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. ...in GM's case amounting to billions and thousands of lost jobs.