DETROIT -- When General Motors implemented its brand-management system 1996, the Pontiac Bonneville received a dedicated $27 million ad campaign and its own tag line. By last year, ad spending for the sedan had dwindled to $9 million, and this year it will get only regional support.
The Bonneville budget is just one casualty of the company's new attitude toward brand management. GM says it is evolving its once-ballyhooed branding plan. But observers maintain GM's adoption of the package-goods brand-management model was a resounding flop.
Under brand management, 30 key models had their own tag lines with creative work that sometimes barely mentioned the division. That confused shoppers, said John Middlebrook, GM's general manager of vehicle brand marketing and corporate advertising.
So GM's evolution means the definition of a brand no longer will apply to individual models but to divisions - the way the rest of the industry has done it for years.
"The name on the store is where people go to buy the vehicles," Middlebrook said. "Our business is different from Procter & Gamble's."
While new models still will get dedicated ad launches, they will use the divisional brand's umbrella theme, Middlebrook said.
As an example, the Bonneville no longer has its own tag line but uses Pontiac's "Pass it on," developed by D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles in Troy, Mich. It was Pontiac's first divisional image effort since 1997. The tag line also was used to launch Pontiac's Vibe sport wagon this year.