Everyone, especially those inside GM, is wondering if GM will "do any marketing" now that it faces a bankruptcy deadline. The ad agencies are especially interested in the question. I'd say it doesn't matter. Those who use the phrase , "do any marketing," are doomed to fail and will live to see the bankruptcy filing. Why? Let's start with Peter Drucker.
Drucker said that a business has only one purpose - to create a customer. Drucker further explained that businesses can only create customers through marketing and innovation.
If Drucker made marketing so important, how did he define it? He said, "A company's primary responsibility is to serve its customers...." That sounds like the guru of marketing, Philip Kotler, who defined marketing as, "sensing, serving and satisfying the wants and needs of customers."
Kotler further expressed his marketing genius in this simple statement, "Marketing begins long before there's ever a product or service." Everyone whose product has failed and who has said, "We didn't market that enough" needs to have Kotler's statement branded on his body somewhere it will always be visible. It will kill two birds with one stone: constantly remind him of the true meaning of marketing and constantly remind him of the origin of branding.
Did GM sense, serve and satisfy the wants and needs of its customers? Evidently not. Or, did Toyota sense, serve and satisfy the wants and needs of GM's customers? Hmm. You may accuse me of 20-20 hindsight, but if customers weren't buying Chevys and GM is now mucking around in a muddy mess, what's the difference?
Through my career in marketing and marketing communications, I heard, every time a product failed, "We didn't market this enough." It made my skin crawl and gave me the anger necessary to lift lots of weights at the local gym. But it also taught me that marketing is not a verb. Let me repeat: marketing is not a verb. I retch when I hear anyone say, "Let's market this" when I know that they mean, "Let's waste a lot more money by throwing at this losing idea more promotions (read: advertising) that no one will ever watch, read or listen to because no one ever wanted or needed this product in the first place."
When I read today that GM wonders how it can survive if it has no money for marketing, I understand sadly that GM will fail, that they need to fail. They have not understood the first rule of marketing: that they must sense (long before there's ever a product), serve and satisfy the wants and needs of their customers. And, oh, by the way, they must differentiate themselves in some meaningful way from their competition (anyone know Michael Porter) while understanding the ways people want to be communicated with, the costs people are willing to absorb, and the conveniences people prefer in order to accept GM's products.
Somewhere along the way GM lost the insights of Peter Drucker, the consultant hired by the legendary Alfred P. Sloan, to study and help GM. Somewhere along the way GM became complacent and proud and bottom-line oriented. But, if anything is constant in life it is change. All organizations, and organisms, must change or die. The new CEO of GM said that the new GM will not be the same as the old GM. It better not be. It must change. As it does so, I suggest they re-invent themselves by, first, using the next 30 days to re-visit Peter Drucker, Philip Kotler and Michael Porter to understand the basics of business again and to learn the true meaning of the word "marketing." Then they can do some branding (the kind I mentioned before).