Letters, August 10, 2009

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Debate rages over Lutz appointment

RE: "GM's Appointment of Lutz Shows No Respect for Marketing" (AdAge.com, July 27). Brilliant. Simply brilliant. Your points in regard to marketing at GM are spot-on (i.e., advertising is not broken, marketing is; no real story to tell; etc.), as are your comments (and Peter Drucker's) about the function of marketing in general.

To the latter, I just read a white paper by Heidrick & Struggles talking about the rise of the chief commercial officer position, and while I agree with some of the authors' comments, it still seems to come back to what you are saying: Companies don't need to invent a new chief officer position to get marketing done, what they need to do is grant the CMO the power and authority to do his/her job in the manner in which it needs to get done. By the same token, however, the CMO needs to be qualified and know what to do in the first place, as you point out in your article.

Not to pick on the automobile manufacturers, but I recently saw a Buick commercial in a movie theater waiting for the main feature to start, and it was 30 seconds of the most ridiculous advertising/branding I had ever seen. I cannot imagine that anyone who would ever see that ad would say to themselves, "You know I think I'm going to buy a Buick tomorrow." Here's when the CMO is at fault: When they spend X millions of dollars on creative, and for what?

With so much written on the subject of marketing, I wonder why there is such resistance and/or misunderstanding to get it right. Will we ever know? Is it as simple as the right and left brains not being able to work in unison?

Roger Marquis
New York

I agree with many of your points. However, with all the respect in the world, I must argue that your theory on positioning is today a rather antiquated and quaint concept at best. With R&D and technology moving at the speed of light, there is no one competitive advantage that can't be replicated and improved upon.

Sure, you can argue that once Volvo owns "safety" or BMW owns "driving" in consumers' minds, they have their position. But as is the case with Volvo and "safety," has owning the safety position in the market delivered a strong market share? Not really. Building a brand should be about communicating a specific voice around a set of guiding principals, not a "position" that can easily be copied or, worse, become irrelevant to consumers over time.

John-Paul Aguirre
New York

I think Al's off-base this time. GM's had decades of the "experts" running their advertising into the ground while they slept at the Peninsula in Chicago. GM should be so lucky as to have someone running their advertising that sleeps at the kind of hotel their consumers sleep at.

In fact, as a recent GM owner and regular GM renter, I think the marketing stories about GM are already there. The cars have become excellent. Unfortunately their advertising has remained meaningless fluff, emptied of the significant stories that would make a difference.

Mr. Lutz may be the perfect individual to bring those stories out of development so that they reach the world.

At least he knows where the good stories are hiding. With good fortune, he'll find an agency (and a rarely skilled advertising manager) that knows how to treat the stories (and the consumer) with the respect they deserve. That's the key to a GM comeback. Doug Garnett Portland, Ore.

Isn't it experienced marketing executives who helped get GM in this mess in the first place?

Dave Craig

I always wanted to be Bob Lutz. Now I feel sorry for the man. He is an amazing talent and icon of the industry, but in this case he has been set up as the fall guy. There is no way GM is going to come out of this alive or at least severely mutilated. The company picked him not because he is best qualified but because he is a great man -- and no one will have enough guts to argue with him. It can continue to do what it does worst. Marketing. It is business as usual. A 77-year-old to lead you into new media and new marketing? I want my (bailout) money back.

Kelly Sallaway
Scottsdale, Ariz.

Editor's note: Al Ries' old partner Jack Trout felt compelled to weigh in on the debate as well.


RE: "Home of Blue Light Special Far From Singing Blues" (AA, July 27). For the most recent quarter, Walmart posted same-store sales gains of 3.6%, not a same-store sales drop of 4%.

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