GM Makes Product ‘Promises’

NEW YORK Having nearly emptied dealer showrooms of 2005 vehicles with its “Employee Discount for Everyone” promotion, slated to end in September, General Motors has launched a new corporate campaign that is a departure from its incentive-driven market strategy.

The effort, “Total Value Promise,” via McCann Erickson, Birmingham, Mich., GM’s corporate ad agency, touts 2006 GM vehicles for their value, not the deal du jour.

Three TV spots broke on Aug. 6 and are slated to run through August on network, cable and syndication, along with print and Internet support. The ads, which star real GM employees, will showcase models like the retro Chevy HHR and forthcoming Pontiac Solstice.

Steve Hill, general director of retail marketing, said the corporate effort would be supported within each division. He added the work is also meant to humanize GM by having employees personally promising to deliver on safety, quality and fuel efficiency, with the message that the firm has lowered vehicle prices without lowering the content.

“It’s a promise, not a promotion,” says one on-camera person in a spot, which also mentions a spate of recent third-party endorsements from J.D. Power & Associates and others.

“What you see in the ad is a certain sincerity; not everyone is perfect, some give better reads than others, but there’s a certain humility and realism,” said Hill. “It makes us a lot more likeable.”

In the new work, a GM engineer says, “I promise to bring you the best cars possible at the best possible price,” to which another employee adds, “That’s why we are continuing the GM employee discount on almost every 2005 vehicle.”

Said Matt Canzano, evp and executive creative director at the agency: “This is the second phase of a long-term plan. Phase one was employee pricing, the next step is weaning them off of incentive by lowering base price.”

One side of a print spread shows employee discounts for 2005 models; the other half presents pricing for 2006 models.

Said Hill: “We’ll still have incentives, but the incentive won’t be the impetus to shop us. We want to make it more about product and the feature benefits of the product and the value of it, and less about a great time to buy.”

He said that when incentives are used, they would be reflected in the net price of the vehicle, not something touted separately.

“For instance, right now you can get the new G6 for $17,990, with $1,000 of customer cash, but we won’t be screaming, ‘Get the new G6 for $1,000 off,’ ” Hill said. “We’ll be saying get the G6 starting at $16,990. It’s a compelling number.”

Lissie Heinkele, svp, group account director, said the new effort would not lead consumers to expect the same employee discount for 2006 vehicles that were offered on 2005 models in the last two months.

“What we’ve seen in anecdotal feedback is that the forthright nature of the message and simplicity of the [total value promise effort] does the same thing,” Heinkele said. “It’s a very forthright statement that says you will get a great car for a great price that will simplify the experience. It will be a good thing.”