Posted by: David Kiley on July 1, 2009
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.
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.”