Make the Awards Stop, Please?

It was announced recently that GMC is the Most Ideal Popular Brand in AutoPacific’s 2016 Ideal Vehicle Awards–WTF does that mean? 

According to press materials the 2016 Ideal Vehicle Awards are “based on responses from over 65,000 owners of new 2015 and 2016 model year vehicles across all major manufacturers. Surveyed after 90 days of ownership, customers were asked which changes they would make to their car or truck in 15 key categories, including ride and handling, interior storage, safety features, power and acceleration and technology.”

George Peterson, president of AutoPacific says “By asking vehicle owners if they would change various aspects of their vehicle if given the opportunity, we not only identify problem areas and opportunities for improvement, but we also find out which manufacturers are truly hitting the mark with owners.”

Except it’s really just one large circle jerk for marketeers and executives. What’s there to learn about a car in 90 days? For the most part people aren’t even out of the honeymoon phase with their vehicle yet–the majority of the time it probably hasn’t even been in for it’s first oil change–of course people are content.

But it comes full circle, Duncan Aldred, vice president of GMC saying “the results demonstrate we are succeeding in our mission to provide our customers with a premium ownership experience.”

No it doesn’t–it demonstrates that you asked people who spent large sums of money on your product if they were happy they spent large sums of money on your product shortly after they had spent large sums of money on your product.

Consumer psychology is a funny thing especially with large purchases, sure buyers remorse exists, but more often then not the buyer walls off in a branded bunker screaming my product is better than yours (see Ford vs GM), it’s protective. Demonize the other choices and it’s obvious you made the right choice. Phew.

I’m sure many GM owners are extremely satisfied after 90 days, none of this is a condemnation of the products, it’s a condemnation of celebrating mediocrity.

It’s these types of awards that are deleterious to the long term health of the brand, nothing ventured, nothing gained–GMC is getting the answers they want to hear, not the answers they need to hear.

Of course owners are mostly satisfied after 90 days, come talk after 900 days and we’ll see if you’re still happy; because long term satisfaction is what keeps customers coming back to the brand. This is misguided measurement if you ask me.

Let’s look at this metaphorically:

An individual is quite hungry so they purchase 5 candy bars. After consuming the first candy bar satisfaction is quite high, the individual was starving after all. Tear the wrapper of the second and now hunger is starting to subside, but overall satisfaction is still high. The third candy bar decreases satisfaction even further as the individual is no longer hungry. While the 4th and 5th push them over the edge into negative satisfaction, maybe even sickness.

Everything falls prey to diminishing returns, even satisfaction.