Defensive Strategy

GM: Still Struggling with Marketing

23 Oct 2009  

If there is one company in the world that needs some compelling marketing it is General Motors.

GM emerged from bankruptcy on July 10 and is now largely owned by its unions and the U.S. federal government.  The company was able to cut costs through the bankruptcy process, but ultimately it will need to hold and build its market share to survive.  After disposing of most of its brands, GM now needs its four remaining brands to perform.

Unfortunately, the GM’s latest advertising isn’t doing much to help the cause.

Today in the Financial Times, for example, GM is running a full-page ad for Cadillac.  The ad features (surprise!) a picture of a car.  Here is the text:


Sorry about the Apple Cart

2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

With bold design and unrivaled technology, it overturns every convention.  And with an unprecedented Sixty-Day Satisfaction Guarantee it stands poised to show you how.  Steer clear of the luxury default button.  For complete details and limitations, visit

May the Best Car Win


This ad says just about nothing.  Why should someone buy the CTS?  What does Cadillac stand for, anyway?  What is the brand’s positioning?  It isn’t clear.

More fundamentally, the tag line “May the Best Car Win” suggests that the marketing folks at GM really don’t understand the challenge facing the company. 

The important question is not which car is best.  The important question is which car do people think is best.  I’m quite confident that GM makes good cars.  It may well be that GM now makes the best cars.  But that really doesn’t matter.  The problem is that the best car doesn’t win.  People buy the cars they think are best.  All too often those are not GM cars.  Changing this is GM’s core challenge.

“May the Best Car Win” is more wishful thinking from Detroit.

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