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Could GM Move Mountains To Catch That Cool Factor?

Obviously, General Motors Corp. endeavors with all its might to retain its throne as the largest automaker worldwide. But in order to do it, GM must first discover the cool factor formula to attract the hip and young generation Y.

GM infiltrated YouTube with “The Sweet Escape” and put pop rock/singer Gwen Stefani in a taxi-yellow Chevrolet Tahoe sport utility vehicle. It also let rapper Jay-Z to create a special blue color for the Denali SUV. 50-Cent, a popular rapper, made a showing at the GM exhibit at the show to check out performance models of the Pontiac G6. Aside from those significant events, the automaker also spearheaded a star-studded event to highlight the much-concluded North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). All these and more are GM’s strategies to hook that elusive cool factor to wow the new generation of drivers, which are significant to the automakers reign.

The automaker is also exerting efforts to reinvent its lineup to make it more efficient, safe, functional and appealing especially to the youth. Critics in the industry are questioning the capability of the automaker to make hip happen. Others are saying that the automaker is built on mass appeal and famed more for trend-following rather than trend-setting.

GM has been exerting efforts to put that feisty ingredient into its lineup for quite a long time now. Unfortunately, most of its efforts turned out to be futile. The efforts to add finesse and buoyancy are sometimes failing badly. However, the automaker is not losing hope and is willing to exert extra effort to finally strike the right chord.

"Everybody wants to be young and hip," said Dino Bernacchi, GM manager of branding and entertainment. "Everybody wants to be youthful and feel good and live vicariously through these celebrities. Sure, everybody criticizes it, but then we can't get our eyes off of it."

The automaker managed to yield an image turnaround when Cadillac transformed into Hollywood hip-hop brand of choice with the Escalade sport utility vehicle as its frontline. It was not expected by some critics in the auto industry. In fact, even the most astute marketing analyst could not have foreseen the transformation. Nowadays, the automaker is endeavoring to relive the milestone with other product lines.

So far, GM is successful in drawing the attention of enthusiasts the only problem now is the staying power. The recently held car and fashion show, for one, have garnered overwhelming media attention. As a fact, the GM models flaunted in said show were published by renowned American magazines like the US Weekly magazine.

"There was a day where you could manage or limit the word of mouth about what was said about your brand, but that's over," said Timothy Blett, president of the Doner advertising agency in Southfield, which created the Mazda "zoom, zoom, zoom" campaign. "If your product is considered youthful, there is going to be more press, more buzz on the Internet. Being considered hip by the youth culture creates additional PR in some of the most powerful forms of communication."

GM knows that altering public perception is one of the biggest battles that it has to overcome to gain a positive North American turnaround. Although, the automaker retains its high-quality standard when it comes to auto parts, ergonomics, safety features and more; it will also put emphasis on design and styling to create a larger customer base. GM perceives that said features are the key to win the preference of the young car fanatics. The goal is not as easy as putting together sophisticated auto parts like the upgraded EBC Greenstuff, Vortec supercharged engines and other cutting edge amenities; it has something to do with offering the best of all worlds connected to the vehicle manufacture.

GM is an institution in the industry. However, only few Americans see the image as flattering with regards styling and design. To turn the image, GM is employing both the conventional and the unconventional techniques. The use of the star power is the most apparent. Lately, it has unveiled all-new Buick Enclave with Tiger Woods, a famous golf player.

"There's just something that has people connected to celebrities and has everybody wanting more. But there has to be a balance. They can't look like they're shilling the product. You got to get hipper and trendier with the cars, and we are," Bernacchi concluded.

"You can't do all this stuff and then come out with bland products," noted Erich Merkle, auto analyst of IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids. "You've got to be able to back it up."

About the Author: Anthony Fontanelle is a 35-year-old automotive.buff who grew up in the Windy City. He does freelance work for an automotive magazine when he is not busy customizing cars in his shop.

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