In one of the clearest articulations yet of the struggling automaker's strategy, marketing chief Mark LaNeve said Chevrolet and Cadillac will sit at opposite ends of the value-luxury spectrum. Buick, GMC, Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and Saab will be cast as specialty brands with limited product lines so that they won't offer, say, competing minivans or sport-utility vehicles built on the same platforms.
"Not all brands are created equally," Mr. LaNeve, VP-sales, service and marketing in North America, told Advertising Age last week.
The philosophy shift will affect how the country's largest advertiser allocates $3.5 billion in media outlays among brands, and where that total is spent. "We'll make some dramatic media decisions going forward," said Brent Dewar, VP-marketing and advertising.
The moves are meant to address long-standing criticisms that there's too much overlap between GM's vehicle lines, muddying their brand images.
"If you look around, one characteristic that all successful automobile companies share is that they're anchored by a great volume brand at one end and a great premium brand at the other," Mr. LaNeve said in a speech in New York last week.
The automaker wants to "build on Chevrolet's success to make it the leading sales brand in the industry," he said. Chevrolet already sells roughly half of all GM vehicles annually and launched 10 products in the last 20 months.
differentiating media mixes
GM's other brands need distinctive, differentiated products, which could mean fewer models that cannibalize sibling cars or trucks. "Our complementary brands won't succeed as little Chevrolets, or less-expensive Cadillacs," Mr. LaNeve said.
The automaker, moreover, wants to differentiate its brands by media mix so they all aren't going to market the same way. Mr. LaNeve said he and his team are challenging each divisional brand and their ad agencies to "find new ways to own the space they're in."
Saab, for example, launched a campaign on America West planes that includes tray-table ads, announcements by attendants of a cause-marketing program and in-flight-magazine ads.
GM's vehicle brands now have a similar media mix, said Mr. LaNeve. The biggest chunk of ad budgets, 60%, goes to broadcast and cable TV networks; 20% to print, 10% to interactive and 10% to radio, experiential and other media. GM won't give specifics about how that will change, but Mr. Dewar said the company is fine-tuning media plans brand by brand. GM will not cut costs but spend more this year than last, he added.
As a mass-market brand, Chevrolet will continue to advertise in every medium, said Mr. LaNeve. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., handles creative.
GM is "shifting considerable media weight for Buick to a targeted print campaign," Mr. LaNeve said, touting the premium brand's quality story. Buick was just ranked fourth in initial quality in consultant's J.D. Power & Associates annual survey this week. Interpublic's McCann Erickson, Birmingham, Mich. handles Buick creative. "We've become very efficient over the years as buyers of media, but we're not sure if we were totally effective where we placed media," Mr. LaNeve said.