It’s been nearly three years and America’s still battling billions in debt, while the only thing left shining in Europe, is El-Hadji-Diouf’s chrome-plated Mercedes. With times getting tougher, and the quickest way out being for an international-organisation to ‘declare bankruptcy’, India-based subsidiaries are being forced to decide their own fate. Either follow suit and shut shop, or quickly find a way out.
Lucky for everyone, when it comes to public relations and management we’re always full of good advice. So if it’s a solution you seek in times that are bleak, here’s a case study that just might just help.
Back in 2009, General Motors, USA filed for bankruptcy.
The following is a wonderful example of how a company can keep functioning and retain its brand value and image despite financial odds – a result of an effective and immediate PR campaign. Looking past the bankruptcy of its parent company, after 14 years in the country GM India refused to just give up. Instead, they did the unthinkable and managed to make themselves the most commercially sought-after car brand in the country, that year.
And here’s how it happened.
They began by launching and online advertising campaign and started using online reputation management techniques to counter negative word-of-mouth, as its US office filed for bankruptcy. A banner ad campaign, titled ‘There for you, There for India’ went live across all major sites, such as Yahoo.co.in, Rediff.com, Moneycontrol.com and IBNLive.com. To imbibe a sense of credibility within the advertising, the company used the image of Karl Slym, president and managing director of GM (India) in their banner ads, to highlight that GM had already invested over $1 billion in India; the launch of the Cruze brand would be absolutely on schedule, and finally, to express commitment by inaugurating 250 new sales and service outlets in India by the end of the year.
It was an assurance-building campaign aimed at informing consumers that India and the US were two separate operations for GM. And the Indian arm was debt-free, self- sufficient and capable of great after-sales service. Further, on clicking the banner, consumers were redirected to a microsite where a special FAQs section had been set up to answer various queries related to the impact of the bankruptcy on India. ‘Will the US bankruptcy filing in any way impact the Indian operations?’, ‘How about spare parts and service?’ and ‘What are GM’s future plans in India?’
Next, the automobile giant re-sharpened its set of marketing tools – Google. With the search volume related to GM in India having increased 2-3 times its usual limit, in just a matter of days, people looking for ‘GM India’ results were immediately offered a sponsored link, titled ‘Chevrolet Confidence’ (microsite), presented to them along with other results.
Finally GM set up a team of five members, entrusted with tracking various blogs and online forums, that discussed automobiles and GM related matters in India. They even interacted with the editorial teams of various automobile sites, such as Carwale.com, Gaadi.com and Zigwheels.com, to put across the reality that GM India was not going to be affected by the bankruptcy claims of its US counterpart.
In the end, not only did GM India do a fantastic job of maintaining confidence, but it also managed to put forth every bit of information in an honest and impactful manner.
A novel approach that went down well with the press and most importantly, GM users nationwide.