OK, this morning’s latest Chevrolet commercial was the proverbial straw. I can no longer leave it without a rant. So here goes. The marketing efforts at General Motors are just wrong. I had written stronger words but have since calmed down a bit. Chrysler is as bad. Ford, a little better. But the bar could not be lower.
Let’s start with the basic premise that there are a number of factors that go into any buying decision. It’s a mistake to look at these as logical. In his recent TED Talk on the “why” of companies, Simon Sinek points out that real purchasing decisions are made on a gut level. When you think about this, you are rewarded with an explanation for thousands of different brands of jeans, colours of cars, and choices of beer. Yes logic does fit in a buying decision but it takes a back seat to factors that live in a whole different part of the brain.
This is simple stuff. You get it, I get it. GM, apparently does not. Their advertising budget often feels like it would be better off unspent. Here, let’s try a little demonstration using the typical copy found in an average Chevy radio spot and apply it to something that people don’t wait for a discount to buy.
MUSIC: Upbeat, contemporary music, female singer, light hip feel.
ANNCR: It’s wowed the critics all over the world, with sleek European inspired aluminum styling and lightning fast processing speed. The award winning Apple Macbook is the laptop computer that everybody’s talking about.
ANNCR: Now get in to your Apple dealer and get the 500 gig solid-state hard drive that the competition can’t touch. And get $200 dollars off when you come in now!
ANNCR: Apple. Future! Dependable! Value!
Now how about a dealer spot?
IAN: Ian and Steve here for Maple Ridge Macintosh. Steve I have never seen the deals on Macs better than this.
STEVE: That’s right Ian, that’s cause the manager’s away and we’re going craaaaaazzzzzyyyy!
That splat you just heard was the value of a brand. When it comes down to it, GM products are pretty good. They just lack self-respect.
Respect. An important idea when it comes to a purchase as big and important as a car. We respect a luxury brand like Mercedes because it touches our aspirations. We respect a value brand like KIA when it’s honest in its thrift. We are learning to respect Hyundai because they have relentlessly improved their products and are dedicated to being a design leader. We respect Volkswagen because of, dare I say it, their advertising. We respect Toyota because they are blandly reliable. We could easily argue that none of these cars are any better. They just help their customers feel good about themselves when they buy.
So what’s with GM? I don’t blame the dealers. But I suspect that they’re part of the problem. Can you blame them? They’re embattled. After decades of being saddled with poor design and bad ideas from the factory, they’ve suffered a slow, demoralizing decline. As market share has plummeted and competition has cranked up, famine has reached the sales floor. It’s only natural that advertising used during such times should smack of a certain sort of short-term thinking. What person in this position would want to build a brand/customer relationship? So it’s about the deal. In advertising the deal means this: Stuff a lot of features in, find some third party endorsements – no matter how tenuous, and badger your audience. Voila, a few customers show up, the kind who only live for the deal. Suddenly there’s a little food in the showroom. Then do it again. And again. Short-term food. Long-term, death. Starving populations usually eat their seed crops.
The short-term solution. Meanwhile, marketing staff are shivering behind a moat of market research that drowns any brave ideas. And from top to bottom, all are looking for the analgesic effect of short-term performance to block out the shrieks of yet another short-term thinker, the shareholder.
Imagine for a moment advertising that made its way into the collective consciousness and got a laugh, a smile, and a reaction that came from the gut or the heart of the viewer. A relationship would begin again. It would take time, patience and stamina but in the long run it would work. Imagine a world where people aspire to buy a brand that their grandparents coveted, one that built factory towns and help knit together a lot of North America. Imagine a scene where the neighbor comes home in a new Impala and you feel a pang of jealousy. Imagine GM as a brand that people respect. It could happen. Just ask Hyundai.
Oh yeah, and don’t get me started on those stupid Dodge RAM ads.