Thursday, January 1, 2009

The "surprising" state of brand perception at General Motors

GM's recent television spots seem to be an admission of what the company knows too many consumers think about their vehicles

During the holiday season of 2008, General Motors ran a series of television advertisements for a "Red Tag" sales event (that would run through early January 2009). As would be expected, these spots were visually appealing and conveyed various logical GM branding points to consumers --such as vehicle safety, high resale value, good fuel mileage, and appealing / attractive vehicle makes and models.

However, upon deeper examination, it was not these points that were most revealing. Rather it was a tag line and story line that gave a glimpse into what General Motors understands how their products are perceived by the car buying public.

Example 1: "Made by GM... Surprised?"
One set of commercials for multiple GM makes and models highlighted product value points -- safety awards, resale value, fuel mileage -- of the featured vehicles. It is worth noting that after listing such a good vehicle attribute comes the tag line of "Made by GM... Surprised?".

These four words reveal what GM knows about the state of their brand. Should consumers be surprised that GM can make a quality vehicle? Apparently GM thinks so.

Here are three of the spots.

Example 2: Customer at Saturn dealership can't believe his eyes

Another television spot shows a customer walking into a Saturn showroom, then upon seeing attractive vehicles there, looks back outside at the street sign to make sure he was at a Saturn dealer. He is surprised to learn that Saturn has attractive vehicles. From the comments of the salespeople, many others share his surprise.

This glimpse into what GM understands -- that consumers perceive Saturn product offerings as non-appealing design-wise and that consumers will be surprised that Saturn can build attractive vehicles.

It is amazing to think that good vehicles from General Motors should be surprising to American consumers.

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