Guest Post from Matt Sloustcher, Peppercom
From government bailouts to bankruptcy, it has been a decidedly tough year for General Motors. Adding insult to injury, the company’s archrival just announced a surprising $1 billion in profits while GM continues to hemorrhage. Even the much anticipated “May the Best Car Win” marketing blitz launched with decidedly mixed reviews.
Amidst all of the muck, a positive story surfaced last week that I hope is a sign of greener pastures to come. It all started during a media conference call with GM’s marketing guru and vice chairman Bob Lutz to discuss the previously mentioned marketing campaign. While lauding the performance of Cadillac’s 556-horsepower CTS-V, Lutz boldly stated that he would challenge anyone in any production sedan to a race around Monticello Raceway.
What followed next probably surprised Lutz. Jalopnik, a popular auto blog, took him up on the challenge, and Lutz accepted. 120 others soon followed, and GM selected three journalists and five laymen to participate in the race. In the end, the 77-year-old Lutz posted the seventh fastest time overall, and the CTS-V took home four of the five fastest lap times with more experienced drivers at the wheel.
In addition to standing firmly behind their word, Lutz and GM earned a ton of respect from enthusiasts for participating in the challenge. Automotive companies are notoriously risk averse, and in this instance, GM put their guard down and let the CTS-V do their talking for them. In the days that followed, I counted 50-plus articles that resulted directly from the challenge.
After the event Lutz commented, “There's enormous attention being paid to this, and if you compare this cost-wise and effectiveness-wise to, say, making a bunch of TV commercials, this is a highly effective way to get the word out about how good the car is. If we sell 50 or 100 of the CTS-V off this, we'd consider it a success."
While I was happy to hear Lutz affirm the value of effective PR and out-of-the-box thinking, I would argue that the event was a success no matter what its effect on sales are. The common perception today is that GM’s best days are long gone, and by simply standing by its word and living up to its brand promise, the company has started to restore the credibility it needs to successfully reinvent itself.