Hire some ex-radio execs as brand managers. There are certainly a lot of them looking for work, and they “get it.”