GM sales rise in spite of recalls. Are we really surprised?

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

4 June 2014

Do we really care?

For many, it seems, there was surprise when US automakers, especially General Motors, announced a dramatic gain in sales in the month of May. After all, isn’t GM the one who will be hit with fines because of faulty ignition switches that have led to deaths?

I’m not surprised, though. For one very simple reason: We only care about how things affect us.

“The fallacy, in fact, of how most people perceive brand is that we buy what we can show off. That’s not true at all.”

That’s not a politically incorrect thing to say. It’s just the simple truth, and it forms the basis for all brand. The fallacy, in fact, of how most people perceive brand is that we buy what we can show off. That’s not true at all. We choose based on how we see ourselves or, better yet, how we want to see ourselves. Not how others see us.

GM-dealerIn doing market research, we see this all the time. It is not how Brand A can help those around me feel better. It’s about how Brand A can help me feel better.

Think about this: When I turned 50, I went out – without my wife even knowing – and bought a BMW Z3. I drove it home and my wife said, “Why’d you buy that? You can’t even take the kids in it.” I looked hard at my wife and answered, “Exactly.”

Now, you might think I bought it because I wanted the neighborhood to see me pull out of the driveway and see what kind of cool cat I was. That wasn’t the case at all. I looked like muffin in it.

No, what I wanted was to reaffirm my own sense of self that I could still be a cool cat. It didn’t matter what others thought. It was all about me.

So when GM is slammed in the press and in front of Congress (rightly so), it only affects our purchasing decisions if it directly affects us.

And you see it in the data. In spite of the recalls, GM had a 12.6% increase last month. The recalls didn’t affect it one iota.

This all sounds like we’re all selfish. Well, we are. At least when it comes to purchasing decisions. Even if we are buying groceries for our family – thinking, “Oh. My wife will love this!” – it’s because we want to see ourselves as Good Dad or Good Husband.

While on the surface the GM sales are surprising, they really are not. It’s just human nature.

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