Please buy and try our cars, please! Pretty please!
Business recessions are first cousins to death and taxes – they come with regularity but are not predictable. Many years ago in a business downturn, some unknown, but clever retailer, a men’s shoe store proprietor, originated 30-day wear tests.
The message was delivered in print or broadcast by the nice, aging white guy who owned the store who personally guaranteed your satisfaction when he confidently said, “Wear these Florsheim’s (or other brand name) shoes for 30 days. If you don’t like them, just return them for a full refund. If you’re not happy, I’m not happy.”
Such a deal!
The odd thing was it always worked; always brought in business at a slow time and the potential liability was almost negative. Less than three or four percent of the wing tips or whatever was sold were returned to the store. It was as good as money in the bank for a shoe retailer.
Fast forward to 2009 and yet another big time business recession, some say a depression, no one is left untouched, but the automobile business takes a serious gut shot. What can be done to bring in business?
Hmmm. How about a satisfaction guarantee? Drive the client’s cars for a while; if not satisfied, just bring it back to the dealer. Sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it. Only this time the industry has switched from shoes to cars. Same concept. Same guarantee. Hmmm.
Less than a couple months out of bankruptcy court, GM, the once arrogant Gargantuan Motors, but now justifiably called Groveling Motors is making that pitch as the lead-in to a new campaign called “May the Best Car Win!” using the satisfaction guaranteed crutch.
If you haven’t seen the commercial, we won’t waste your time with a click through. The marketing and creative types have put the new CEO of GM in front of the cameras as the spokesperson, literally saying in his soft Texan twang, “Have we got a deal for you. Drive our cars (the names you know) for 60 days and if you don’t like it, bring it back and we’ll return your money for a full refund!”
Automotive hype is not automotive hope, as in we hope the new campaign is gonna work based on a satisfaction guarantee. Moreover, why use this guy anyway? He may have been a good CEO for a telephone company, but as a spokesperson, he’s lacking the “carisma” gene. Why should we put confidence in him?
The payoff line really got to me, “We’re putting our money down that if people buy one of our vehicles and don’t absolutely love it, we’ll take it back.” First of all, it’s not GM’s money for them to say, “We’re putting our money down …” just a damn minute, it’s not their money. As taxpayers, it’s our money! We bailed ‘em out, remember? In addition, don’t forget they’re supposed to pay it back, although chances of that are slim – see Ken Zino’s analysis here.
Even the Lutzonian proclamation announcing the new ad effort in a media release lacked the bold, bodacious, sometimes belligerent tone of halcyon days that we have come to expect. “We think if consumers give us a fair chance and look at the facts on the things that matter most to them, like design, fuel economy, warranty and safety, our vehicles are the best choices — that’s what makes an offer like this possible.”
Beyond the profligate squandering of loaned financial assets, there are other product/brand marketing issues! Consider if you will such important topics as product positioning and product differentiation, product personality, product appeal, product presentation and product believability.
As the lead commercial in campaign designed to instill confidence in the “revitalized GM” it is obvious there is a severe lack of knowledge, much less awareness of the demands of consumers in the new automotive marketplace.
Do I have the answers? No. Nevertheless, there must be someone on the agency or corporate side who can be more convincing than just an empty promise of satisfaction. They still do not get it, do they? Gee, 60 days that’s double the old shoe promise.