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Innovation at General Motors: Is Pontiac The Next BMW?

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on March 28, 2008

Diego Rodriguez, partner at IDEO, prof at Stanford D-School and car nut is my guru on innovation in autos and he has a great post on what’s going on at GM. There is a growing groundswell of talk about GM. Most of it surrounds the electric Volt, but there is more. GM is using the web in creative ways to tie itself to its consumers. That’s the smart marketing paradigm these days.

So GM is asking YOU and its customers to PICK A NAME for the new Pontiact G8 sports truck. Go to it. I think I’ll send in “Red Hawk.”

Diego thinks that if GM keeps up this innovation effort, then Pontiac has a chance of challenging BMW. Maybe. Maybe.

Reader Comments

Sid Ramnarace

March 28, 2008 8:22 PM

After 10 years on the creative end in the auto industry, I can tell you that a website that allows you to "name a Pontiac" is hardly the an innovation, yet one that is relevant to BMW.

Online car configurators are getting better with 360 views becoming the norm (the Maserati configuarator allows to to customize interior details down to the color of the piping on the seats!). As far as being buzzworthy and capturing the user's attention, last holiday's "You've been Elfed' by Office Max or the South Park "Character Generator" surely allow users to spend more time on the site and allows them to send their creation to others.

An actual visit to the Pontiac "Tame the Name" website us underwhelming, especially in this era of complete interactivity with products online. The website is neither visually engaging nor does it hold you attention for more that 1 to 2 minutes.

Pontiac however does deserve credit for hitting the mark with the G8 commercial based on the Spy Hunter video game that prospective buyers may remember from the 80's as well as the commercial featuring the car on a Hot Wheels track.

GM certainly has an extremely talented team in place - leveraging their creativity effectively will lead to real innovations that consumers love.

Sid Ramnarace

March 28, 2008 9:33 PM


March 28, 2008 9:59 PM

The Pontiac G8 sports truck will make the Aztec look like a smashing success. I can't believe Pontiac is actually considering production of this vehicle.

Pontiac the next BMW? Seriously, you have got to be kidding.

Jon King

March 28, 2008 10:40 PM

Statically, I can see how any car company could produce a product that can out perform the others... but getting past the euro covetability vs. domestic product will always be a struggle.

Martin Calle

March 31, 2008 10:27 PM

Why do companies believe that soliciting user-generated input online, or in any other format, constitutes "innovation"? Without materials that enable the minds of respondents to "springboard" beyond their current frames of reference and expectations, Pontiac, as Chrysler with their new online user-contribution site will continue to converge on the same strategies, each doing the same things their own ways.

Innovation is the realization of value from a new solution to a problem that rewrites the rules of the game.It must engage a creative process, It must be distinctive, And it must yield a measurable impact.

Far too many managers employ the term superficially to any change or improvement - lowering the bar.

What do you do when the very breakthrough strategy that once made your business uniquely powerful (Staples, Home Depot, Starbucks) now threatens to turn you into a commodity rivals find easy to copy? Whenever I get an assignment from a client shifting from strategy ‘maintenance’ to ‘creativity’ mode I employ Multi-Dimensional Creativity to lift an industry or brand past previous benchmarks. This creativity is not just an ad you watch, see and hear or a product or product design improvement competitors find easy to copy.

MULTI-DIMENSIONAL-CREATIVITY® redefines an industry’s original breakthrough strategy, defines new underpinnings and gets tongues wagging again (it is also used to invigorate a brand, create a new product or envision a new category). We first sit down and list out over 500 product dimensions concerning that product, brand or industry that in every way shape and form impact and influence consumer perception and purchase behavior. Under each dimension; sensory (which includes everything from touch and taste to design), form, function, usage, image, attitude, price, packaging, delivery system, segmentations, transitions, escape, reward, heritage, trust, tradition, affluence and hundreds of other dimensions only we know of, Partners then bullet point another 500 short phrases per dimension that in every way shape and form may potentially positively impact and influence consumer perception and purchase behavior in that industry, category or segment. When done we will have amassed about 250,000 phrases - many times the number of ideas an advertising agency or company brings to the table in their brand's lifetime. From this list we hand-select 500 to 1,000 phrases that we put in front of consumers so that consumers can select the phrases that best motivate them to try a product once [again] and if they try it and like it to buy it again. We employ this Consumer-Creativity® via our comprehensive Creative Stimulus Packages as the foundation for the highly-differentiating and salable new breakthrough business strategy concepts that result.

Has your brand become a heavily price driven commodity? Do you manage business strategies that compete in heavily price driven categories? Dot coms Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Orbitz and Hotwire are great examples of heavily price driven commodity brands. And as Procter & Gamble discovered with EDLP, once your consumer sets their sights on price your equity sinks so low you have to climb up a ladder to get to the bottom – enabling retailers (Costco) to finally get a leg up on P&G and call the shots on core brands like Tide.

In this environment, I would seek out a firm that has demonstrated a consistent track record of reversing the effects of mature business strategy lifecycles – of turning mature earnings companies back into rapid growth businesses - asking consumers no questions so they can tell us no lies. We prefer proactive Creative Stimulus Packages to reactive market research to create new knowledge - once again leapfrogging existing frames of reference, and competitors, with strategies rivals will find difficult to copy. P&G’s Paper Division employed this process, shifting Pamper’s strategic focus from ‘fit’ and ‘dryness’ to ‘development’. Repositioned as Pampers Phases Developmental Diapers the brand arrested category migration to rival Kimberly-Clark’s Pull-Ups, providing a much broader base from which to develop the paper business and net an incremental $1 billion in disposables sales each year. K-C never caught up.

Never cut and paste strategies from one industry or company to another. Never employ canned answers as do the experienced advertising agencies on Madison Avenue.

Martin Calle
Calle & Company

Chris Taylor

July 15, 2009 6:19 PM

I just came across this brilliant post - Bruce. you've done it again!

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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