What if Cars were websites? Part 1: Overview

Multiple Brands/Models are diluting the market

I have long struggled with the notion that the big three really need to make the same basic vehicle under different brands. I recently noticed that GM is selling 93 different automobiles. Once you start to look at the breakdown you see duplication not just in the same brand but the same basic model between brands. There maybe valid reasons for this, but I can’t come to one from a web perspective.

Imagine a conversation in our world like this:
Brand Manager(BM): I want a website just like the one I have now.
PM: Great, so we are going to move your existing site to a new one?
BM: No, I want two! Keep the one I have but I need another site that will have the same content. Maybe a couple of changes, you know, logo and a photo or two. Ooh, and flash we have to have that.
PM: Uh, okay, so you want to duplicate the site you have now with another one. Who is this other site for? An older demographic? Impulse buyer?
BM: Oh, no nothing like that. We are going to target the same customers.

I could go on, but for web products this would seem silly. Imagine if Twitter said the same thing as above. We would laugh them out of the building!

What is your brand identity? Who is your customer?
This would seem simple enough, but I wonder if the US auto makers haven’t lost site of who their core customer is for each of their brands. Look at the vehicle offerings for Pontiac and see if you can figure out who they are trying to sell to. Compare that with Scion and you see there is a significant difference in the marketing approach to the brand and the cars.

Innovation is more than a fancy new model.
Sorry to pick on GM, but innovation is more than coming up with a fancy electric car. This might generate interest, but if the business doesn’t change then it is all for naught. The Volt really looked kind of fun early on, but has fallen prey to blasé styling. Not that I was ready to buy one anyway, but I wonder if Chevy was the right brand for this vehicle. Doesn’t GMC and Cadillac bill themselves as the engineering brands? The innovation needs to be in the structure of the organization.

Imagine another conversation with web products:
BM1: I want to have a new shopping cart with Flex technology to display everything.
BM2: No way, you customers barely know how to click on a link. They won’t get it. Let me go live with it.
BM1: You’re jealous because my customers spend more money with me.
BM2: Whatever, you’re a jerk. Give it to me.
PM: I have to agree with BM2 here. We can launch the product there and work out the kinks. Then migrate it to the other brands.
BM1: Absolutely not, I’m running this show. If you don’t like it I’ll find a vendor that will do it for a six pack and discount.

This will not end well. The product would launch on the wrong site. You know what happens next. The product launches to the wrong demographic, conversion are down, finger pointing begins and the old site is back up.

Next time a closer look at GM.

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