GM'S PONTIAC TO BUILD UP BRAND NAMES

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Borrowing from Procter & Gamble Co.'s playbook, General Motors Corp.'s Pontiac division plans to build up the brand identity of individual models, making names like Bonneville and Grand Am as distinctive as the Pontiac nameplate.

Three newly named brand management directors will have broad authority to ensure product features and marketing programs match a car's image.

The move is said to partly reflect the influence of John Smale, the former P&G chairman who has remained behind the scenes since becoming GM's chairman in late 1992. P&G's widely emulated management system gives brand managers responsibility for their lines.

Pontiac brand managers "will be responsible for short- and long-term strategy for products, ranging from engineering issues to sales," said Lynn Myers, general director-brand management and marketing.

Named brand management directors were Bill Heugh, for Grand Prix, Firebird and Transport, from marketing director-large utility vehicles; Denny O'Donnell, for Grand Am and the coming Sunfire model, from marketing director-small sporty vehicles; and Don Parkinson, for Bonneville and Pontiac's overall divisional image, from manager-operations and product planning.

The groupings are divided along lines that correspond to GM's platform organizations responsible for designing and engineering groups of products. Each brand manager will work with a platform group to provide strategic direction. Each brand team will also have representation from sales, finance, public relations and Pontiac agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Ms. Myers said Pontiac had been evolving toward the idea of treating individual model lines as brands even before Mr. Smale became chairman. But he "is asking the right questions," she said.

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