Brand: Hummer (General Motors)
Issue: Hummer puts itself in Happy Meals, New campaign to dispel myths about H3
Commentary by: David
We often comment on the brilliant or foolish choices that marketers make, but we rarely get to talk about a major brand doing both simultaneously.Â General Motors has accomplished the unlikely with the brilliant move of putting toy Hummers in Happy Meals and the foolish move of creating an advertising campaign intended to combat misperceptions about the H3.
What is Brilliant:
Today, Jean Halliday at Adage comments on General Motor’s recent move to put toy Hummers into happy meals.Â The compelling logic for this is two-fold.Â Financially, this licensing deal is a bright spot for the troubled automaker which is one of the most aggressive licensee for its brands in the automotive industry.Â The second motivation is brand seeding, which allows GM to get the Hummer brand into the hands of future consumers at an impressionable age.Â Matchbox cars have long had the same effect, but carmakers seem to be waking up to the potential loyalty effects of early brand building.
This advertising blog won’t comment on the moral issue of branding to children, the environmental questions about Hummer or the overall merchandising strategy for General Motors.Â We do feel that this particular move was brilliant for an entirely different reason.Â The brand positioning for Hummer is straighforward and extremely effective when executed properly: Hummer is a toy for grown-ups.Â The irony of this promotion is that the Hummer already looks like a toy and is already sold like a toy.Â Putting a real toy version of the Hummer into happy meals will not only influence children – it will influence their parents.Â It brilliantly reinforces the brand positioning.
What is Foolish:
After a great breakout spot for the H3 (the ‘One Little Monster’ spot -Â which we review here), General Motors has been stumbling in its campaign to market the Hummer H3 by its insistence on trying to make the H3 friendly to women.Â As Gina Chon writes today in the Wall Street Journal, General Motors is now taking this strategy one step further, with an ad campaign intended specifically to refute misconceptions about the H3′s size and gas mileage.Â This strikes us as a radically bad idea for several reasons.
First, GM is using precious airtime to argue with consumers.Â Hummer has a bad reputation with environmentalists for a good reason – they are SUVs which are fuel-inefficient.Â While it is true that the H3 gets much better mileage than the much larger H2, highway gas mileage of 20mph is nothing to brag about for a vehicle which will holds no more than a Volvo station wagon.
The bigger problem is that the Hummer brand team is trying to make the H3 a different brand from the H2 and ignoring that the real brand in the mind of consumers is Hummer.Â The reason to buy a Hummer (as some of the Hummer spots effectively show) is to compensate.Â If your life is too unexciting, the Hummer is a toy that adds excitement.Â If there’s too little testosterone in your vegan diet, the Hummer adds aggression.
This is a single-minded message that works extremely well for the brand.Â But General Motors is making an elementary branding mistake by trying to please everyone.Â ‘More people will like us if they know the truth and then more people will buy’ goes the corporate mantra.Â In reality, those predisposed to hate Hummer will not listen to the ad.Â Those who like Hummer or might respond to the real brand message will be confused by this campaign.
General Motors must remember that it is okay for some consumers to hate Hummer as long as others love it.Â Hummer has the makings of a cult brand and will find greater sales volume by narrowing rather than broadening its message.
Branding Bottom Line:
Hummer takes one step forward and one step back.Â Much like General Motors.