General Motors Case Study on Marketing Strategy

General Motors Case Study on Marketing Strategy

by kirkcoburn

“Does anyone in your household work for an advertising or marketing agency,” the caller asked. (Oh Fudge I thought). “Yes mam”, I replied. “Well, thank you for your time, good night,” the caller said as she clicked off to dial another unlucky soul.

As the voice of the Chief Marketing Outsider, I must admit, this hurt. I did not hang up on the intruder. I wanted to play an April Fools joke on her. The reason telemarketers do not trust us is simple: MARKETERS LIE. They (not me of course) do anything and everything to convince our bosses, investors, friends and neighbors that we know what the hell we are doing and more importantly what the customers want when we try to convince “the man” what budget to approve, what products to build, and what strategy the company needs to follow.

Take GM for example, back during the financial crisis in 2009, 8,000 managers received a company car and gas FREE even after asking you and me to keep them in business through taxpayer loans. I must admit, as an employee of GM, this sounds like a damn good perk. GM has even described it as a “Product Evaluation Program”.

The tragedy of this story is not the perk itself. It is the problem that GM has completely missed the slow boat. How can GM marketers, the ones responsible for designing, managing and growing the company’s future, understand the needs of the customer when they do NOT have to go through the same process that you and I go through when purchasing and maintaining a car? Over the last few years, it is no shocker why GM did not get the memo on why consumers want more fuel efficient cars. In fact, one of the damn employees complained that during the high gas prices, he had to swipe his company paid credit card TWICE to fill up his large SUV. (Sidenote: This is not the time to debate whether fuel efficient cars is a good thing or whether the overall impact of a hybrid is better or worse for the environment. This post is about mandating that marketers better become, learn and think “customer” or they will lose focus. In 2008 and 2009, GM consumers wanted to spend less of their overall budget on GAS!!!).

Value is created by meeting customer’s needs (See A Note on Garage Sale Marketing Strategy). This perk is just the tip of the iceberg on how GM has failed to practice the fundamentals. Marketing is not rocket science. Understand what your customers and non-customers need by observing first hand how they become a customer, use your product or choose alternatives. AND, actually be a customer. GM, hello, McFly, anybody in there?

One final bit of truth that most of us ignore: start spending time with non-customers. In GM’s case, spend time with those that use public transportation. Spend time with the carpoolers. Spend time with telecommuters. This may just give you insight into a new blue ocean and unlock the future of GM.

GM has lost over 25 points of market share during the last 26 years (1982 to 2008). How is it that GM spent $3.0B in advertising in 2008 vs. Toyota’s $1.76B and GM’s market share FELL by 4.5 points and Toyota’s rose by 1.2 points?

The next time a telemarketer calls me, I am going to tell them that I work for GM.

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