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Is GM’s “Reinvention” Ad Campaign Working? Study Says: Maybe!

Posted by: Jon Fine on June 18, 2009

Earlier this month, I expressed some puzzlement over the new GM “revivention’ ad campaign (and accompanying Web site). I was having a hard time deciding whether or not they ads seemed strange because, yknow, the ads are actually strange, or because GM was trying to navigate such unprecedented terrain: a brand that huge, and once so identified with American might, in bankruptcy.

But forget how they appeared to one guy (and to those who commented on said guy’s blog). Are the ads working?

Data provided by a company called Zeta Interactive suggests they might be.

Zeta has this thing that it calls “Zeta Buzz.” It's based on an algorithim scans much of what’s online—from blogs to message boards to social networking sites—to track whether brands and industries are getting good, ah, “buzz,” and calculates the ratio of positive mentions to negative mentions. (If I may digress: After we find new words for “content” and “monetize,” can someone get to work on renaming “buzz?” A weary nation will thank you.) Zeta’s findings on the car industry, which a company rep was kind enough to share, found that GM’s positive mentions online have picked up significantly in the two weeks since the ad began airing.

According to said Zeta rep, it’s sort of a good-news, bad-news situation:

The campaign strategy seems to be paying off, as GM buzz is currently at 73 positive and 27 percent negative over the past two weeks, compared to being only 59 percent positive in the month leading up to the campaign launch – a 14 percent positive buzz increase.

[In comparison] to Toyota, however, the GM brand still has a lot of catching up to do (no surprise there). Toyota’s buzz over the past month has remained consistently positive, coming in at 81 percent positive overall, and the overall volume of posts around the Toyota brand is 12 percent higher than GM.

If we widen the lens a bit and see how car brands have done with Zeta Buzz in the past 90 days, we see—interestingly--that Ford has done remarkably well, with a 76 percent “positive” buzz rating. Chrysler? Not so much. 64% positive. But that’s still better than GM, which over the past 90 days had 57 percent positive posts.

But! This means that in the period after the “Reinvention” ad campaign launched, by Zeta’s metric GM is remarkably outperforming its prior performance.

(In case you’re wondering, Toyota outclassed the field again over the 90 day timeframe, with 83 percent positive posts versus 17 percent that were negative.)

Now, are all of GM’s recent gains due to the ad campaign? Of course not. GM’s situation is not neatly vacuum-sealed from any other influence. It is the subject of a massive, complicated, and multileveled story playing out in real time. And it’s plausible that the natural pendulum swing of the news cycle has, moved slightly away from GM being broken and beaten-down since the bankruptcy filing: the one true bias of news organizations is to look for a countervailing narrative when the storyline gets too familiar.

Nevertheless, no matter what I or other commentators wrote about it, it bodes better for the “reinvention” campaign that GM’s chatter is trending in this direction, rather than the other one.

Reader Comments

GM Reinvention

June 18, 2009 3:28 PM

Glad to hear things are working!


June 18, 2009 4:00 PM

It may or may not be working, but when push comes to shove, the chance of ppl actually spending their hard earned $ on a GM or Chrysler is nill.


June 18, 2009 5:44 PM

Jambo has it in one. These companies make arrogant assumptions that they will sell x number of millions of cars but their names are trash. Who would buy a car made by the unions and the government just to keep these taxpayer money sucking things alive. Move on I say!


June 18, 2009 11:53 PM

Actually, I sell GM in a Western Canadian city, and our new vehicle sales over the last 5 yrs have steadily increased. This year, with all the hoopla, we are having our best year ever. Truck sales are through the roof (out here, half our customers are farmers, construction contractors, oil field workers, etc, who need trucks). Just today, I sold a Malibu to folks who test drove an Accord and Camry. They bought a Malibu for $4000 cheaper, plus got heated leather, Onstar, audio controls in steering wheel, sunroof, remote start and a better warranty, and a quieter ride. They have total faith in GM, which says a lot since their last car was a Camry(was in the shop 16 times during the warranty period). GM isn't going anywhere and only getting stronger with better vehicles.


June 19, 2009 9:23 AM

I like the use of metrics, but, like you wrote, we don't operate in a vacuum, so, it's really difficult to determine what exactly is improving ratings. The bottom line is if they make a profit, right? No metric measurement tool replaces a company's need to make a profit.

tom sullivan

June 20, 2009 8:02 PM

I was interviewed on May 27th by adage. They asked me what I thought should be a new direction or tagline for GM. I said, "GM. American. Reinvented".

Think I'll get a royalty or maybe a free car? I'll hold my breath.



June 28, 2009 12:22 PM

Of course this campaign is working. I bet GM will be out of financial problems in no time. Read more about this at

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