As the new global marketing czar for General Motors, Joe Ewanick knows that the worst thing he can do is try to dictate how to advertise a Chevrolet in China or an Opel in Austria.
“All good marketing is done locally, first,” said the 50-year-old Ewanick, who first joined GM, earlier this year, as head of North American marketing.
Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that GM’s various regions should operate as individual fiefdoms, stressed Ewanick, in a conversation with TheDetroitBureau.com. The challenge is to find a common theme – and one that is driven by customer needs and desires – that can help shape a consistent brand message around the world.
That’s all the more important in the wake of the 2009 GM bankruptcy, which left only four North American brands standing. Chevy, in particular, is rapidly becoming a global nameplate, along with German-based Opel. And with GM focusing on the development of global product platforms, it makes it easier to come up with consistent messaging to back those products – as long as the marketing campaigns reflect the differences of local markets.
Even within a country like the U.S., the former Hyundai executive stressed, marketing needs to vary from one state to another. In California, where GM hasn’t been much of a presence in recent decades, its current marketing efforts can often take a very different approach from the way, say, Chevies and Buicks are pitched in the Midwest.
To make his global strategy work, Ewanick plans to establish a global marketing committee that will meet about four times annually “to find a common voice and tonality for the world,” he said.
That strategy will then be used to develop regional marketing campaigns.
“Markets have their own cultures and personalities and we need the fundamentals of (GM brands) to resonate around the world,” while still reflecting local sensibilities, said Ewanick.
The executive’s appointment reflects a significant change in strategy at the most senior levels of General Motors, starting with Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson. In his new post, Ewanick will gain a seat at the corporate strategy board level, where he says “the decisions are made,” but where marketing hasn’t had a presence. That could give his office a major role in product development, not just in the way products are pitched once they’re ready for market.
GM has been scoring some significant gains, in recent months, as it has been introducing an assortment of critically well-received products, such as the new Chevrolet Equinox and Buick LaCrosse. Overseas, there have also been significant gains, notably in China, where GM recently became the first maker to sell over 1 million vehicles in a single year.
Keeping that momentum moving will clearly require the involvement of Ewanick’s empire.