Dear Mr. Lutz,
Congratulations and condolences on your new role. It’s exciting and fraught with peril. This is the chance to do things right, and show the world that the “new” GM is something more than a hollow, feeble version of the old company. You don’t know me, and you never will, but I would like to offer some free advice. You see, I really want you to succeed. Although I am not an automotive marketing expert, it occurs to me that GM has done nothing but listen to automotive marketing experts for decades, and where did it get you?
So here are a few ideas that you might want to consider as you begin to turn this battleship around:
1. Simplify. What is Chevrolet? There are 19 different nameplates, and that doesn’t count all the hybrid versions, varieties of horsepower and coupes vs. sedans. You have beginner cars and mid-price cars and SUV’s and muscle cars and sports cars. And now you want to bring in the G-8 from Pontiac. Who can keep track of all of those? And who can afford to market all of them? GMC = trucks. I get that. That works better.
2. Think about women. A lot. My 17 year old daughter doesn’t think that cars are for guys. When she turned 16, she spent countless hours on-line researching cars. And she wasn’t just looking for cool colors. She had makes and models down cold. My niece had no fear of a manual transmission, because for her it meant she could get more car for less money. As for me, I am addicted to the Cars section of the Sunday New York Times. Women have huge purchasing power, we know how to do our homework, and we don’t like the perception of a “boys club”. Make sure you have women in senior roles at each of your ad agencies. Believe me, when campaigns are created by men, for men, it shows.
3. Forge a new path. Don’t say that you want Buick to be “like Lexus”. Maybe the world doesn’t need another Lexus. Explore new categories. Surprise and delight us.
4. Worry less about “crafting messages” and more about having a conversation with your customers and prospects. This is hard for marketers who are used to owning the brand. Let go. It’s a transparent world and one individual opinion–good or bad–can literally be heard around the world. Good brands are essentially tribal. Find your tribes and tap into their enthusiasm. And for heaven’s sake, remember your employees. We have all seen what bitter, overworked, stressed-out employees can do in the airline industry .
5. Think service. Long after the sale, the car owner’s only contact is with service people. To the extent that you can control the service departments at dealerships, ensure that these experiences are good ones. You probably can control your corporate customer care centers, and these should be staffed with people who adore your cars, know how to tap additional resources, deal with cranky or frustrated people, and are empowered to take action when it is warranted.
That’s all for now. Five things is all anyone can remember anyway.
We’re rooting for you!