I-Marketing Interview: General Motors (Part 2)

General Motors (NYSE: GM) says that eGM, the internal organization created to key GM’s online business development, is a transient entity. GM’s hope is to absorb the learnings of eGM, disperse them throughout the company, and evolve into a whole e-corporation.

In Part 2 of her interview with the E-Commerce Times, eGM director of interactive marketing Joyce Fierens continues from where we left off, revealing more of what she and the automotive giant have learned about marketing a company on the Internet.

ECT: What advantages have you gained through marketing in e-mail newsletters?

Fierens: The key is that people have to opt in to those. That’s the bottom line. There’s no use even using them, if you’re not doing that from the start. The real advantage is the viral effect, when the message really starts to spin. What I’ve seen is that you have to have relevant content in the e-mails. They can be a waste of time if you don’t.

Power to the People

ECT: What are some successful strategies for online advertising?

Fierens: It all comes down to your objective. You have to make sure you’re using the Web well. We’re most effective when we give someone a reason to click on an ad — instead of just putting a brand name up there. We try to use the Web’s technologies andcapabilities to give consumers the answers they’re looking for when they’re shopping for a vehicle.

Also, the Web’s viral effect has worked well with initiatives like the Vibe-naming promotion. We thought, why should we come up with funky names for colors that we think people will like? Why not just ask them and build a contest around it? Then, we had our objective, and the Web was the obvious channel to accomplish this.

Driving With a Purpose

ECT: What pitfalls should an online advertiser try to avoid?

Fierens: I think the big mistake that people have made in the past is you don’t just don’t throw money at the Web just to have a “Web-something.” There’s got to be a reason for it. It is simply another media channel, that has some uniquecharacteristics, and so you leverage them when it’s right.

Avoid generic creative. The most effective Web advertising that we do is targeted to the audience. It makes it relevant to people. If it’s not, it’s boring and they’re not going to click. It’s a lot of fun on the Web to be able to tie the advertising to some creative unique things, where you’re leveraging the Web’s capability and doing something that you can’t do with other media channels. It could be highlighting some feature on a vehicle that would be boring to read about.

We could show it with cool Web technology, and actually show people how certain parts work. That’s a visual that you can’t do in other media channels.

ECT: Are there products or services that arenot suited for promotion through online advertising?

Fierens: If we are looking for broad marketing reach and awareness, we don’t look first to the Web. Also, if we have a limited budget, we might not want to put our money into the Web. It depends on the market and who the customers are. If we have a productthat isn’t new, that’s midway through or towards the end of its lifecycle and the customers who buy it are not online, then why waste our money trying to reachanybody through the Web.

Even when the Web is the primary medium, like the Vibe contest, we still use offline methods — direct mail, radio, TV — to drive people online.

Know the Score

ECT: How do you measure the effectiveness of your Internet marketing campaign? What factors come into play?

Fierens: We look first at the impressions delivered to see if we got what we paid for. We look at the clicks. We’ll measure the interaction with the Web site where we were driving people — and did we get any leads from it. And sometimes, even sales. If wecan measure it all the way to sales, that’s optimal. Because you can really tell how effective you were. Over the last couple years, this is become much moredoable. That’s the beauty of the Web.

On the Web you have to set expectations up front. You have to know what you’re trying to get to. Otherwise, you get to the end of a campaign and you’re looking around, saying “Did that work?” Make sure you build your objectives into every one of your campaigns.There are a lot of different ways to do it, but the most important thing for us is that we do it consistently, and that we spend the time upfront to think about it.

Road Ahead

ECT: Based on your experience with Web marketing thus far, what does the future hold for online advertising — both in terms of strategy and technology trends?

Fierens: We’ve used the early years to learn, so now it’s all about optimizing our marketing dollars. The Web is not a unique and separate entity. It is one of a marketer’s tools. If I think about it that way, then it gets me back to thinking about how I can best optimize all of my marketing dollars, and the Web is a lot of times the answer.

We haven’t seen the steep incline in bandwidth capabilities yet, but we’ve been testing and preparing for it. Those will be exciting times. The ads won’t necessarily have to be exciting. They will just have to be what a customer wants. You have to grab theirattention and hit them with a message that really resonates. Otherwise you’re wasting your money. This will be even truer in the future.

Some Advice

ECT: What advice do you have for a companystarting to plan a new online advertising campaign?

Fierens: Sit down and figure out what your objectives are. Then, you go to the next step: what are the right places for me to be? If you understand your objective, your methods, and your targets, the rest starts to fall into place.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, either. If you don’t have any learnings, then you want to start getting them. Put your money in a couple different places on the Web so you can compare and see where you’re going to get the best bang for your buck.


  • Joyce Fierens shows us that there are some very clear thinkers in this e-marketing space. Good interview and if ever possible I would like to hear more from Joyce on how they intergrate their marketing campaigns and who decides how the intergration of media will take place.

  • Joyce Fierens the voice of reason! What a straight talking common sense approach to the web Joyce has. Her experience of the web shines through with the answers given to your questions. Excellent interview.

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