The UAW is a doomed brand unless it learns to change

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

17 February 2014

Unions, like UAW, have a negative perception to overcome

It comes as no surprise to me that the UAW failed in its attempt to get Tennessee autoworkers at VW to unionize. The UAW failed because the United Auto Workers brand seems outdated and soiled.

Don’t confuse the feeling that the brand is no longer relevant with the relevancy of a brand. I put it to you that no autoworker in Tennessee would argue that they don’t want better wages, certain retirement and a voice at the table of VW in the Volunteer State. Of course, they want those things. The problem is that the UAW seems so out of touch with the lives of those employees that the brand of UAW does not have permission to represent the needs and values of the laborer today.

So, the UAW was rejected.

“The problem is not what the union promised, but the perception of what it has wrought.”


UAWThere are two routes to take after such a rejection. UAW could say, “The Tennessee autoworker does not understand our difference” (e.g., credit unions are quick to blame the general population for the same thing) or it could say, “We need to better understand the Tennessee auto worker.”

Better understanding is where brand permissions reside.

Here is a clear-cut example of a failed brand. It makes promises that seem universal, yet the market rejects it. This happens because decisions on whom to represent us are emotional decisions, not rational ones. The UAW will not elbow its way out of this mess. It needs to rethink its brand image and rebrand.

Brand is always about permissions. The acceptance of a brand is measured in adoption of that brand and the adoption of a brand is a 1:1 correlation of how persuaded we are that the brand can live up to its claims. Doubt causes hesitancy and a hesitant constituency stays put.

The problem is not what the union promised, but the perception of what it has wrought. Truth matters much less than perception and it is perceived that the UAW was responsible for the fall of Detroit. It is believed that the union was responsible from turning GM from a maker of motor cars to the manager of a retirement fund— a big, over-bloated and underfunded quagmire that has more in common with government waste than meaningful production.

Now I’m not saying that those perceptions are based on facts (though there is some truth there). What I am saying is that those perceptions are believed.

So, United Auto Workers Union, learn from your mistakes and rethink your brand. It needs permission to represent the modern worker who hopes to work there his whole life but not with the union of his grandfather.

See more posts in the following related categories: autoworkers in Tennessee autoworkers union UAW brand UAW Tennessee


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