There has been some excellent discourse on my GM post of a few days ago. Several readers have asked, in a variety of diplomatic ways, "Well, Miss Big Mouth, what would you tell GM to do?" Pam Hawkins went so far as to contact GM and inform them of the ongoing discussion and asks for comments on her blog as well.
Knowing very little about exactly what's going on within the corporate inner sanctum of GM, here are some thoughts I'd toss their way, say, if the topic came up during a dinner conversation:
Advertising isn't the problem.
GM has some of the best American auto advertising out there today, namely their Cadillac and OnStar campaigns. They capture the customer's attention with emotion-based ads that either help them to imagine what it's like to drive a stylish Caddy, or touch them with real-life examples of how OnStar comes to the aid of customers by unlocking car doors or calling emergency services immediately after an accident.
What GM should do is take a long, hard look at all of their advertising and make sure it's aligned with these already-successful campaigns. Do the values in their ads for Chevrolet, Buick, and Hummer resonate with the values of the target customer? The enormous success of Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty campaign is a top-notch example of values-based marketing... and yes, there are parallels that can be used by each and every business category.
This really isn't your father's Oldsmobile.
It's time for GM to start looking at its consumer through a new lens. The exploding Boomer market does not think of themselves as "seniors," and have little, if any, interest in yesterday's models of say, the Buick LeSabre. As David Wolfe so brilliantly reminds us, it's about Ageless Marketing - tomorrow's aging population is active, stylish, and has plenty of years to still take on the world. It's time to blow up the old customer model and take an honest look at what Boomers want and need in an automobile.
It also isn't your mother's Tahoe.
I've said it before and I'll say it again -- research shows that 65% of new vehicle purchases are influenced or directly made by women. Sure, women sucked up SUVs like there was no tomorrow back in the heyday of the style, but times they are a' changin'.
It's a new generation of "soccer mom" (a term that causes me to shudder). Gas prices are rising with no relief in sight. Concern for the environment and life of this planet is an undeniable trend. Sales of hybrid vehicles are growing exponentially, with expectations that hybrids could account for 30% of all auto sales by 2015. Women still need the SUVs to haul the munchkins around, but think of the brand loyalty that would come from the pride in driving a hybrid model (as Lexus is doing with its RX330)
Just start running.
To many, GM's "solid citizen" brand has become, well.. boring. What happened to being the greatest country in the world... isn't it time for GM to be a leader again at something? There's no need to recreate the wheel here. GM passed on Toyota's gas-electric hybrid technology for its own less-efficient attempt, and it will be two more model years before GM introduces hybrids into SUVs and trucks. Two more years that Toyota will have to refine and evolve what is already ground-breaking. GM says that when it comes to hybrid technology, "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon." Well, OK... but if you don't pin a number on that jersey of yours and at least start running, you'll be left in the dust yet again.
Just pick a finish line and go for it. Maybe, for GM, it's not hybrids. Maybe it's safety, style, or another form of technology. Maybe it's creating the "extreme customer experience." Whatever it is, I do hope that GM has the smarts and cojones to realize it must completely reinvent itself. I fear it's more likely that just like the Hummer, it's simply too big to make that desperate U-turn on a dime.
So there you have it... my two cents' worth. Now, if you want to talk about strategy, message development and creative content, well... that's what I get paid to do. Can't give away the whole candy store now, can I?