Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
The answer isn't cost-cutting, delaying health benefit and pension plan disbursements or renegotiating union contracts and worker pay. Those are all the solution of linear thinking managements. The answer, rather than ignoring what people want and making what GM wants is to make what people want, not what trend forecasters say will sell. That's how GM and Detroit got stuck with all those SUVs. The problem is the results are , well, just too general. Not creative. Not abstract and interesting. Like one ex-head of GM strategy told me time and time again, "No one was/is going to save General Motors single handedly." Wagoner's ouster verifies that; but does it? He's been with the firm since 1977; steeped in the corporations culture so deeply that he never stood a chance. And that's the problem for other insiders. So if I were President Barak Obama, I'd bring in an outsider like Jim Sinegal who knows how to get things done at the speed of Kirkland as the CEO of Costco. Humble, efficient, a cracker-jack manager and he knows how to sell pallets of product everyday. Just the kind of volume General Motors needs. And you know what? American consumers are predisposed to want to buy cars a new way. We knew that 20 years ago. And GM didn't like the dealers either - always looking for new ways to eliminate those lengthy obligations, Abandon the dealers, streamline the pipeline and let people just order cars the way they shop for any other consumer good. Here's my credit card. Here's my down payment and my permission to automatically deduct each payment over the next 36 month. Kind of gets rid of the people with the bad credit and the whole finance infrastructure. Not needed to make the second most expensive purchase in your life today.
Why not take Saturn and make it the Kirkland brand. That'd be an interesting test! Then of course, there's my other solution for GM. Stop building cars altogether, lease the brand names to Toyota and let Toyota make the products in exchange for a payment on each and every sale to GM. What then to do with GM? Easy! Clean slate. Start over. Invent new product lines and brands. Sound hard? Not at all. At one time American's only had sticky paste and roll-ons as antiperspirants and deodorants. Then we invented a new form; Mennen Speed Stick; the first solid antiperspirant and still the most popular item in the category today. Just takes a little abstract thinking to determine what people want before they know they need it; then give it to them. Plenty of people happy to get paid $48 an hour to build cars since receiving their pink slips from the Japanese auto companies too.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Detroit's real salvation is in the identification of a Product Potential so relevant and meaningful to consumers that we'd mortgage our homes to buy their products. It's merely not sufficient to trot the "buy American" motto back out of mothballs. We've been there and done that. But as Procter & Gamble learned through Folgers it is possible to kick the habit. As all food and beverage manufacturers believe, we buy their products for taste, or flavor and aroma. Sometimes convenience. But that bar's too low. Of course you taste good. Otherwise I'll become a trier/rejector. But what is more relevant to heavy ground roast coffee consumers is "control." The best part of waking up is that stimulant in their cup. It helps them think earlier. They take flavor for granted.
And that's what Detroit needs to do. Realize that everything it says and does is taken for granted. Now give us a selling dimension that's more relevant to the US car buyer. It's all a matter of seeking out and finding that answer through the process of Perceptual Innovation. How you change the way we all think. Another "halo" new product just won't cut the mustard. We take 'em for granted.
And if they can't do it maybe they should hire Motown Record's founder Barry Gordy. At least he can identify a hit. He didn't make black music. As he said the other night, he makes music for everyone.