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GM’s “Mark of Excellence” RIP (for now)

August 27, 2009 • Bruce Weindruch

So it’s finally come to this. GM announced that they’re phasing out the “GM” corporate logo that made its appearance in the 1960s . . . most prominently displayed on the massive General Motors “Futurama” at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The company cleverly spun the decision as having concluded that consumers had a greater affinity for GM’s individual brands than the corporate name. That certainly plays a lot better than, “We don’t want folks to associate our individual brands with GM’s crummy reputation.”

In looking at the newspaper ads (perhaps another endangered species) that proudly proclaimed the debut of the GM “Mark of Excellence,” I was struck by the confidence and sense of purpose that GM displayed:

We will use it in the same spirit with which craftsman, through the centuries, have used a personal mark to identify the products of their skills: We are proud of the things we make, and we want our customers to be able to identify them easily and know that we stand behind them.

Within that bold statement is the heart of GM’s problem today. Phasing out the “Mark of Excellence” isn’t about consumer affinity. It’s about GM’s leadership acknowledging that the company is no longer “proud of the things we make.” I totally understand GM’s need to repent and reform. However, I would argue that removing the logo is a yet another superficial distraction at a time when the company must be focused on far more fundamental issues of quality which, if successful, will make GM people proud again.

If he really wants to do something meaningful, CEO Fritz Henderson should announce that GM is not phasing out the logo. Instead, it is voluntarily removing the “Mark of Excellence” until he and his fellow employees are once again proud of the products they make. The day when they put the GM logo back on their automobiles will be the aspiration of every GM employee … and the hope for anyone who cares about the healthy future of American business.

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