December 15, 2008

Detroit Blues

General Motors surprised the Internet world when some years ago became a forerunner on Customer Advocacy by sponsoring the Auto Choice Advisor web site (that evolved in the mean time to the
The Auto Choice Advisor (see the original web site above) was an exceptionally advanced for the time (2003) online tool (coming close to the Web 2.0 domain) meant to help customers obtain the best possible information needed in order to make the right choice when buying a new car.
The Auto Choice Advisor in its original and also present form is supposed to be a very powerful marketing tool. According to Harvey Bell Executive Director, Global Advanced Vehicle Development at GM. “The system provides the Advanced Vehicle Development group at GM with an unprecedented and timely view of consumer preferences as well as accurate market performance simulations for projected new products. It has guided many major product design and development decisions by allowing us to move directly from consumer research to product design. It is now widely used throughout the corporation". I use this online advisor as an example of how a corporation can help its customers to become successful and at the same time improve its image. The system is a very valuable source of customer voice that if properly used can provide marketers with very valuable information on consumer preferences and trends.

Despite the availability of such an advanced customer acquisition, retention and market research tool GM, together with the rest of the Detroit Automakers, are fighting for survival at the moment. And while the Auto Choice Advisor was supposed to give GM a clear competitive advantage it seems that no one there bothered to look to what customers were looking for when considering buying a new car. And not only this: despite the use of advanced tools meant to win the customer trust GM recently acknowledged that in fact it has violated the customer trust!!!
All the discussion at this moment is focused on the problems of GM and the other two American car manufacturers and on whether the US government will bail them out. With the discussion still going on today I was glad to read the post of John Quelch on the Harvard Business Review blog of 11 December explaining the background of the GM demise. Interesting for marketers as a case of anti-marketing!
Conclusion: Even the best Internet concepts can not compensate for bad marketing!