A "Dramatic" Marketing Shift at GM

May 15, 2008
Some news automatically generates a single-syllable response: Duh! Like the new report in the Detroit News that suggests General Motors’ mega-billion-dollar marketing program will undergo a “dramatic redesign” reflecting record fuel prices.

As reporter Sharon Terlep points out, “after months of holding out hope that U.S. truck sales would rebound,” the automaker has suddenly woken up and realized that it might be better off spending those big bucks on network television promoting fuel-efficient Chevy Aveos and Saturn Astra, rather than gas-sucking Caddy Escalades and GMC Sierras.

If GM simply watched a few hours of prime-time TV, it might have figured this out months ago, considering all the ads from Nissan for its miserly Versa and Toyota’s heavy promotion of 30-mpg-plus models, like the Corolla. Wonder which ads have been resonating with consumers and driving potential customers to showrooms?

“We’ve been promoting our trucks more than we should have,” conceded GM’s top sales analyst, Mike DiGiovanni. “We’re going to shift our marketing toward fuel economy and hybrids.”

Expect to see this grand transformation saturate not only the airwaves, but also the Internet, GM officials promise. And even when you’ll see a truck ad – after all, they’re not going to go away entirely – we’ll apparently see a shift in focus, with more attention paid to the fuel efficiency of these vehicles.

It’s ironic that GM has taken so long to figure this out. As a journalist, I can’t even begin to recall how many times I've heard the company assert that its products actually lead many product segments in terms of apple-to-apple fuel economy comparisons. And they’re right. The Chevrolet Silverado, for example, gets as much as 2 mpg better than similar Toyota Tundra models. And there are good examples at the other end of the size spectrum. But Toyota’s doing a much better job getting the message out, reflected by recent sales numbers. Now GM will need to play a fast game of catch-up.

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