Brand: General Motors – all brands (includes Cadillac, Chevrolet, GM, Saab, Hummer)
Link: Not Yet
Target: Middle Income Car Buyers
A series of GM employees talk about General Motors products (visuals mainly of trucks) and emphasize “POWER”. At the end of the spot we hear that everyone in America will be offered the General Motors Employee Discount “You pay what we pay.”
This has been the most successful promotion in the car industry for some time and may have single-handedly given General Motors and its embattled CEO Rick Wagoner some breathing room.
The focus of commentary on the promotion has been on price – and there’s no doubt that this was a price-based campaign. From the brand manager’s standpoint, however, we feel that there is more at work here than a simple price promotion, and we’d like to tell you why.
There is no question that General Motors is offering rock-bottom pricing, but it is the way they are doing it that’s important. The last time the industry went through a wave of price cutting it was done with 0% apr financing.
This price promotion is smarter because it fixes one of the largest problems in the industry – one that is well-understood, has been studied in controlled tests and one that GM itself was the first to address years ago. The problem is price discrimination.
When asked, most people will say that if you are a woman or black and walk into a car dealership, you will have difficulty getting the same price as a white man. In fact, this was shown quantitatively in a study by Ian Ayres called Pervasive Prejudice? Unconventional Evidence of Race and Gender Discrimination (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 2001).
The power of the “Employee Discount for Everyone” is not in the word ‘discount’ – it’s in the last word ‘Everyone.’ In fact, the spot announcing this discount is weighted towards non-white male speakers. Of the 7 spokespeople in the spot (all employees), only two are white men. There are two more men – one Hispanic and one Black and three women, one white, one Asian and one Black. While this is not unusual in advertising in general, it serve a very specific purpose here – to underline the world ‘Everyone.’
This is the Saturn strategy, of course – or the Wal-Mart strategy. Give everyone the same low price and ‘fairness’ becomes part of the value proposition. This is a smart move by General Motors and it brings more than the power of the low price to the table. The line ‘you pay what we pay’ gives us the permission to believe by holding GM to an absolute standard that consumers know must represent a real value. This is far better than announcing a 20% sticker price rollback.
We often comment that a spot is only effective if it is listened to. There is not a lot of visual drama in this spot and General Motors waits until the last 10 seconds to announce the Employee Discount. So the effectiveness of the spot depends on people listening when the news in announced. On the other hand, the media did a great job of promoting this for General Motors, so the actual spot was probably the least important part of this well-orchestrated campaign.
Branding Bottom Line:
With the Employee Discount for Everyone, General Motors strikes a blow for equality and builds the brand while lowering price.