Multichannel Marketing Bloopers – Do's and Don'ts When Your Corporate Image is Threatened

Dear GM:

Thank you for providing today’s lessons on multichannel marketing, branding, and damage control. So far, you are not doing very well. I hope you get it right in the end because you have a great brand. It isn’t fun watching you shoot yourself in the foot.

GM, your preparation for your trip to DC, hat in hand, to ask for a loan was impressive. You obviously paid attention when the financial sector asked for their bailout while continuing junkets and extravagant spending. Before you asked for financial help, you cancelled your star-studded Style event, holiday parties, reduced executive perks, and placed a moratorium on white-collar raises. Since you were so in tune with public opinion, I have to ask, “What were you thinking when you took the private jet to DC?”

All of your efforts to provide a contrite, financially responsible image by canceling events and conserving money were wasted when your executives climbed aboard that jet. The only people who knew about your savings were the few who read the financial section. The rest of the population (and most of your target market), were in the dark about your financial situation until the private jet public fiasco.

Just think about how it could have played differently if you had flown coach. While the other two of the Detroit Big Three were explaining their jet setting, you could have discussed your other cost cutting efforts. But alas, you didn’t get that opportunity.

So, like any good multichannel marketer, you took it to the people. I guess you watched the Obama campaign use the Internet and electronic tools to corral support. You know your customers are loyal because they tend to buy GM time after time. Why not ask them for help?

The “urgent message to GM owners” email you sent to mobilize your customers might have worked if you acknowledged that you goofed by riding the private jet. But you didn’t. You suggested that life as we know it would end if you don’t get the loan you are requesting. You even send them to your “Facts and Fiction” page where you claim “GM Tells It Like It Is”, but you fail to mention the jet there, too.

Now you are insulting the intelligence of the people you need for this turnaround. If they lose confidence in you and stop buying your vehicles, the loan doesn’t matter. It won’t be enough.

In case you haven’t figured it out, here are some do’s and don’ts when you make a mistake:

Do acknowledge it and apologize. Even if you thought it was ok to send the jet when asking people worried about their mortgages for a loan, it wasn’t smart. Accept that you goofed, apologize, and move forward.

Don’t compound the problem by sending a threatening letter. Your letter pretty much said that if you didn’t receive support, the US economy would fail (or come close to it.) Maybe, maybe not. Either way, your position was poorly presented.

Do expand the cost cutting to eliminate the corporate jets. You started the process with two, now go the rest of the way. Yes, it is severe, but according to you, if you don’t get the loan, you are shuttering the doors. Flying coach is better than bankruptcy.

Don’t pat yourself on the back in the same letter that you ask for help. The take-away points from your letter are: Your customer was smart for choosing GM; You need a loan, not a bailout; The US economy is failing and if you don’t receive your loan, it will not be “viable”; You need your customers to pressure their senators and representatives; and you’re leading the industry. (If you are leading the industry, why do you need help?)

Please recognize that you’ve made some mistakes and stop shooting yourself in the foot. Americans can be quite forgiving if you take responsibility for your actions and apologize.

Wishing you the best,

A Taxpayer and Former GM Owner

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