Marketing and advertising insights for automotive suppliers

Facing a Theater Full of Automotive OEM Supplier Marketing Execs

Facing a Theater Full of Automotive OEM Supplier Marketing Execs

I learned that their biggest challenge is from within.

Recently, I had the honor and privilege to make a presentation right here in the Detroit area to a group of more than 100 marketing professionals from various automotive OEM supplier companies.

During my 30 minutes, I repeated many of the same themes that I’ve talked about time and again in this blog as the absolute musts in creating a strong brand.

Live and in person: My rules of branding.

The significance of simplification.

The importance of consistency.

The impact of owning a color.

These things don’t cost a cent. They just take discipline. Ultimately, they can boost the power and impact of a brand.

New Detroit vs. Old Detroit: Like night and day.

I also talked about Old Detroit and New Detroit (check out my blog post here). Old Detroit is the Detroit most people think of when they think of the automotive industry – heavy manufacturing. New Detroit, conversely, is more like Silicon Valley. Talent, research, design, engineering, innovation, electrification and autonomous technologies are all essential in New Detroit. New Detroit, of course, moves much faster than Old Detroit. If it doesn’t, it will die.

Which Detroit are you?

I posed the question to all in attendance: Is your brand old Detroit or new Detroit? Does it look like a manufacturing company stuck squarely in the 1990s, or a nimble, progressive, energetic enterprise from the here and now? I asked, “Does your brand have the tone, spirit, look and attitude that will attract top talent today and tomorrow?”

I showed them the results of our recent rebranding of AxleTech – a process that, to the great credit of their leadership, took only five months (most rebranding processes take at a year or more, sometimes two). AxleTech has, for decades, been known as a manufacturing company, but now wanted to be firmly entrenched in the new Detroit. They wanted to get full credit for their recent successes providing state-of-the-art electric drivetrains for busses and other heavy-duty vehicles. AxleTech, as company leadership said, was putting the “brains between the wheels.”

The challenge comes from within.

The most interesting portion of the presentation wasn’t during the presentation per se. It came during the Q&A. Several of the attendees mentioned that their biggest marketing challenge was internal. Convincing their leadership that an investment in a company rebranding would be money well spent was an uphill battle.

What would a rebranding do for the stock price?

How would it help sales? Or would it hurt sales?

I understand the concern. I’ve heard these question dozens of time throughout my career. They’re difficult to answer until the brand has matured and real, quantitative results can be generated. I just know that companies we’ve worked with that evolve their brands have strong leadership that believes in the value of a well-designed, finely articulated brand. They know the downside of keeping their old brand (see my “To Rebrand Or Not to Rebrand” post here).

In the words of AxleTech’s CEO, “For us, it was ‘change or die.’”

Brand Positioning

Ernie Perich

As the owner and creative director of Perich Advertising + Design for more than 30 years, Ernie knows a thing or two about automotive marketing. He combines brand strategy with smart creative to help automotive suppliers strike a nerve. Contact

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