Monday, June 1, 2009

The "New GM", Believable on Day One?

I remember when I used to work for the world’s largest Pharmaceutical company and how we were ranked as one of the most disliked industries right behind tobacco. I wonder what the most disliked industries list looks like today? I’m sure financial is pretty high, automotive must be gaining in the country’s dislike as Federal bailouts of GM and Chrysler are not very popular, especially when you look at consumer comments on articles covering these companies.

Looking at GM’s latest attempt to improve its image with the debut of the “New GM” one minute commercial, on Autoblog it is obvious that consumer feelings are running pretty extreme. A couple examples:

“Oh how cute! I want my money back you thief's [sic]!”

“ehh… I don't see it doing much to bring buyers back into the showrooms.”

“Leaner, Greener, Faster, Smarter… uhhh, How about Profitable?”

Leaner. Greener. Faster. Smarter.
That’s the mantra of the new GM. The issue many citizens are having with it isn’t that it’s the wrong direction. It’s the right direction. It’s just why wasn’t this happening for years before June 1, 2009?

That’s the tougher question to answer and one a company doesn’t want to address as it wants to focus on the future and not the past. Who could blame them? GM certainly doesn’t want to talk about its overcapacity dealer network, its hindering union obligations, and its production capacity issues. Pundits like Thomas Friedman, in his book Hot, Flat, and Crowded, blame most of the issues on auto companies lobbying Washington to keep CAFE numbers low and fought alternative energy initiatives.

One Autoblog commenter mocked the ending of the video where the announcer says, “because the only chapter we are focused on is number one.” The reader’s biting comment, “The only chapter you should focus on is chapter 11, Morons.”

It’s a tough road selling a bankrupt car company that is on the government dole.

I do hope GM becomes a leaner, smarter company but its products and organization will decide that, not one-minute videos. I would’ve personally kept the promotional video out of it right now. Let the re:invention site just communicate facts, responses, and how GM is moving forward with their plan (fortunately, that is what most of the site is doing.)

The video is good for an internal GM meeting to inspire those rooting for their company. Posting it online for the whole world to see, why? It really doesn’t change any minds. Those for GM will love it. Those against GM will criticize it. This is the problem. It accomplishes nothing.

What did accomplish something was the active engagement from the GM Public Relations representatives today sharing updates about the bankruptcy on Twitter. People like Christopher Barger and the team leading @GMblogs on Twitter are helping changing perceptions about GM showcasing how they are becoming at least a smarter company.

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