General Motors fails using only email marketing

gm-logoGM is looking for new ways to market online but are they still stuck in the past and ignoring growing areas such as social media? GM marketing chief Mark LaNeve recently outlined a plan to utilise sophisticated electronic marketing techniques to target Pontiac owners such as targeted email promotions.  These types of marketing campaigns were not utilised to retain Oldsmobile buyers after GM killed that brand in 2004, but is this the only solution, do they even have all the owners email contact details and have they examined the issue of if they actually have permission to market to them?

While email marketing is a great tool to for business it is not a silver bullet that will save a brand when used alone, so what other options could GM be utilising?  Mashable listed Ford utilising Social Media PR as one of the 10 smartest big brands in the social media space, but GM was not. While email marketing can be an important technique to target Pontiac owners, GM needs to understand that it is not a single solution to target Pontiac owners as a whole group.

It would be possible to split the demographics and target email marketing to part of this group, supported by direct mail, and telem200px-Transam-wikiarketing campaigns.  Social media is perfect to compliment email marketing since Pontiac Firebird is a brand that has such heritage with strong fans suitable for Facebook, and thousands of images and videos suitable for YouTube/Flickr. Email marketing alone would miss this entire audience and GM would loose the potential to retain these customers to market their other brands.

Ford’s community manager Scott Monty is often quick to find out potential public relation disasters and respond. Ford understands that social media can be used to provide real-time feedback on how a company/corporation is reacting.   Email marketing is great for retaining customers and regular touch points, but doesn’t offer the engagement of social media. Social media is great for generating buzz about your product and engaging with your target audience.  A recent analysis posted on Mashable comparing Ford, GM & Chrysler shows that the Ford Fiesta campaign is winning in the online based on customer engagement and activity.

The number of twitter followers
@ScottMonty (26,588)
@GMBlogs (8761)
@Chrysler (1881)

The number of videos on YouTube
Ford (250,000)
GM (13,000)
Chrysler (25,000)

The number of photos on Flickr
Ford (690,000)
GM (16,900)
Chrysler (107,500)

These figures show a significant lead by Ford in the social media field, so will a few emails sent by GM hope to capture this same buzz? In april ford2009 Ford gave 100 web addicts a chance to test a Ford Fiesta for 6 months and post honest feedback using social media.  The platforms Ford has requested to be used for feedback are: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr & YouTube.  This campaign looks to be successful initially based on the activity analysis shown above.  Ford are also successful in social media as they don’t try and build a new platform they connect with existing platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook & Flickr.

The “Fiesta Movement” is working with social media to change the perception of Ford in the key 20-something demographic.  What makes this interesting is that these 100 were chosen from 4,000 applicants to do a 6 month auto beta test, this signup campaign alone generated millions in free press.

Dell has shown that they can make around $5617 revenue per tweet, so what is the potential value for Ford? The critics seem to agree that this can potentially sell cars as the 100 web addicts will become advocates or mavens for Ford. This 20-something audience typically has a high level of skepticism with large brands but this is a very public test of its products and will be interesting to see how it reflects in the content produced during the 6 months.ford-fiesta

Ford understand their market better than most car companies and now more than 80% of Ford vehicles sold in North America are now fitted with SYNC, and typically sell twice as fast as those without.  Ford is using SYNC powered by Microsoft Auto Software to offer fully integrated, voice-activated, in-car communications and entertainment systems.  This is using technology to deliver better vehicles that people value and want to drive rather than purely competing on price/finance and Ford receive direct feedback from their social media channels they pass onto their engineers and design teams.

Fresh networks outlines the 4 core themes that the early pioneers in customer engagement Ford & Southwest  follow for social media.
1) Its about people not firms
2) Make things public
3) Connect with people where they are already
4) Provide a place for people to go

So GM working to save a brand by running email marketing in a silo, without the support of a social media campaign, seems to be a campaign that is doomed to fail….

*Update it seems that GM is now trying to kill Chevy as a brand.

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9 comments

  1. My name is Brenda Eitelman and work for GM Marketing and Advertising. Actually we have been engaging the social media space for quite sometime now and are receiving much praise in articles like this one: http://allcarsallthetime.blogspot.com/2009/07/general-motors-most-public-private.html
    for our involvment and transparency. Christopher Barger and his team have been joining the conversation and setting up live chats with our executives on a frequent and regular basis. Fritz and all of the team have every intention of continuing with this openess.

    • Brenda thank you for the response, while I agree the GMBlogs account on twitter does a wonderful job of interaction, the post is more about the single view that just using email marketing by itself will save a brand/company. Email marketing is great but needs to be used as part of a whole campaign, just like spending millions of TV ads will make people buy your products.

      • thelostagency
        Wanted to continue the dialog by sharing with you some of what GM has done in the realm of groundbreaking advertising and marketing projects across media. We have worked on getting the word out regarding our improved quality by partnering with Edmunds.com and other 3rd party auto sites and by reinventing old media that still works such as publishing a unique blend of advertorial and newspaper preprint that includes dealer advertising & local stories and then placing right after main news in top papers such as Chicago Tribune and LA Times and doing it on Sunday.

        We have created rich and informative inserts in buff books allowing Jean Jennings to tell about our products in her own words in print and video, executed a DJ banter program on radio where DJs were given cars to drive and free reign to talk about them in their own words on radio and the list goes on. We were ahead of the curve when we created a GM Showroom OnDemand on cable networks producing 2 minute videos of each of our products and distributing them on TV and on-line. We are launching mobile sites for Buick and Saab as we speak.

        We try to be smart by matching the message and the media and experimenting in new media. I agree we have not done the best job of humanizing our company and are working hard to change that through social media. Our marketing and communications teams have been working for months now training our folks and setting up accounts on relevant social sites. In fact we are doing a phenominal job on Facebook where we have 71,552 GM followers to Fords 35,408 and Chryslers 9,253. Mark LaNeve was simply describing one small part of a larger plan. Hope you will continue to watch what we are doing and when you like what you see, let people know!

        **Note:Post edited to add paragraphs, and link added to GM Facebook page.

      • Brenda,

        Thank you actually I checked and in the time between posting the comment, you added around 100 new fans to your Facebook page, which shows that in some areas GM is doing very well. Based on my estimates you are adding around 3-5 new fans every minute, which is typically growth for Twitter campaigns which has impressed me.

        Your facebook page has a lot of high quality content which is likely why it is succeeding at building a great fan base. So now how do you look at replicating/scaling this for new Fan pages for other brands with cross promotion/competitions?

  2. greetings … i too work for GM and am a part of the CRM team. i 100% agree that an email campaign does not make a strategy for retaining customers throughout their automotive lifecycle. i can assure you that we have a much more comprehensive approach to embracing our customers throughout their ownership experience. We’re using both emerged and emerging tactics — rest assured.

    not sure of the source of your quote from mark laneve, however i’m thinking it was taken out of context to support the topic sentence in your posting.

    • Hello Nancy, im pleased to see another GM employee reading my post, while I believe that at some levels there is a comprehensive approach to market better perception is different.

      While I agree that the article might be a bit more focused on the quote below is the word for word text from the article from Bloomberg

      GM failed to hold on to many Oldsmobile buyers after it killed that brand in 2004, LaNeve said. This time will be different, he said, because GM will use sophisticated electronic marketing techniques to target Pontiac owners and it is expanding its other model lineups to offer alternatives.

      “We didn’t do as well as we would have liked on retaining Oldsmobile customers,” LaNeve said. “We’ve got a better process now because of information technology” to retain Pontiac customers, such as targeted e-mail promotions.

      That seems a fairly clear and within context of the article…

  3. Hi there – Christopher Barger here. My colleagues have already weighed in and I don’t want to turn this into a “GM army rushing in to defend themselves” kind of thing… I’d just point out that one statement in one interview on a very busy day full of many interviews doesn’t make an entire strategy. There’s a lot more to what we’re doing than merely email marketing.

    That said, any company — be it us, Ford, Dell, or someone just getting started in social media — can always improve its efforts and do things more smartly and effectively. I’d be interested in a continued conversation with you as to what you think we can do better, if you’re interested; you have my e-mail address, or you could also talk to me on Twitter — @ cbarger — or via the @gmblogs account. Thanks for taking the time to write about us!

    • Hello Chris,

      I agree they are all relevant points, and I would love to see other car/auto focused companies weighed in on the post. As this blog tries to look at large companies offline marketing and how they work or maynot work well online, and hopefully seek to provide some guidance around how other companies are doing this well in the same industry or maybe some areas that I feel could provide benefit.

      I try to make some useful example points about using the strength of the brand such as pontiac firebird how this could be leveraged, working with email marketing, social and offline marketing.

  4. T

    We currently have a robust Facebook fan page for Chevy Camaro to name one with over 57,112 fans. As part of our social strategy all brands will have a robust presence on Facebook and Twitter. Bankrupcy has peoccupied the time of our social media group yet we have still manages to attract over 173,400 fans combined. We are giving full focus to our cars, customers and culture.

    Brenda