GMC last month quietly brought on board Bob Kraut, previously partner-management supervisor at Tatham Euro RSCG, Chicago, where he worked on accounts such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Kemper Financial Services. Before Tatham, Mr. Kraut was a VP-account director at Foote, Cone & Belding, working on business such as Zenith Electronics Corp. and Citicorp Diners Club.
Mr. Kraut replaced Eddie Messenger, who was named zone manager for GMC's Pacific region, and reports to Ray Rhota, marketing services manager.
The hiring of Mr. Kraut and the search for brand managers from outside underscores GM's commitment to developing stronger brands and appealing products.
Last December GM hired Ronald Zarrella, formerly the president of Bausch & Lomb Corp., as group VP for North American sales, service and marketing, putting him in charge of overhauling the automaker's marketing program.
At the center of Mr. Zarrella's plan will be about 30 brand managers, each of whom will have overall marketing responsibility for a model or group of models. It's expected that one brand manager recruited from outside GM will be assigned to each of the six vehicle divisions, with the other positions being filled by internal candidates.
Brand managers will be paired with "vehicle line executives," top engineers who will be responsible for designing and manufacturing new models. GM also plans to name those executives this week, with the new management system expected to take effect Jan. 1.
Also taking the plunge into brand management is Ford Motor Co., where the Ford division is planning to adopt a system similar to one put into place in July by the Lincoln-Mercury division (AA, Oct. 9).
At GMC, General Manager Roy Roberts sought an ad manager familiar with consumer-goods brand management to serve as an added resource in the switch to brand management.
Mr. Kraut said he and his group of 14 people will work as "a center of expertise, leading and counseling the brand managers."
He will help coordinate efforts between the brand managers and national agency McCann/SAS, Troy, Mich., and will oversee the relationship with the agency. GMC spends an estimated $80 million annually on advertising and promotions.
"To the agency, I'm the client. The brand managers are my internal clients," Mr. Kraut said. "I will be working with brand managers to understand their needs and help translate that into advertising. But they are the ultimate approvers."
Mr. Kraut joins GMC as it attempts to develop a premium positioning in the growing truck market. That will mean going upscale from sister division Chevro- let in terms of truck offerings and imagery.
GMC is keeping its ad theme line, "The strength of experience," in ads breaking in late November that tout the new, optional third door on its Sierra full-size pickup.
That theme is being re-evaluated as GMC tries to define a distinct identity within the emerging premium truck segment, Mr. Kraut said. He compared it with the luxury car segment, where BMW of North America has carved out a niche based on driving experience, Toyota Motor Sales USA's Lexus for perfection in details and Volvo of North America for safety.
GMC sold 331,392 units in the first nine months of 1995, a 1.5% increase from 1994, according to Automotive News.
Fred Cook, general sales and service manager, said GMC's goal is to top 500,000 units in the 1996 model year, and to reach 700,000 units a year by the decade's end.
Part of the aggressive sales forecast is based on GMC getting new products that won't just be upscale versions of models marketed by Chevrolet.