My new favorite thing in the morning is reading The Morning Brew. It’s smart, clever, and just a cheeky enough to wake me up in the morning. Recently, Neal Freyman wrote, “Honda Bets on GM in Race to Driverless Cars.” It got me thinking, how can Honda maintain an err of superiority in its messaging when they have just given GM a $2.75 billion vote of confidence? And, how can GM take advantage of this coup without alienating their investor? Doing so will take more maneuvering than, well, driving a car.
More importantly, what can the rest of us learn about our brands and the ones with which we compete but also sometimes collaborate?
First, it’s important to recognize that your market has plenty of love to go around. At Spencer Brenneman, for example, we say that we’re not right for everyone and everyone is not right for us. We are, by no means, the only source of excellent brand strategy advice. However, we’re certainly a very good one, worthy of many organizations’ attention. The same goes for Honda and GM. Honda simply does not make the breadth of models that GM does so, of course, there are going to be situations in which Honda isn’t the right choice. Likewise, there are Honda offerings that GM doesn’t do (or at least doesn’t do as well).
Second, remember that that’s what brands are for: to connect with customers on an emotional level, to augment the analytical connection you have with customers. In the case of Honda vs. GM, those include data points like mileage, cost of ownership, resale value, etc. Because both Honda and GM have cultivated emotional connections with their customers for decades, the fact that Honda is investing in GM won’t do much to taint the love and devotion Honda-philes have.
Finally, there are plenty of bragging rights to go around as well. Honda can say that GM needed their technical expertise. Whereas GM can point to its vision and vast resources that Honda did not have.
The point is that when making nice with your competitors, stay calm and remember that very few situations are zero-sum games. If you have the right brand strategy, you can confidently partner without fear of losing your identity—or your customers.
Now, if only someone would tell that to Washington.
P.S., I highly encourage you to sign up for The Morning Brew.
Spencer Brenneman, LLC