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Joel Ewanik was recently named General Motors' global marketing chief, so we sat down with him and Buick marketing honcho Roger McCormack at the Detroit Auto Show to find out how they plan to get more attention for GM's brands.
  • For both men, the priority is to get people in seats since GM appears to realize that it can't just rely on people to trust its marketing. "We're making great cars – the Cruze was the first car in its segment to get five stars under the new NHTSA standards," Ewanick said, "we need to get people in sitting in the cars." For Buick, McCormack said as well that his brand will focus on "Activities to get people in cars, sitting in cars, experiencing cars."
  • On the subject of settling Cadillac's advertising, Ewanick said, "With Cadillac we're trying to create some dissonance, putting them in ski resorts to remind people that Cadillac is a great brand for their snow activities with the all-wheel-drive sports wagon and CTS, SRX and Escalade." To that end, the brand has done deals with the Northstar ski resort in Lake Tahoe and they're doing one with Vail, in Colorado.
  • The scope of the "Chevy Runs Deep" campaign is being broadened from its historical associations to current environmental and community efforts. "I wanted to do wind farms and solar panels, something sexy," said Ewanick. But after talking to people in the field he decided on more community-minded efforts. "Most schools aren't insulated, and if we weatherized them properly they could save on heating." A month ago Chevrolet released a commercial touting the initiatives: buy a Chevrolet and the company will invest in programs that "over the next few years" will reduce carbon emissions by 8 million metric tons.
  • The Volt is the brand's best halo car: "People aware of the Volt are more likely to buy into a Chevrolet – it's selling the Cruze, the Malibu and heavy duty pickups because the engineering sells the brand." Speaking of the Cruze, expect to see a lot of it this year. "We don't have a lot of big launches for the year, so the messages will focus on Cruze, month in, month out, all year long."
  • Both McCormack and Ewanick described Buick as "more approachable luxury." When asked if that meant Buick was no longer gunning for Lexus, McCormack said "Lexus is still very much a key competitor, as well as Acura, Infiniti, Audi in some instances and Volkswagen in some instances." The key to that appears to be not in exact head-to-head competition (a la the CTS), but finding some in-between space to occupy. "What we do very well is play in luxury mainstream," McCormack said, "positioned betweeen luxury and compact luxury, above mainstream compact. We bake in all the luxury, amenities and craftsmanship, deliver all things the consumer values but the consumer feels like they got a good deal."
  • If that's the Buick formula, "the same formula as on the LaCrosse," the point now is to spread it over a wider range of vehicles like the Regal and Verano – and that will also reduce the average age of the Buick buyer. "Look, the age is the age, but it's a reflection of the segments. We started with the Lucerne, LaCrosse and Enclave, all of those compete in segments that will get an older consumer."
  • As for Buick's ad frontman, "Kevin Bacon is the Buick spokesperson," Ewanick said, "and we don't see that changing."

2011 Chevrolet Cruze 1LT
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Photos copyright © 2011 Steven J. Ewing / AOL

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