Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Additional thoughts on GM's bankruptcy ad

The GM bankruptcy ad, which I blogged about last week, continues to be a source of annoyance for me.

Sure, I've dismissed it as simplistic, obvious, uninspired. But there's something else that has been sticking in my craw. It's the fact that the ad is a very self-centered, unengaging piece of work. The company is talking about itself, to itself. It's all 'we'. There is no 'you.' In other words, it's business as usual, and this from a company that wants us to believe it has seen the proverbial light.

At the very least, GM could have taken a different approach to its self-promotion: it could have enlisted brand ambassadors. You know, the the consumers who have faithfully purchased GM for years and actually have something good to say about the company. It could have even solicited long-time employees, or happy GM dealer to sing its praises. Okay, the latter two are a bit far fetched. They would not be so easy to source, given recent circumstances, and their effectiveness is mitigated by the fact that there are likely many dealers and employees with an ax to grind. Anyway, you get the drift.

Here's why using faithful customers would have been the best approach. When you say something good about yourself, that's just self promotion. When someone else says it, that has some weight or credibility because it is an independent endorsement. So a happy GM consumer talking about why he or she has chosen and stuck by that brand is likely to be more influential than a slick GM ad with an anonymous voiceover talent singing the company's praises.

So, why not have GM consumer acolytes sing the company's praises in a commercial? Why not feature people talking about why they consistently purchase GM vehicles? Even better, why not have these customers speak to their reasons for remaining confident in and continuing to choose GM despite its dire straits? Such an approach would have provided the company with a novel way to acknowledge its status. Moreover, the sight of loyal customers pledging fealty to the company might have helped to rehabilitate the brand and boost the confidence or interest of undecided or negatively predisposed consumers.

GM could have rolled such an approach into a social media campaign, one where consumers go online, share their unsolicited brand experiences and enlisted friends and family to do the same. The company could have encouraged consumers to sign on as GM True Believers, create viral content and spread the word. But it apparently didn't. I haven't done the legwork, but the sources I read on a daily basis haven't reported on any much, if any, innovative social media initiatives being deployed in support of the bankruptcy ad.

Sure this is all off-the-cuff spit-balling, but I'd wager that a campaign built around brand ambassadors would have more relevance and more impact than the ad GM is currently running. And I maintain that unless GM does more to engage consumers, to converse with them, to be a different company than it has been, it will run out of gas.

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