January 17, 2020

The Hummer, Take Two

The Hummer, Take Two

Have you heard about the new Hummer GM is rolling out? Instead of the gas-guzzlers of the 1990s, GM will be introducing a smaller, all-electric pickup that’s reportedly debuting this year in a Super Bowl ad featuring LeBron James. It’ll be sold under the GMC brand but with a Hummer badge, according to one report.

I’m not certain Hummer die-hards will race out to buy the new version when it rolls off the production line in 2022 – they were never in the market for eco-friendly economy cars – but GM may be onto something as it tries to revive the brand, which it shelved just before declaring bankruptcy in 2009.

Seeing a Hummer barreling down the highway made some drivers (and environmentalists) apoplectic, but from a branding perspective, the Hummer was a huge success. I’ll bet almost every driver knows the brand name.

That could work in GM’s favor this time around. Drivers who are ready to upgrade their Priuses or like the idea of driving an off-road vehicle may be willing to give the Hummer a second chance now that the brand is going eco-friendly.

It worked for Ford, which is reportedly sold out of the first year’s production on its new electric vehicle, borrowing the name of its sporty Mustang. An electric Mustang?

As we’ve found with our middle-market clients, innovating doesn’t always mean reinventing the wheel. Sometimes, putting a fresh spin on an existing brand or product is the most efficient way to breathe new life into your revenue streams.

Cheetos (of all things) is tapping into the brand recognition it has with its classic chips. It just placed a big bet on two new popcorn products covered with “Cheetle” – the orangey dust that sticks to your fingers when you eat a classic Cheetos. Who knew this stuff had a name? It didn’t. That’s the point. But we’ve all washed it off our kids’ or grandchildren’s hands/faces/clothes (not to mention our own) at one time or another. Cheetos thinks it sees a way to capitalize on its existing brand awareness and turn a liability into a brand asset at the same time. We’ll see how that works out for them.

It’s not just product-based companies finding that refreshing what they sell is the best way to innovate. Convenience chains like 7-11 are going head-to-head with fast-casual restaurants with offerings like Paleo and keto meals and local craft beer. And on-the-go millennials have a new fast lunch option at gas station convenience stores, which are now selling custom salads, artisan sandwiches and organic coffee. It gives a whole new meaning to “fill ‘er up.” And who remembers coffee at $.99 a cup? Well Starbucks has seen to it that we’ve done away with that concept.

Thinking about how to keep your brand and product offerings fresh is an important part of the annual strategic planning process. Marketing, product design, and market research can be great investments if you haven’t taken a fresh look at what you’re selling in a while. We’ve been able to help many of our clients find space in their budgets so they have the flexibility to advance to version 2.0. In many cases, where clients are taking the next step and diving into R&D, we’ve been able to help them make the most of available tax credits, as well.

It’s comfortable to stick with what’s worked in the past, but keeping things fresh is mandatory in today’s fast-moving environment, where a single Tweet or post from an Instagram personality can shake up an entire industry – and turn a successful product into a dud overnight. Just ask Casper, the mattress company. It just listed the power of social media “influencers” to make or break its brand as a risk factor for its upcoming public offering.

But fear shouldn’t be the driving force here. It’s smart to unlock your team’s creativity and see the new perspectives they can bring to your business. And it’s great for your culture, too. I’ll bet that in today’s era of climate consciousness, the team at GM is proud to be working on a greener version of the Hummer and happy to have a chance to drive one guilt-free.