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How Alfred Sloan Of GM Used Brand Image To Create A Brand For Ca

Brand image is the means by which products make speeches. This is a critical fact to know in creating a brand, especially in a social media era. The essence of social media is communication. A brand and its customer communicate to one another in an almost human dimension. A person selects a brand to make a speech. You select a brand to convey your position in life.

Alfred Sloan, the CEO of General Motors in 1923, understood this. He is probably one of the first CEO's to understand how important image is in creating a brand. He understood that brand image is a subjective thing---it is in a person's mind. It has no functional value---but it is a critical factor in creating a brand. Brand image is a critical factor in having a product selected. This is why the Cadillac brand was a central factor in Sloan's strategy of overtaking the Model T and becoming the pre-eminent brand in cars in the 1920s.

As 1923 began, Mr. Sloan looked to be fighting a no win uphill battle against Ford Motor Company. The model T was one of the most successful brands of all time. When Mr. Sloan looked out of his office window, nine out of 10 cars he saw was a Model T. He knew that the only way he could compete against Ford would be to create a social media brand.

In our day and age, "social media" conjures up the images of large social media platforms. In its purest essence, social media is the personal conversation between a brand and its customers. The two create a human relationship. They become friends. Friends speak to someone openly. This is what Mr. Sloan did in creating his social media brand circa 1923. To create his social media brand for General Motors, he traveled extensively.

Mr. Sloan traveled the country, talking to people, listening to people. He wanted to find out what were the deciding factors that people experienced in buying a car. He discovered a critical fact about the America of 1923.

In 1923, America now had a middle class, it had a leisure class. People had disposable income. Women were now entering the workforce. This was a big impact for two reasons. This meant there was now a second paycheck in the house. It also meant that women now exerted a bigger influence in buying decisions. A car is a major for a family.

Another important fact that Mr. Sloan learned in his personal social media was that people used a car to explain their financial position in life. People entering the workforce drive Chevrolets. People who are successful drive Cadillac. This is why Sloan knew that Cadillac was critical in his branding. Few people could afford Cadillac--but all WANTED TO. Cadillac was the brand of success. By extension, General Motor products were driven by successful people.

Sloan was also the first automotive CEO to advertise heavily. In his advertising he emphasized the "success" factor; he emphasized the "cool" factor.

This campaign worked. By 1926, General Motors had overtaken Ford as the pre-eminent brand in America---mainly because of brand image. The point to be made in observing Mr. Sloan in 1923, is the critical importance that brand image has on our modern social media brands.

The importance of brand image can be best explained in a story about Mr. Ford. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Henry Firestone were the best of friends. Each year they took a camping trip together. One year their car, a Model T, broke down. It was near a farm, and Mr. Ford roused the farmer to help him get his car started. This farmer did Mr. Ford a favor. The farmer didn't recognize Mr. Ford. Mr. Ford gave the farmer a rather large gratuity. The farmer, still not recognizing the three men, could not accept the large amount money. Being as humble as he could, Mr. Ford said, "farmer, we three are somewhat successful. We can afford this, please take this". The farmer looked at them and said, "You fellows can't be too successful. After all, you're just driving a Ford ".

Dean Hambleton

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