GM’s “Award-Winning” PR Strategy

Cui bono?

Cui bono?

For as long as General Motors has been losing market share in the United States, Detroit’s largest automaker has looked beyond mere success on the market to craft a winning PR narrative. This has been no easy task; after all, nothing succeeds like success. But luckily for GM there is an alternative to actual success: awards. Offered by countess media outlets, professional associations and industry groups, these awards may not actually substitute for (let alone drive) consumer demand for GM’s products, but they do allow the Ren Cen’s merry spinmeisters to craft an appearance of success for the company, no matter how at odds with reality it is.

History is littered with embarrassing legacies of this strategy, perhaps most notably the time when GM won Motor Trend’s 1971 Car Of The Year award for its hapless Chevrolet Vega. But GM’s awards-centric strategy is hardly a thing of the past: just last week, CEO Mary Barra claimed that recent awards prove that GM is indeed a new company and that “we are there to win.” Barra’s statement was deeply ironic, as touting award wins as a sign of success is precisely the kind of “leadership” that allowed GM to ignore its failures on the market for decades. In fact, under Barra’s leadership GM is not simply falling back on awards to burnish its underperforming vehicles, it’s relying on awards to polish Barra’s image as well. Worst of all, it appears many of these awards are effectively bought and paid for.

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Ten Burning Questions For The Detroit Auto Show

No Daily Kanban staff were required to set foot in Detroit's Cobo Center during the making of this report.

No Daily Kanban staff were required to set foot in Detroit’s Cobo Center during the making of this report.

10: Has it become any better to cover? Are the WiFi hotspots still overloaded? Does your phone still switch to an international roaming plan if you stand in the wrong corner of Cobo? Has the free everything been great? Is the weather halfway decent? Just kidding, everyone knows the answer to those questions. And since each of these ten “questions” is really more of a series of questions, let’s just get on with it, shall we?

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