Marketplace Scratch Pad

GM’s new stealth marketing

Scott Jagow Jan 19, 2010

No more Super Bowl ads. No more Academy Awards shows. Instead of “carpet-bombing the nation” with commercials, GM is trying some new tactics. Especially with the ladies.

Consider GM woos women in subtle manner from the Detroit News:

On the CBS show “Ghost Whisperer,” lead character Jennifer Love Hewitt got married and had a baby and needed a bigger car, so she switched to a GMC Acadia, a deal worked out between GM’s marketing team and the show’s writers.

And in a recent episode of the CBS show “Medium” titled “New Terrain,” actress Patricia Arquette rents a GMC Terrain following a car accident. Only this Terrain lets her character overhear people’s conversations broadcast over the vehicle’s satellite radio.

I don’t how subtle it is to name the episode “New Terrain.” It probably ranks at the top of the product placement hall of fame (shame?). But why the focus on women?

Women buy 51 percent of all new cars and 48 percent of used cars, and they influence 85 percent of new vehicle sales, according to Road & Travel Magazine. Research also shows women are likely to buy a new car when they experience life-changing events such as a job change or pregnancy, which helps explain the “Ghost Whisperer” storyline.

GM might have also been reading this new study from Pew, which suggests there’s been a bit of a gender role reversal when it comes to who wears the money clip in the family:

“We found that increasingly, women are more likely to marry husbands who have lower education levels than they do, and lower income levels than they do,” says D’Vera Cohn of the Pew Research Center. From 1970 to 2007, husbands whose wives earned more than they did jumped from 4 percent to 22 percent.

GM isn’t completely bailing on the tough truck manly man football segment. It’s just being more thoughtful about its advertising approach. That’s smart, but GM had better be careful. Women are already onto the slyness:

“After tonight’s disgusting pump of the GMC Terrain, I am going to stop watching,” a viewer wrote on the Internet forum www.tv.com. “I watch TV shows for entertainment. I tolerate product placement.

“When the main character starts admiring the vehicle features as part of the show, the line has been crossed.

What do you think of GM’s new tactics?

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