Sunday, February 22, 2009

GM's Problem – No More Speaky Branding

When we think of the U.S. auto industry's ailments, we think of legacy costs, unions, bloated bureaucracies, etc. But the illness goes to something more fundamental.

GM once had ideas – and intuitive understanding of brand differentiation. Over the years GM lost this understanding... and lost all else in the process. This picture tells the tale.
One car proclaims American muscle, sex and brass... The other reeks of clip boards, flaccidity and porridge... no doubt its owner's manual had instructions in English and French.
You can read the full sad story in the New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/20/business/20pontiac.html?scp=1&sq=pontiac&st=cse
Draw your own conclusions.

The original Pontiac was a daring leader of Native Americans in the 1760s.
Under GM's guidance, Chief Pontiac would have been re-directed to sew moccasins for a living.

brandsinger

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a glib and superficial post, much like the NY Timess.

Go look at the Pontiac Solstice. The car is gorgeous.

Pontiac has not failed because of the revived GTO, which was an expensive niche vehicle that actually performed outstandingly, despite its dull appearance..

It's far more complicated. You and the media have omitted the Solstice and failed to understand that GM's products today are not the problem as much as the products it made from 1975 to 2000.

Why didn't buyers flock to the solstice? Why haven't buyers flocked to the excellent Malibu (it's doing well, yet not phenomenally) - because brand impressions with autos, which are expensive items, are sticky over time.

mm said...

Sadly, when I think Pontiac, I think trailer park. (80s Firebirds up on blocks are not a great first brand impression.)

The Solstice is a beautiful car, but if I get a midlife crisis 2 seater, I want a brand I can brag about.

The Toyota Matrix and the Pontiac Vibe are the same car. Same parts, different logos. Why do I assume the Toyota is more reliable?

brandsinger said...

Hey anonymous - Thanks for you comments. You seem to be saying (and pardon if this sounds glib and superficial) that GM has failed because consumers weren't smart enough to buy their cars. Now, c'mon, my friend, there is no such thing as a beautiful, gorgeous, perfectly designed car... if you're the only one who thinks it so. But I like your final point: Brand impressions are sticky. Same as the pistons on older GM cars.

Say mm - Your point on the Solstice is exactly right. You can't get the thrill of the open road if your car is named after "either of the two times a year when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator"... Might have had a chance if they had named it Soul Sister.

-brandsinger