GM’s Classic Storytelling Fail: Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile?

This isn’t your Father’s Oldsmobile

One of the all time classic storytelling fails belongs to General Motors (GM).

Oldsmobile was a classic American car built by GM.  It carried traditional American values and a story that resonated well with it’s audience (the proud American consumer).

1970s: Escape from the Ordinary

During its heyday, The classic GM brand was one of the most innovative cars on the market. It always pushed the boundaries on technology and design.  The advertising cleverly and effectively told this story,  “Escape from the ordinary”.

1980s-1990s: It’s Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile

By the late eighties to mid nineties, the Oldsmobile brand began losing its identity. Faced with tough competition from Asian rivals, and in an effort to appeal to a younger audience, it went about re-inventing itself, to its detriment.


Lessons Learned From Oldsmobile

What Oldsmobile didn’t count on was the power of story. It didn’t factor in the negative implications associated with telling a different story; one that radically contravenes the essence of the brand and what it stood for.

Needless to say, the brand eventually went out of production.

Some Tips on Brand Re-Invention

Brand re-invention/re-branding is always tricky and should be avoided at all cost.  If unavoidable, follow these three basic tips.

  • Maintain the distinction of your brand
  • Don’t betray your brand values
  • Make sure your story is consistent – your customers are smarter than you think

Recommended Further Reading


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