A letter to the Borg collective

The GM blog posts some clarification this morning about the LA Times issue and what does the first commenter say – What’s with the GM badging of all products from 2006 on??

This just goes to prove a few things.

a/  When you let the people in, regardless of the issues you try to highlight, they’ll talk about the things that are important to THEM (and when they’re your customers, that’s important)

b/ The People, GM’s customers, value this forum as a chance to let the company know what’s important to them.

The generic GM badging of all products from 2006 onwards was perceived as another piece of bad news right throughout the automotive webosphere.  I covered the story just an hour after it broke on CNN yesterday.  In forums where the story was posted, take Autoweek’s Combustion Chamber forum for an example, it received nothing but negative comment.

This negative comment isn’t solely because people like to bash GM to a certain extent, although there is some of that.  The negative comment is for the following reason.  I’ll say it loud, OK (listen up Gary Grates and Jay Spenchian).

Generic badging of all GM products with the GM logo is not a good idea, short term or long term, and should be reconsidered.  It’s making you look more and more like the Borg collective from Star Trek.  You assimilate everything.  Resistance is futile.  Individuality is not encouraged. 

This decision just makes it look worse.

The guy who put forward this decision, Mark LaNeve (pictured, left?), is GMNA’s new vehicle sales and marketing guy.  I guess he was hoping it’d make his job easier.  Focus on marketing one brand furiously instead of eight or nine, or however many are in the collective now.  I think he just made his job a hell of a lot harder and indicated that he doesn’t really know his customer profiles as well as he should.

So, Mark, here’s a sample of what people are saying:

  • > Question – how much would you pay to have the badge
    > removed as an option at the dealership when you buy
    > your 2006 car??
    How ’bout I just don’t buy one at all.
  • how about they make better cars instead of giving them away and butting useless badges on them?
  • Well, if this is true, they’ve lost a future customer in me. I sure as hell don’t want the same stupid GM logo on the side of my next Caddy that will be on the side of the Cobalt.
  • Don’t get too excited. Those badges are merely glued on and can easily be removed with a good adhesive solvent. I sure as heck don’t want the GM corp. logo on my Caddy either. However, that won’t keep me from buying one.
  • But a GM logo on a Saab isn’t going to sell them-it totally goes against their very appropriate (well until the 9-2x and 9-7x) "state of independence" ad campaign. A GM logo is not gong to sell Cadillacs, it only cheapens them.
  • I’d pay $50 for it not to be there. If they didn’t offer it I’d have it straight down to the bodyshop.

I think I understand what you’re trying to do here, Mark.  The long term strategy is to build great cars and market them as GM cars.  Over the long term, people associate GM with the great cars and know that they can move from product to product within the GM collective and be assured of the same quality.

One problem.  Your customers aren’t a collective.  They’re individuals and they want to be able to stay as individuals.  You can call it brand snobbery if you like, but the customer is right on this one.

One of the commenters above stated that he didn’t want the same GM badge on his Caddy as the one that’s on the Cobalt.  I’m here in Australia and I definitely wouldn’t want my future Saab purchase to have the same GM badge as the Daewoo down the street.  I’d gladly pay the dealer to have it removed, but I’m not sure that’s an option you’d want in your sales guide.

Perhaps Autoblog have forwarded a more workable solution, and their comments attest to that.  The marketing of GM, Saab and Cadillac as distinct identities wouldn’t be a burden, would differentiate your customer base and at the same time, would cut a lot of the ‘badge engineering’ complaints.

Mark, your bosses are trying really hard to build some good cars and to be honest, it’s an uphill battle.  The UAW has a noose around your collective neck and public perception is sliding.  The cars themselves are great and getting better and there’s hope on the horizon, but that’s no reason to go making silly decisions at sensitive times.

Jay Spenchian – I want you in someone-that’s-important’s office first thing tomorrow morning.  I want you to kick someone’s backside in order to ensure that the premium GM product you have responsibility for is NOT included in this program.  I bet my bottom dollar that your Cadillac colleague will be there doing the same when you arrive.

Gary Grates – sometimes if we’re being a little harsh, it’s only toughlove showing through.  We believe in you.  Our accelerator foot dictates that we must believe in something, and at the moment you’re the gatekeeper – so please continue to do your job properly.

Somebody at GM please give me a job.

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5 Comments

  1. >I’m here in Australia and I definitely wouldn’t want my future Saab purchase to have the same GM badge as the Daewoo down the street.

    Hmm….would this GM badge thing be worldwide or is it just for us unlucky souls here in North America?

  2. Stone – it appears that you Northern Americans will be the lucky ones. The initial story on Reuters either didn’t have that, or I overlooked it. If the campaign takes root there and is considered a success though, that might be another story all together.

    Ken – I don’t think my communicator could break that far into the neural net. Seriously, I think they’d have people that open their email for them. What the 9-2x campaign did tell me, though, is that someone there reads these stories that are linked to Fastlane. Every little bit helps (I hope).

    I still think I could come in and run Saab Canada. How could I get Rick Wagoner to believe it without giving my secrets away in public bandwidth??? Hmmmmm.

  3. GM saved SAAB from going down the toilet, so why shouldn’t they burn their brand in its hide?

  4. Harley….to do that will lead to a boom in the dental floss and solvent markets (go buy some stock) as people spend the 5 minutes it would take to remove them.

    In short, your average Saab buyer (at the moment) is appreciative of GM’s cash, but not so appreciative of their willingness to assimilate so many model features between cars. Saabs have always been individualistic type vehicles and the “branding” of the vehicle just wouldn’t sit well with your typical Saab customer. If they want to put people off buying the cars, this is a great way to do it.

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