GM Is At It Again!

I keep picking on GM here, but it is so hard not to do. The keep stumbling around, and sadly, that makes them an easy target to pick on. I sure wish they could get their act together. They have some great brands, and some great history, and it would be a shame to see that die.

I read an article from Automotive News that says that GM is launching a new set of commercials, with the first to feature their current chairman, Ed Whitacre, in a 60-second spot basically asking (begging?) the buying public to give GM a chance. This could end up as a failure for them in so many ways.

First, no disrespect to Mr. Whitacre, but having a 60+ year old multimillionaire who almost nobody has heard as your initial public face doesn’t look like “change” to me. GM was supposed to be different, and someone who projects the image of what people think of when they hear “failed executives” (whether he is a failed executive or not) is not the way to do it. Right now, the public is leery of any sort of business-type authority figure, whether it applies to cars, banking or any other business. They need someone they can trust, someone they can believe in, and someone they can believe has not sold out to GM just for the money. GM needs to get someone like Tom Hanks, an A-list celebrity with credibility and personality, to at least do voiceovers, or better yet appear in, GM commercials. No B-listers, no has-beens from another decade (or another era). Someone that people respect, would know almost instantly if they saw or heard them. Someone who can speak for the products, and someone who the general public will listen to.

The other mistake is having the initial spots focus on GM. GM executives have already stated that they want to focus on the individual brands, and not GM. One step is to remove the little GM logo from the fender just below the A-pillar on all new cars and trucks, and that is underway now. The next is to stop talking about GM in any commercials, print ads or online materials. GM is a tainted brand, and it is time for it to fade into the background for a decade or so. Stop reminding people that GM screwed up, and put itself in a position where it needed taxpayers help to survive.

GM is also planning to have commercial spots for the individual brands, one of which will continue with Howie Long talking about how Chevy’s fuel economy is so good. First, the Chevy spots seem (to me anyways) to come off as a bit desperate and insecure, or smug to the point of arrogance. It also becomes a one-note song that glosses over the more substantial features where Chevy is at least competitive. Again, having an A-lister like Tom Hanks speaking for Chevy would do a lot more to get people to have another look at them. People need to know that the company has changed, and that their products are relevant. Having an NFL player that many people have never heard of as your spokesman just isn’t cutting it.

They still need to find some direction for the Buick ads. The latest was interesting, but the brand was buried in the imagery. It was the kind of ad that won’t sell product, but only get the ad firm awards. An interesting or cool commercial where no one can remember the product is a waste of money.

GMC needs ads that aren’t dull and bland. Their current crop shows the usual generic “truck driving through the wilderness” while some non-entity babbles on about the technology or something. I consider myself a car guy, and I don’t find the details interesting. I’m not sure how the average consumer would get anything out of them.

The Cadillac ads are the only ones they have right now that are current, interesting, similar enough to other luxury brand ads that it isn’t “too wierd” but different enough that you’ll remember the message. I’ve heard they want to replace them, but they seem to me to be the only ones that are working.

GM desperately needs to get someone who knows how to build and sell brands and brand images. They need to steal someone who works on marketing for firms like Coke or McDonalds, brands that still insist on good advertising and marketing, despite being 2 of the best known brands on the planet. But however GM does it, they really have to de-emphasize the GM parent, and do it quickly, and bring Chevy, Buick, Cadillac and GMC to the forefront.