CMO Club: GM Should Keep Its Name

Posted by: David Kiley on July 1, 2009

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As General Motors works to re-emerge from Chapter 11, a question has to be asked: Might it be better to change the company’s name?

General Motor’s corporate name has been part of its brand muddle. It perennially struggles with how much to spend on ads centered for its product brands—Cadillac, Chevy, Buick, etc.—and how much to spend pushing GM as a brand.

“GM,” which has also been the company’s stock ticker symbol, though, many believe, has become an albatross, like “AIG,” and even “Enron.” No matter how good GM’s new vehicles are, and many are terrific, there is an idea that they will be dragged down in the minds of consumers if they are sold as GM cars.

And GM doesn’t have time to waste. It has to get more car-buying consumers interested in considering its cars and trucks in the next 12 months or the government bailout of the company will be deemed a fiasco.

Chrysler has, to some degree, faced the same dilemma. But it has decided to keep the “Chrysler Group LLC” name under its new corporate structure, even though there is consideration of doing away with the Chrysler brand in future.

As part of Brand New Day’s partnership with The CMO Club, we asked its members whether General Motors should ditch its brand name.

101 CMOs responded, and 86% said, “No.” An overwhelming majority voted that GM should keep its century-old name, even though it connotes failure to a large swath of the buying public.

A few quotes from CMOs in the club who responded “No”:

“Leading your brand has moved beyond the marketing department. Name changes are marketing centric approaches, leading product (cars), customer service and operational excellence are business centric and what GM needs to focus on.”

“Not until they change the CEO, the union or make other dramatic changes to their culture.”

“No. It takes a much longer to build the name recognition and brand equity of a GM then to turn it around once it is tarnished. If they can survive and really focus on what customers want they can have a great brand again. America loves a comeback story.”

“No way!! It’s a great name and an American icon. And with the federal bailout, we all have a stake in them succeeding. If they start making great cars that people want, they’ll come back. If they don’t, a different name won’t help. In fact, it would hurt more.”

“GM’s issue is not their name. The only way to rebuild their brand is to build products consumers love, and maybe even have a good experience buying. They haven’t done this for a very long time.”

Reader Comments

Julia Casale-Amorim

July 3, 2009 12:14 PM

It’s hard to deny the negative stigma associated with GM today. Rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, why not explore a fresh, new look for the GM brand – symbolic of their “reinvention” and improved customer-focus/direction. There is an opportunity here to shed their old look along with their old approach (while still preserving recognition of the GM name). Of course, any form of re-branding will serve as nothing more than a Band-Aid fix with limited value unless drastic change is first made at the cultural and operational levels.

Dr. James A. Lee

July 5, 2009 8:11 PM

I have a GM auto. It runs well. If there is a name change, I would love to see the research on this matter. GM needs to narrow its offerings and focus on quality only.

Frank Loweser

July 6, 2009 8:35 AM

I disagree. This company needs a whole new start.

Randy

July 6, 2009 8:45 AM

I don't need 12 months. The bailouts are a fiasco.

Chrispy

July 6, 2009 7:49 PM

GM shouldn't be wasting its money, time, and energy on maintaining the GM "brand" and instead focus everything into making its remaining four brands solid, defined, and without overlap.

Does anyone give a crap that their car is a "GM"? That means nothing in this day and age and GM never got that. It's confusing and redundant to market both your brands and then yourself as a brand. Why waste money putting little GM decals on the fender of every car made? It's incredibly shortsighted and wasteful. Marketing 101, GM idiots. And supposedly GM management was overloaded with clueless MBAs. I guess they forgot to take those classes on marketing and branding. Such a shame.

They should only use the GM moniker when referring to the umbrella corporation. And in this case, that should be as little as possible for a while.

Ian Ransome

July 7, 2009 8:53 AM

How about Private Motors or Lance Corporal Motors or Latrine House Orderly Motors, to reflect its new status as a car manufacturing company in the world order.

Jake

July 7, 2009 12:23 PM

i found an interesting article that outlines some pros and cons of a potential GM rename here:
http://onthebutton.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/gm_renaming/

Ray

July 7, 2009 4:55 PM

Dependency Motors would fit the truth in advertising requirement.

Guido Hobi

July 7, 2009 8:33 PM

No, GM's name is appropriate: "Great Mess"

Anti Chrispy

July 8, 2009 6:08 AM

@Chrispy: Any reputable MBA program requires Marketing classes. This type of frivolous, soft, feel good crap is completely useless, and is studied by those who don't have the technical abilities to study value-added disciplines.

twiwin

July 8, 2009 1:46 PM

No issue with the GM name, a new logo signifying the change will be more than adequate to go long. I owe GM stock (sounds foolish) but for 100 years, GM was an American institution and an icon. What it also needs is to get rid of any remaining good ol' boys and anyone who had anything to do with the design of "cops cars". Should segment its products more effectively to compete with other makers, not with its own brands. If Ford can do it, GM can do it.

Tialie Simpson

July 9, 2009 10:09 AM

General Motors stands for American made! It symbolizes the pride and backbone of this country's hardest working blue collar employees. If we do not stand for something we will fall for anything. The name should stay. I am more than a little nastalgic, I love the GM name and all of its brands new and old. Quality should improve, but the name should remain the same. GM is the greatest automobile company in the World! I love GM!!!!

G33kKahuna

July 9, 2009 10:25 AM

While GM does need rebranding to purge its World War 2 era business tactics, it certainly needs a divorce from UAW.

AJ

July 10, 2009 1:08 AM

I dont think it is a good idea to change the name. It would be counter productive. Yes the GM brand has been tarnished, in the short term (present). But seen in a wholistic sense, it is still better to work with GM name. I am pretty sure if they manage to turn around, become profitable, all this would be a forgotten history in a year or two.
Look at the German Auto companies. They were all broke during the WW2. They came out of that. And infact are thriving. Yet with the SAME name. Remember Opel. Was bancrupt when GM revived it. BMW is another example.
In short, it would be foolhardy to change the name.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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