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OK, am I the only one who is mildly annoyed with hearing Ed Whitacre tell us about how nervous he was when he took the position of Chair of the Board of Directors for GM? What most rubs me the wrong way about this commercial is how Mr. Whitacre suggests that his doubts might remotely come close to mine.

Here’s the thing: I am somehow certain that my personal balance sheet is far outshone by Mr. Whitacre’s. So, when I think of a new car, despite hopes and dreams and aspirations – our approach is likely quite different. Where I may want to drive a Lexus, an Acura – heck, why not a Ferrari, I recognize that my wish list of cars includes some cars which I may someday have access to, while others are simply pipe dreams.

I’m going to throw out a guess here: GM’s Chair probably drives a top-of-the-line Caddy, and has probably not driven an “average” car (i.e. Cobalt or even Traverse) in a very, very, very long time – if ever! So, to claim that he shares my doubts about the purchase of a car, or even the future of the automobile industry is quite unlikely.

Now, I’m not saying that Ed Whitacre doesn’t care about making good cars; nor am I saying that he doesn’t care about the industry. In fact, he probably very much does. But, when you choose a MarComm strategy where you are asking your President, CEO or Chair to be the spokesperson – the idea usually is that you are trying to get the public to see themselves in your company. Do you see yourself in Edward E. Whitacre, Jr.?

And, folks, I am well aware that there are also other objectives to using this strategy. By placing the President, CEO and/or Chair as spokesperson:
· We’re showing a “face to the company”;
· We’re putting someone’s “skin in the game”; and,
· We’re letting the consumers (and potential consumers) know that we’re human beings too.

My own opinion: The whole strategy always works much better when the audience can relate to the spokesperson.

One personality who managed this execution well is President’s Choice with

Galen Weston. Now, whether you like this guy or not is not so much the issue. The point is that President’s Choice is targeting families, Canadian families to be more precise. And, Galen’s approach – from the tone of his voice to the type of message essentially positions him as “the guy next door”. Can’t you see Galen taking his kid to soccer practice, or putting together a tree house in the backyard? Here is a personality which achieves the goals of the strategy.

PLEASE NOTE – None of this commentary has anything to do with the value of either organization; this is simply some fodder around the execution of message delivery.

It may not always be easy, but when you’re the person in charge of the MarComm area, we have to find a way to (politely) be honest to our “Grand Fromages” (yes, that’s what I like to call ‘em). It is critically important to the brand that we ARE being genuine. In the world of social media, instant gratification, and iPhone journalists – we have to always ALWAYS consider how the audience will react… You no longer need to wait for results in terms of sales and market share – you’ll hear about successes and failures online – sometimes maybe even in a blog… like this one.


When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

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