GM’s Advertising Identity Crisis Hurting Sales

Volt gay adIt looks like General Motors is going through an identity crisis as its marketing strategy has flip-flopped by changing its targeted audience. The new General Motors’ truck ad, “Strong,” targets conservatives by honoring a heroic and manly GM truck buyer with lyrics that describe him as a “love one woman for all his life” type of guy who arrived at work on time for twenty straight years. The rugged, heterosexual identity of today’s GM differs greatly from last year’s politically correct version when the company won praise for running a “gay” Chevy Volt ad and for flying rainbow banners to celebrate America’s sexual diversity.

As mentioned recently on NLPC, the new GM truck ads have done little to pull buyers of any sexual orientation into dealerships. A recent survey (unveiled here) points to the fact that conservative truck buyers still hold it against GM for taking billions of taxpayer dollars as it went through an Obama-orchestrated bankruptcy process that favored political allies over other groups.

It is also very likely that the heavily subsidized and much-hyped Volt does not sit well with tax-paying, truck-driving consumers who prefer not to have their tax dollars go to wealthy purchasers of Obama’s favorite vehicle; regardless of what sexual preference the subsidy recipient has. The fact that GM once blamed conservatives for the Volt’s failure does not help matters. GM continued making  political statements that irked conservatives by criticizing Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election campaign at the same time that its UAW members were coming out in force to help President Obama win reelection.

GM’s flip-flop from gay appeasement to pandering to conservatives with the new rugged and heterosexual truck ad could have been expected from a company that has roots in the political arena. The company’s explanations for the poor sales performance of its new truck lineup could have been scripted by a White House spokesperson. The lame excuse that supply for the new trucks could not keep up with demand could only be believed by the most gullible or uninformed voter; I mean consumer. Unlike the heroic “strong” truck driver, who is described in the ad as “somebody you can trust,” GM management has lost credibility by giving inaccurate explanations for sales shortfalls in the past when it used the same “supply can’t keep up with demand” excuse for the Volt.

The above-mentioned survey proves that the GM boycott is alive and well. This can also be evidenced by comments that were posted on a conservative website which posted a copy of the NLPC piece. Over 100 comments confirmed that many consumers will still not consider a GM product because of the bailout overhang and the seemingly politically-motivated, taxpayer-supported Chevy Volt. I’m sure that there are thousands more who feel that way and I personally know many individuals who say they will steer clear of any GM products.

It does not take all that many disgruntled consumers to negatively impact GM. In a very competitive environment, GM will have to make up for lost sales by offering additional incentives (as recently added) to those truck buyers who are more open-minded to the thought of buying a bailed-out manufacturer’s vehicle. The company should be able to drive truck sales, but it will come at a cost. GM can then move on to thinking about making up with its gay base of consumers who may have been insulted by the latest truck ad. Maybe the fumbling, Obama-appointed management will offer up a new rainbow-colored truck to make amends.

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.