GM Secret Branding Team Exposed!
Three years. That's how long an eight-member GM hit squad's been working on defining The General's eight North American brands. Let's start at the end of The Detroit Free Press article on Liz Wetzel's team in GM's Global Brand Studio. Pom-pom-wielding autoscribe Mark Phelan concludes "…the automaker appears to have a solid product plan and design vision for its other brands for the first time in decades." OK, now, here it is: "Buick and Cadillac owners both have money, but they choose to spend it on radically different things. A Buick owner would be inclined for a quiet vacation on an isolated beach, while Cadillac is more about dressing up for a night out on a weekend in the city. A Pontiac will be designed for the nightlife, too, but for a fashion-forward agenda with pounding bass and flashing strobes. Chevrolets aim to look good as well, but with the effortless appeal of blue jeans and a good shirt, not Pontiac's club-hopping flash. Saab sells cars around the world, so it can speak to a smaller audience: people who consider themselves independent thinkers and want a car with Scandinavian style and environmentally responsible performance. Saturn attracts buyers who wouldn't touch a Chevy or Pontiac with a 10-foot-pole and its theme will build on Opel's European strengths: design, handling, fuel efficiency and interior room." Before you ask, in GM's world, that IS a plan.
One of the great failings in my life is that I haven't figured out yet how to make people pay me lots of money to spit out horseshit like this. I can just imagine the pride at the meeting where they unveiled these shockingly insightful dollops of brilliance, "After 3 years and millions of dollars, boy do I has some bull for you!" Damn, I need to get me an MBA.
John Horner: the name game is just the surface symptom. If you're not continuously and productively refining the product, keeping the name is pointless. For example, I know Bonneville only as a latter-day POS Detroit beater. There's no value in keeping it around if GM wants to attract people under a certain age, unless they want to spend the marketing bucks to link it to the older, vaunted heyday version. Most of the names you mention have this problem. Acura and Lincoln are different, of course. Lincoln's products are still so clueless that I have a hard time getting excited in either direction. No matter what you call it, it's still a tarted-up and uglified Ford. I'd personally like to see a Lincoln Continental worthy of the name, which hasn't really happened since, what, 1963? I'm sure Ford will get right on that. Dropping the Legend name so Acura could imitate German naming conventions remains one of the all-time stupidest business decisions made by a Japanese automobile manufacturer, especially since they followed it up with a series of noncompetitive products with ugly styling. Acura won't die outright, but there should really be an Acura Gaffe Watch.
Regarding Saturn's "No Haggle" policy. I was ona Saturn lot about four years ago. They still haggle, just in a more covert way, interest rate, cash back, and trade-in value. Sure the price of the car stays the same, but the loan terms and trade-in value can still be negotiated. When you're desperate to sell cars, that will happen. Only companies like Porsche, Ferrari, etc. can afford a true "No Haggle" policy of here's the price, either you can afford it or you can't.
Cadillac: Cars for pensioners getting more than a $4000 monthly check. Buick: Cars for pensioners getting between $2500 and $4000 a month. Pontiac: Cars for idiotic 40-something women who think silly plastic cladding and french-sounding model names make a car "sporty." * Go out to seedy dives dressed in slutty outfits that flaunt their love handles and cellulite, blissfully unaware of their horrid appearance or the fact that no one wants to go to bed with a chain-smoker with sleep apnea. Chevy: For people who want basic transportation, are committed to "buying American" and are willing to cross their fingers and hope they didn't get a lemon this time. Saab: College professors trading in their mid-90s 900s and are unaware the brand is now GM. Saturn: Gen-Xers who were sucked into the cult in the early days and still drink the kool-aid. * For this reason, the elimination of plastic body cladding and french-sounding names from Pontiac was a huge mistake.