What Will They Say When GM Makes A Profit For Taxpayers?

By John TantilloMarketing Expert/Founder and President, Marketing Department of America

I really can't believe it...Everywhere you look, General Motors is being put into an early grave.

How wrong can you be?

Consumers love their Caddies, Chevies and Chevy trucks. Yes, folks, they love these brands and it doesn't matter how much doom and gloom comes over the airwaves and the Internet.

Forget about GM. People don't buy a company; they buy a car.

And GM has some of the strongest car brands in the world and it's these brands that will lead GM to profitability over the next five years. Just watch.

Take it from a Marketing man: you ain't seen nothing yet --as long as the government and the unions let the brands speak for themselves.

In other words, General Motors will need to become "Specific Motors."

Long before recent events, GM showed that it is capable of building on its strongest brands. Last year, it began making big waves with Cadillac (remember the Super Bowl commercial). This year the company provided more evidence showing it understands its survival depends not on the Federal Government but on rebuilding relationships with its customer.

GM's long-term strength was the result of meeting the needs of a broad range of consumers all with different needs and tastes. Remember, how GM used to have a brand for every stage of the consumer's life? People loved this. My dad reached Buick but never quite got to Cadillac.

Real marketing has always been about discovering needs and then meeting them again and again. Cadillac did this for years as a leader in luxury innovation --and Cadillac can do it again.

But success depends on remembering that no one cares or should care about GM the company. GM the company is just the physical operation that supports the brands. It's the GM brands that will drive the recovery. Corporate advertising never works.

I'm assuming that GM's new ad campaign is just a one-off mistake --not a long-term strategy. The ads look like a lovefest designed to help the company believe in itself(a pointless approach, because this will do nothing for bottom line sales and they don't have to sell the American public on a company they already own).

When Toyota wanted to enter the luxury market, it introduced the Lexus. Do most consumers think Toyota when they think Lexus? Absolutely not. Toyota understood that in the case of the Lexus, the name Toyota would be a drag on sales. When people buy a Lexus, they want to get away from Toyota and what it represents (i.e., economy and practicality). They are buying luxury and fine engineering. They are buying a European luxury car that happens to be built by the Japanese.

By the way, GM is already following this same approach all over the world --and where it is doing this, it is succeeding.

Australia's most popular car is GM but don't tell Australians that -they'll tell you it's a Holden. Holden is the brand and that's what people buy --it just happens to be owned by GM. This is also true in Europe with Opel. And if GM listens to what consumers are telling them, they're going to find the same thing is true right here at home in America.

Americans think in brands.

How will we know GM is going to thrive? When we stop hearing about GM and we start hearing about the latest models and how people would be crazy to buy anything else.

And remember, things are always easier to understand when you keep marketing and branding in mind.

John Tantillo is branding editor for Fridge Magazine, the magazine for small business owners and entrepreneurs. He is the author of "People Buy Brands, Not Companies."