"You either have a strategy that could win for the brand even with the competition or you basically have to stop, and our conclusion was we didn't have a strategy we were satisfied with that could let us win with FILL IN THE BLANK. We don't have the resources or the marketing muscle to put behind the brand, and our conclusion from that was we need to discontinue the work we are doing there."
So, who said this, and what is he talking about?
It's new GM CEO, Fritz Henderson, and the "blank" is, of course, Pontiac. However, he could have been talking about any number of radio stations - and that's the point. We often get stuck on our brands, long past the point where they have any viability left.
Back at Cooley High School in Detroit, the main after-school activity was cruising the perimeter of the school in some of the coolest muscle cars you've ever seen. My favorite of them all was Chris Hofer's 1964 GTO - the first year that Pontiac came out with that incredible muscle car. The headlights were still horizontal that year, and the car just kicked ass.
Like the first kiss, I never forgot that Goat - white exterior, red interior, and just an incredibly hot car. It singlehandedly vaulted Chris from his "just another guy" status to one of the cool guys in the school. I'm sure all those girls remember that car, too.
But alas, after all those years of Bonnevilles, TransAms, Firebirds, Fieros, Sunbirds (yes, we're heading downhill), Aztecs (that one may have done it), and G3s, the brand is literally out of gas. Even those cute little 2-seater Solstices couldn't re-energize Pontiac.
How many radio brands are facing the same dilemma? Through the years, there have been format changes, modifications, adjustments, morphs. Relaunches, restarts, remarketing campaigns, repositionings. In the mornings, more music, all music, all talk, talk plus music, syndication, local.
Bottom line? In the mind of the consumer, there are better brands, newer brands, more exciting brands. Without the baggage that the name "Pontiac" conjures up.
And perhaps that is a big part of what's motivating GM. They can now focus on their "keeper brands" - Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC, and Buick (OK, you got me there). Just like how broadcasters might focus on the other more viable stations in the cluster... if they could just get rid of that dog station that keeps sucking money and resources, they'd be in much better shape.
It takes a lot of guts (not to mention pressure from the Obama Administration) to blow up Pontiac, take your lumps, and call it a day. But like a lot of tired radio brands, GM will be better off without this albatross. Sometimes you just have to suck it, make that tough call, and let it go. It ultimately works better for the company, the audience, and if you make the right move, a new and better station can take its place.