Saturday, August 2, 2008

LISTEN to your customers

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." -Bill Gates

Two years ago, GMC partnered with Donald Trump's The Apprentice and launched a website inviting the public to create a commercial for the Tahoe. The winning commercial would air during The Apprentice.

Sounds like a good idea, right? Engaging potential consumers in your brand? Being one of the first Fortune 100 companies to offer a user generated contest? Well, in theory, yes. In practicality, no.

To borrow the words of Donald, "You're Fired!" The marketing plan quickly melted into an inconvenient truth. Some participants highlighted the Yukon's irrational exuberance and environmental strain, which quickly shifted the ploy's gears into reverse. These parodies were created when gas still cost around $3 per gallon and "hybrid" was a word reserved for affluent white-collar hippies.

"Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war." -Donald Trump

Flash forward two years to today and GM is still finding a way to win the war. The company did not adequately listen to consumer's early honk for change and are now paying a hefty price. Think $5 USD a gallon is expensive? Well, try a second-quarter net loss of $15.5 Billion. Yes, even that makes the Tahoe's $85.00 fill-ups seem trivial.

Could GM have prevented this hefty and embarrassing loss? Well, if the company listened to 2006's consumer generated parodies, they could have taken earlier restructuring measures. Sometimes it pays to listen to your unhappy customers from the start, instead of putting them in the backseat. Yes, your company may take a minor detour, but it can prevent a major crash. GM's case amounting to billions and thousands of lost jobs.


Diane Aurit said...

Well written Sean and a perspective I share with you. I guess it took gas at $4 to get consumers to decide it is time to stop driving their Hummers and SUVs. We've lost some valuable years but hopefully this change will continue.

Anonymous said...

At the same time, the violent eco-facists push hard for the "truth" of global warming to be widely accepted, even though science is more than a little inconclusive and vague.

I sit somewhere in the middle, and enjoy reading about the two sides duking it out, but its obvious to me that there are equally accredited scientists on both sides of the argument.

Should we take care of the earth? Absolutely. Soccer moms don't need land barges.

Should we temper the hyper-concern for the earth with real facts? Yes, we should.

In the 70's, we were talking about a new ice age. Now its "global warming." The climate fluctuates. Go look at weather mapping over the last 200 years. It shifts back and forth over a median temperature. We should all take a breather and start making real, smart decisions.

Economic decisions. Scientific decisions. Not "science" based on political positioning. It concerns me that your level of zealotism or contempt for global warming is drawn on a clear line of your political leanings.

I think these things should be scientific and seperate. It scares me that the proponents of GW are democrat, and the opponents are republicans. Almost across the board. Both have agendas.