GM’s recent advertising faux pas shows a couple of important things we all need to remember. Firstly, the times they really are a changing – people are no longer prepared to tolerate smug corporates who are out of touch with public sentiment. And secondly, test stuff with real people! I am sure the ad for GM's new hybrid car looked great to a bunch of auto execs in Detroit who all probably still drive big engined petrol drinking cars, but do they actually have any empathy with the people who want to buy and drive more ecologically sensitive vehicles? Looking at both the design of the car and the ad, the answers looks to be no. The public certainly thought so. The ad was slated from all angles when it was launched unleashing a vicious reaction on social media. If anyone did like it they certainly kept their head down.
The real learning from the debacle though is how Ford brilliantly used it to their advantage. Rather than openly criticize GM or try and take some high ground, they swiftly created one of the most powerful responses you can come up with – a parody with a real message.
Ford acted quickly, cleverly and ruthlessly without firing a single shot. They pastiched GMs arrogant go-getter by using a real live Detroit social entrepreneur and putting her in their hybrid – the very cute looking Focus. Both the parody and the actual message were bang on for the kind of people these vehicles are aimed at.
It brings to mind two great lines from Sun Tzu's ‘The Art Of War':
“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”
"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”