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To GMC's Richer, it's all about choices

Mark-Hans Richer, GMC's director of advertising and sales promotion, honed his advertising skills on bleach, cereal and burgers, not sheet metal and horsepower. He began his career at DDB Needham Worldwide Advertising in Chicago, working on such accounts as Clorox, General Mills' cereals and McDonald's. He helped McDonald's build its brand in Latin America in 1997. One year later, Richer left package goods advertising to join General Motors as advertising director of Chevrolet trucks. He came to GMC in May 2000 and helped the division launch the 'We are professional grade' image campaign that fall. Automotive Marketer Special Correspondent Laura Clark Geist caught up with Richer at GMC's 2002 media preview in June.

In terms of marketing, how does GMC want to differ from Chevy?

When you look at the '99 Sierra, that had certain levels of differentiation versus the Silverado, which were a good start but not the ultimate expression of where we'd like to be. When you look at the GMC Envoy versus the (Chevrolet) TrailBlazer, you see a greater level of differentiation and a different feel. (The Envoy) is a little bit more refined than a rugged, outdoorsy TrailBlazer.

Is GMC doing anything exciting?

In New York's Times Square (during April and May) we actually put an Envoy on a building. It was the Forest City Ratner Building. We had a million people going past every day. Inside the building we had signs on the floors and hanging from the ceilings and elevators. Plus we had displays explaining the product story of the Envoy. We did some pre- and post-(display) interviews, and all the same things came out of (the interviews) as (what we try to convey in) advertising - quality, comfort, sophistication. We had another full-size Envoy in a coffee shop. So they could walk in and sit down in it. It was phenomenal and great exposure.

Are you going after a more upscale audience than Chevrolet?

As the truck market has gotten bigger, obviously it has segmented into as many little divisions as the car market has. The idea that trucks are trucks and they're just one flavor just doesn't fit anymore. The GMC buyer versus a Chevrolet buyer is not necessarily more upscale. However, they consider their choices in products to be leaning a little bit more toward the specialized, professional-grade tools (such as Porter Cable) versus general market tools such as Black & Decker. Those choices are subtle but important. It's important to General Motors to have two strong truck divisions that appeal to different kinds of people.

Where did GMC spend its money last year in terms of print and broadcast?

It's a fairly traditional split between print and broadcast - 70 percent TV and 30 percent print. It depends on the product. In some products, like full-size SUVs, the Yukon for example, we know that target has a little bit higher consumption with magazines and a little bit lower consumption with TV. Pickup truck owners are the opposite. We adjust the mix in that case. The general ratio is about the same, but we'll adjust the ratio depending on the product.

Automotive Marketer talked with CJ Fraleigh (GM's executive director of advertising and corporate marketing) recently about the changes in GM advertising, including the sign- offs in the advertising process. Do you think these changes will empower ad directors such as yourself?

The new processes aren't really finalized yet. CJ and his team have really been working on those. CJ has brought a very good perspective on how you should be using research. It is not divorced from judgment. He really wants the right people to use their best judgment in terms of how advertising really lives and breathes rather than relying on pure numerical qualities.

Will GMC tweak its 2002 campaign?

We're always looking to evolve it. GMC has some other new products coming out that you'll be seeing . We will be using the engineers without question. But there's a very wide range of how they can be used.

Would you consider Keith Famie (of CBS 'Survivor' fame)? Famie drives a GMC truck with a customized kitchen for his local Detroit cooking show 'Adventures in Cooking.'

That's something that we've not talked about. At some point there might be room for that kind of linkage into our position. But not right now.

Have you aimed a campaign specifically at the African-American market?

This is the beginning. We are using African-American engineers that have worked on the Envoy and the Yukon. We are doing two ads with one engineer apiece. We are showing the engineers more in a lifestyle situation rather than just engineering.

Will you use Hispanic engineers too?

Ultimately. For the launch of the Envoy we used the general market ad then added nuances like including the engineer's family. We found the ad very motivating (for the Hispanic market).

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