Posts Tagged 'GM brand'

Are you a fickle consumer or a smart shopper?

I was surprised to read this in today’s New York Times:

Nearly four in five Americans were repeat buyers back then, staunchly faithful to brands that they knew, trusted and were part of their self-image. The allegiance often continued through generations of families, like party affiliations in politics.

Now, partly as a result of increasingly fickle consumer tastes and the industry turmoil in Detroit, that hard-won loyalty is largely gone. (Emphasis added)

Are we fickle because we moved away from one brand and toward another?  It seems to me that there has been a shift in mindset among car buyers but that doesn’t mean from stable to fickle.  Also, some of the brands that people are moving away from are soon disappearing from the marketplace.  Hard to remain loyal to a brand like Pontiac that is being decommissioned.

Shifting Car Preferences from NY Times

Shifting Car Preferences from NY Times

The growth of Hyundai and Kia are noted in the article but what isn’t noted is the really really smart marketing that Hyundai has done with their buyers assurance plan.  Switching to a different brand that better meets your needs is not fickle. People change their minds all the time without being fickle.

“Fickle consumers” makes us sound like the a teenager with a crush on a different person every week.  To their credit, the Times does go on to acknowledge the role internet has played by opening up a whole new way of thinking about car buying.  Perhaps I am being unfair.  One sentence should not drag down what is an otherwise interesting story.

Is GM a “ghost” brand?

So for a few months I have been pitching the idea that GM should be renamed The Chevrolet Corporation.  

And at first it seemed like GM was determined to continue down the path of the recent past.  Over the past 6 or 7 years there has been a concerted effort to create more meaning and purpose around the GM brand.  It began to show up on products as the badge of excellence.  There was advertising around GM itself.  Even the logo was updated.

And then the company deflated along with the rest of the economy.  The brand portfolio was streamlined, as whole areas of business were sold off.  The strongest brands remained.

And yet GM was still there, too.  It was a catch-basin of bad reputation.  More to the point, the cost of maintaining an additional GM brand goes against the greater economies that the company is trying to achieve.

So my observation that they would be best served by replacing the GM brand with The Chevrolet Corporation did not seem to be an option they were actually considering as the company publicly announced their plans.

And then…

And then I saw this in the NYTimes about how GM is dropping the “GM” logo, their “badge of excellence” from all new vehicles.

Introducing the New Chevrolet Corporation on June 1st!

It takes more than one Indianapolis 500 car driver and builder to create a great automobile company.  In fact it takes three.  Arthur, Louis and Gaston Chevrolet where all experienced Indy 500 car builders and drivers.  And they built the Chevrolet Company.

These three brothers had a motto “Never Give Up”  And they didn’t.  

That is why on June 1st GM is making an official announcement that the company is being renamed The Chevrolet Corporation.  The unofficial motto of the company is “Never Give Up”.  And the winning tradition of the Chevrolet brothers is spreading across the company.  Several sources have said that market research showed the faceless GM brand never had strong emotional connections with any of its audiences — not even internally.  Despite several efforts to re-brand GM, the new management has recognized the importance of the Chevrolet brand and heritage.  One executive who asked to remain anonymous said, “The American people feel much better about bailing out The Chevrolet Corporation than they do about bailing out GM”

Okay, so maybe this is just my imagination running away with me.  One can imagine a brighter future, can’t they?  

After all, it makes sense on so many levels to make this change.  The Chevrolet Corporate has all of the elements of a great narrative.  

And if GM is reading this, I would be happy to come out to the Renaissance Center and go through the reasoning and implications.  I’ll even pay for my own ticket.

Retire the GM brand, Part II

The stories released today show that GM is going to be phasing out or selling the Saturn, Saab and Hummer brands.

There is no word on the GM brand itself.   I would still recommend that the company give serious consideration to retiring the GM brand.  After all, there are several storied brands that could replace it.  The increase in marketing efficiencies are a compelling reason for such a change.

The phase out of the Saturn brand will create an interesting coda to the many  business school case studies on Saturn.  Will the schools still teach the Saturn story?  Will David Aaker print an updated version of the Saturn case study from “Building Strong Brands”?   Will they have to do a “case study recall” the way the car companies are always doing recalls?

While it’s fun to imagine such a recall, the reality is that case studies are always a snapshot, a single point in time.  Much can be learned from them.  Knowing how the brand eventually turned out can also be instructive.  We can learn as much from the failures of others as from the successes.  Not the usual way of thinking about benchmarking, I know.  But these aren’t times for business as usual.

Is it time to retire the GM brand?

As GM undergoes a renovation to get it back on the road to healthy, there will be a lot of discussion of which brands to keep and which to jettison.  In that spirit, I would like to nominate the GM brand itself as the first to be retired.

The GM brand is getting rusty with age. 

The rebuilt company should adopt one of the market brands for the corporate name.  This would have several advantages for the new company.  

1) It will signal a shift from the past practices which contributed to the company being in a ditch.  

2) It will have cost efficiencies since the company will save the costs of supporting a corporate brand that doesn’t have a direct benefit to the market brands.  For instance, Chevrolet benefits little if at all from the GM corporate advertising campaign. 

3) It can provide a new direction for the company’s narrative.  The Chevrolet brothers have an engaging story about how they came to America and founded their automotive company — as well as their shared passion for racing.  Knowing that the co-founder was a winner of the Indianapolis 500 gives the company more than just a human face.

Now the problems of GM are not solely of their own making.  And branding alone cannot solve the economic pileup on the financial highway.  It would be unrealistic to believe that changing the shape of the company’s narrative will substitute for the hard work of rebuilding the organization.  On the other hand, it will be much more difficult to rebuild the company without reshaping the company’s narrative.

Using the Narrative Branding (R) method will help the new GM to know that their branding is always in service of the business strategy.  Their branding is not disconnect from the business.  And branding is not the driver of business strategy.

It would be a brilliant move to announce the retirement of the GM brand on the day that Bob Lutz official retires.  It will be this coming April 1st.  April Fools Day.  An end of one chapter in the company’s history and the start of a new chapter.


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