C’mon Detroit, You Can Brand Better

April 1, 2019 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

I am a child of Detroit and I love my hometown automobile makers. Snipe if you will, but those in the know do indeed know American quality has come a long way, baby. So, it was with great pride and no small amount of joy that I placed an order for the all-new GMC Sierra AT4 pick-up truck right after the turn of the new year.

It’s no ordinary truck, and it’s priced like no ordinary truck. I could buy a Mercedes and take a nice vacation for what I’m laying out on this beastly beauty. I could have driven one off the lot the day I decided to buy it, of course. But I’m a little more particular about my vehicles so I placed an order that chilly first week of January to have one built just for me.

That was 74 days ago.

The seasons have turned, and spring is in the air. It takes time to build a truck — certainly a great one. Since early January, however, I’ve heard nothing without inquiry. And though I try not to be a pest, inquire I have. Every couple of weeks. The conversations are short and the email exchanges even shorter because the dealer doesn’t have much to tell me.

In fairness, GM doesn’t tell its dealers much, either. They can peek at their computers and provide gross estimates of order status, but no more. So, here I sit. Waiting. While GM misses the boat like a drunken sailor stumbling onto the dock at midday.

It’s been said that a brand is what people think it’s like to do business with you.

So far, doing business with GM has been like a long solitary walk in the desert with periodic and unpredictable bursts of weak cell coverage and just enough food and water to make it to the next stop. I’m parched for information and I’m lonely. I won’t embarrass my friends in Detroit further by contrasting my experience with that of my partner, who ordered a BMW.

Unfortunately, those who lack my native pride most assuredly will compare notes, and they’ll share them generously, too. GM offers a supreme example of how a company can get its product so right and its customer experience so wrong. The worst part is GM knows it. Their offices are filled with some of the nation’s best and brightest.

GM knows great cars aren’t the only things they should be engineering.

They should be engineering the entire customer journey for surprise and delight. GM’s customers live in a world of customer experiences crafted and curated by the likes of Apple, Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Amazon, all purveyors of much less expensive products than high-priced pick-up trucks. Companies no longer have the luxury of getting just one thing right, even if it is the product.

It’s worth it to meet the energy of enthusiasts with great customer experiences. They’ll represent you to the world and the world will listen. Enthusiasts are influencers and they can work magic for a brand. And speaking of magic, I learned yesterday that my shiny new truck with the Red Quartz Tintcoat, factory two-inch lift, and performance exhaust is rolling northbound on a rail car out of Mexico. Rumor suggests it will hit Dallas late this week. But to be precise, that’s a maybe. And a maybe not.

Puzzling though it is in this day of the computerized machine and GPS, my dealer has no way to tell for sure. So, I’ll wait patiently for a product that, upon delivery, will no doubt wash away all my pent-up angst at first sight. It truly is a special truck. It’s just a real shame for GM that they haven’t deliberately focused this customer on that fact.

MIKE SULLIVAN is president at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

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Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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