Lessons learnt: Internal Organizational Culture and the CMO- Joel Ewanick ousted at GM

The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is outwardly focused always looking at the market and customers- right? Wrong if you see the recent ouster of Joel Ewanick the CMO at GM. This blog had noted some of  the  game changing moves at GM by Ewanick like not advertising on Facebook and Superbowl. It now turns out that as CMO, Joel Ewanick made radical changes in the Ad Agency relationships that GM had. He replaced legacy GM advertising agencies and for Chevvy cobbled together an unusual 50:50 alliance between mega agencies Interpublic and Omnicom.The latter to deploy maximum creativity into the Chevvy brand.

One can speculate that all these changes in GM’s B2B relationships i.e. old ad agencies out, distributors asked to do different stuff must have affected the GM internal old timers. And this is an important idea… if you make changes in external B2B relationships there are internal relationships that get altered. For example, a change in the the way dealers  run promotions means training your field sales force. And parts of the sales force may not have time to understand and therefore buy-in to the advertising and promotion changes  that need to happen at the dealers’.

Also old timers did not like it when Ewanick questioned  the need for the GMC brand as a separate brand for high end trucks.

From news reports available so far, it was details of the penalty clauses in the Manchester United and GM sponsorship deal that seems to have forced  Joel Ewanick’s resignation.

But it is the underlying internal organizational culture at GM that probably caused Ewanick’s abrupt departure given that just two weeks ago he was being praised by all.

So if you are a CMO trying to change stuff here are some lessons learnt from the Joel Ewanick and GM story:

  1. Do not assume that all folks want change.
  2. Carefully track your internal supporters.
  3. Do not assume that just because your actions are “external” like B2B changes among ad agencies and dealers internal folks won’t mind.
  4. Spend 60-80% of your time making sure that you understand the internal organization dynamics. Sounds strange but true because while GM regained the title of the world’s largest automaker in 2011, the mid 2012 difference in sales between Toyota ( 4.97 million) and GM ( 4.67 million) is not that much. Particularly when Toyota had to contend with the Japan earthquake in 2011.
  5. As any high value (more than $1 Million)  B2B marketer will tell you the above point of only spending 20-40% of your time in “external marketing” and 60-80% time in “internal marketing” is what works.

The good part of the episode is that people likeĀ  Joel Ewanick will be in demand, anyway. About StratoServe.

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