Monday, August 31, 2009

How Does a Brand Make You Feel? - My thoughts on GM

About a month ago I stumbled across a blog post about New Brand Strategies for GM. The writer gave their thoughts on what should be done with the branding efforts of the remaining GM brands. Being the nerd that I am and a former employee of a major automotive brand, I decided to give my two cents. Thought I'd share it here as well.

Interesting take. The other brands you mentioned, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes (i may argue with you on the brand position you chose for them), and Volvo all cater to the senses and emotion of the brand. Toyota gives a feeling of security and reliability b/c of a history of well built vehicles. BMW gives a feeling of performance, strength and power b/c of the way vehicles drive and handle. Mercedes is a feeling of status and confidence that one has "made it" or is successful (at least in the U.S.) Volvo is definitely a feeling of safety and protection, however, has always seemed to be more niche vehicles because the feeling isn't powerful enough for the masses.

I like to ask, how does a brand make you feel, and how passionate are people about that feeling? Other than the Chevy example, I think what you have described aren't emotional enough, or just aren't realistic enough to become emotional and drive passionate feelings. Another issue is that Ford or Chrysler have a solid position with like feelings as well.

People are passionate about being American, but Ford is a brand that pretty much claims that as well. Can Chevy have the same brand and compete? Buick has, and always will be known, as the last vehicle people own before they die. Even Tiger Woods can't change that emotional tie. Buick screams: I'm old, I'm OK with that, so I drive a Buick. For Cadillac, "Leading Technology" is too niche like Volvo. It's just not powerful enough on the emotions. And with GMC, I'm with you, no reason to hold onto this one. Jeep already has the "Rugged Reliability" brand tied up.

In the end, I think GM needs to create emotion with their brands. I think a Chevy and a Ford can both be "American" brands, so stick with that and be over the top with it. Drop the Buick line and make Cadillac the "Quality w/ Status" line of vehicle. Forget technology as it is expected in this level of vehicle at this point. That brand was built off of "Quality w/ Status" and they lost sight of that. GMC needs to just become a "commercial" line of vehicles as most of their vehicles are the exact same as a Chevy model anyway. So they're down to two lines of vehicle. They have plenty of options to use stylings from Pontiac or some other lost brands for either line, but it's all they need.

Oh, and thin out the number of dealerships. Do some real market analysis and determine where you are going to make the most impact without creating an overly price competitive market. Ask the foreign brands how they do this as they seem to have it under control. Bottom line, make owning an American car emotional again.

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