Identifying Andesite in Social Communities
Does Saving The Auto Industry = Saving America’s Spirit?

My Take On GM's Use Of Online Marketing

David Meerman Scott, one of the best online marketers in the business, writes grouchy post about General Motors "Attention GM: Here are the top 5 marketing ideas for your reinvention".

1) Fire your Madison Avenue advertising agencies.
2) Show, don't tell.
3) Create the products that people want to buy.
4) Earn attention from your customers and potential customers.
5) Humanize your company.

David was kind enough to endorse my book, and I think his book Applying the New Rules of Marketing & PR is one of those top 5 books any online marketer should have on their shelf. He is also thinks a lot about SEO and PR, and given my background he is marketer I respect a lot.

I posted a long comment on his blog, which I thought I’d re-post here. So people can beat me up here as well. ;-)

David, I think you have a few facts wrong about GM.

General Motors was a $148 billion company in 2008, and spent $3 billion on advertising in ‘07. $197 million was online. However, in ‘08 GM wanted to move 50% of their advertising spend to online by 2010 according to this 2008 article.

Rather than the laggard in digital advertising, GM has been the leader. John Hougton suggests this in his post "GM rushes into online advertising," and Comscore shares some numbers.

If you look at the auto industry advertising numbers all of the auto companies are still advertising in traditional advertising, but GM seems to have done the most to make a big shift. Nielsen has numbers on auto advertising and how the auto industry's online traffic numbers have held up in the last year.

Also, don't forget GM was an early pioneer with the use of Social Media, when they launched their Fastlane Blog in January 2005; there were very few big companies blogging at that time.

See Neville Hobson’s post about GM.

There have been some issues with GM’s social media efforts over the years. When I worked at Backbone Media; I started to document those issues after interviewing a GM Dealer in 2005. In recent years I think the company has come a long way. Remember that only about 12-16% of the Fortune 500 blog in 2009. Christopher Barger has played a big role in helping to advance some of the changes in social media engagement at GM since he joined the company in 2007.

See my blog post about Christopher's report at the 2007 SNCR research event.

Now if you are criticizing GM for spending too much on traditional advertising, surely you could do the same for all of the other car manufacturers? Especially if it seems GM has done the most to make a shift to online. I'm not sure about its shift in spending on social media, but again they were the early pioneer in the industry (with my caveats previously explained).

I also think GM has made some progress on changing its line up of cars, was it fast enough, no, but a good independent source like Consumer Reports appears to see a few diamonds in the rough despite the bailout.

Here’s my take on your five point list:

1) GM has been firing its traditional advertising agencies. Well shifting dollars.

2) You make a fair point. I am sure Christopher will shake a few trees for the user.

3) You are right about this point David. Though I think the company is seriously trying the change.

4) What if GM is doing more than any other car company in social media? Or at least on par with Scott Monty! I don't know the numbers for spending and amount of content in social media. Given GM's pioneer status and their early hiring of Christopher Barger from IBM, I think you are not giving them fair credit, given your criteria.

5) Don't entirely agree with you on number 5. GM is monitoring and conducting outreach on a systematic basis. Also they have designers front and center in their social media efforts.

Dell was an interesting example of the use of social media, its problems pail in comparison to the American car industry. Dell just had to fix its problems with customer service & product line up, not a whole industry brand. The American car industry has a huge brand perception hurdle to overcome. I hope that the bankruptcy will make the auto car industry turnaround the social media success story of 2009, if not, 2010.

For more on this see my December post "Will Ford & Auto Industry Be The Web 2.0 Turnaround Story Of 2009?"

Lastly, on a humorous note, have you ever taken my curmudgeon meter ranking?