The jingle used to tell us we loved “football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars”.
Monday’s announcement from General Motors, Holden’s US parent, that the brand brand will be “retired” and local design and engineering operations cease is doubtless based on strong financial reasoning, but poor brand management is also part of it.
The numbers didn’t stack up
In November, it sold just 2,668 cars, down from 5,125 the previous November.
Internationally, Holden was only present in two small markets, Australian and New Zealand, which between them don’t even account for 1% of global sales, and require steering columns on the right hand side of car. It has made Holdens hard to internationalise.Wikimedia
General Motors isn’t even going to bother to sell foreign-made sedans in Australia, although it will continue to sell speciality vehicles.
Yet its brand is ingrained in Australian history.
Holden defined a brandAAP
Brands are a combination of tangible and intangible elements. Among the tangible elements are visual design elements, like logos, colour, images and packaging, such as the Holden “Lion and Stone” and distinctive product features, such as the feel of the leather, the sound of a roaring V8 and the quality of the duco.
But that is only part of what makes a brand. Tangible elements can be easily copied and are a feature of nearly all products. The challenge is to develop and leverage intangible qualities.
Nostalgia is a Holden value. It’s rich history, dating back to 1856, has helped define the brand.
Many of us who grew up in the 1970s remember family car trips to the beach in a Kingswood station wagon. In the 1980s, we watched Brock, Richards and Perkins win Bathurst. Movies like Puberty Blues made the Holden Sandman panel van every young man’s dream, and every parent’s worse nightmare.
- ^ love (www.caradvice.com.au)
- ^ announcement (media.gm.com)
- ^ shift (www.budgetdirect.com.au)
- ^ 170,000 (www.whichcar.com.au)
- ^ added to its woes (www.carsguide.com.au)
- ^ Wikimedia (upload.wikimedia.org)
- ^ press release (media.gm.com)
- ^ values (www.ignytebrands.com)
- ^ Brock, Richards and Perkins (www.mount-panorama.com.au)
- ^ Puberty Blues (www.imcdb.org)
- ^ Australian (www.cmo.com.au)
Authors: Gary Mortimer, Professor of Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, Queensland University of Technology