This week General Motors announced the most dramatic rebranding in modern history. In fact, the rebrand includes a redesign of the GM logo; a logo that’s only been redesigned five times in 113 years. The dramatic creative change serves as symbolism of the campaign it launches. GM is aiming to ditch its place as an industrial icon.
Dubbed the ‘Everybody In’ campaign, this rebranding is intended to position the automaker as a leader in battery-electric vehicles. It’s an inclusive positioning, designed to get everyone–of all walks of life–to buy into the battery-electric vehicle movement. At least that’s what GM is saying.
In reality this campaign is likely aimed at Wall Street. There’s no logo more iconic of American industrialism than the GM Mark of Excellence logo. Given GM is aiming to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Tesla and possibly even tech companies in the future, it’s not surprising they want to shed the old look. Grabbing investors’ attention with a snazzy new campaign to boost a stock price that–until recently–has been fairly stagnant. Shifting the company’s image from legacy automaker to that of a progressive EV maker will be a prerequisite to becoming a Wall Street shiny object like Tesla.
Warm & Fuzzy Messaging
In terms of messaging, the ‘Everybody In’ campaign is fairly clever. Creative centers around the notion that EV’s are for everyone and GM’s Ultium battery system is the gateway to democratizing electrification. Pulling in big-named influencers like Malcom Gladwell and others adds some pizzazz to the overall messaging. I’ll go so far as to say I like the messaging and creative.
It’s the type of campaign that feels like GM employees are also members of the target audience. The anthem video serving as a centerpiece of the campaign almost feels like a Northstar for internals more than customers. Almost a “this is who we are” kind of vibe that often needs conveyed just as much internally as externally, particularly at a 113 year old corporation.
Adding to the value of the campaign is the fact that there’s real substance behind it. GM is investing over $27 billion in electrification and plans to have a portfolio of 30 battery-electric vehicles on the market. It’s an investment that GM likely does not get a fair shake on in the court of public opinion because, well, legacy. Shiny object syndrome: see Tesla.
The GM Brand Strategy Cycle
GM’s announcement surrounding the notion of leveraging the GM brand tried to spin it as novel. Just in the 20 years I’ve been following the industry they’ve emphasized and deemphasized the GM brand multiple times. This is all part of the branding strategy cycle at GM, right or wrong.
Back in 2006 the company started putting the ‘Mark of Excellence’ GM badge on the side of every single vehicle. At the time it was positioned as an effort to leverage the equity of the GM brand. In 2009 the company discontinued the campaign, probably because it was on the verge of bankruptcy…so much for brand equity.
In fact, during bankruptcy certain factions lobbied for the new company to shed the General Motors name. Some sources floated the idea of naming the broader company Chevrolet International. Ultimately the name was retained, with the new entity being called General Motors Company.
After emerging from bankruptcy GM tried again to rebrand the GM name again. Placing then CEO Ed Whitacre in commercials telling the American public that it’s a whole new GM and if they can “find a better car, buy it.” This campaign was also short-lived. GM then pivoted to deemphasizing the GM name, focusing marketing dollars on its four core brands in North America.
In short, this new GM campaign is all part of a cycle with the company. This time feels a little more relevant than the previous two examples, but it’s hardly novel. Given the noise that exists within media today, it almost seems like a moot point to try to get American consumers to understand what GM stands for and still educate them on a specific Chevrolet vehicle, for example.
Which brings me to one my final point on this campaign: hopefully there’s no customer acquisition targets attached to it. Advertising the GM or Ultium names to consumers isn’t going to do anything. Consumers harbor emotional connections with Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC; not GM or Ultium. I’m assuming this lesson was learned in previous attempts to throw money at the GM mothership brand.