Like so many fellow Australians, the R6 Team were shocked at General Motors’ decision to retire Holden as a brand.
We aim in this story to dissect how such an iconic brand went from hero to zero. The backlash from the announcement has been immense.
What makes a brand memorable or forgettable?
Trust is extremely important – it acts as an anchor for any brand new or old, big or little. If consumers trust the brand and its products, the brand generally can weather any ups or downs. Many of us grew up with Holden – their cars were tough and reliable, families could afford them and they did not cost a bomb to fix. Our Dads used the family Holden to teach us how things worked, how to change spark plugs and the oil. They were bulletproof. Holdens were part of our family – Holdens were in our “circle of trust”. Since the anouncement, many don’t trust that the vehicles they have purchased will be have warranties honoured – Holden has stared that warranty will be honoured and parts for sale for 10 years.
Growing up, most people were from either a Holden or a Ford family. More than one punch up in the school ground in the 60s to 80s a result of whos’ dad had the best car! Holden v Ford the talk of many a barbeque and thousands of posts on social media.
Racetrack success turned Holden into a brand leader; once upon a time one car out of every 4 sold in Australia was a Holden. Australians were loyal.
Kids would run out into the street when Dad came home with a new Holden.
Product Choice – Holden did deliver – in the past.
We all had a choice….
We grew up with the Gemini, the first small car which was affordable for kids to own and drive. Locally designed and built, but based on a German Opel, it was a great small car. As the family grew we bought Toranas; some us had to have the XU-1 or SL/R 5000 or the iconic L34 – Bathurst specials. Those who could not afford one would adorn their stock standard with add on spoilers and stripes. Holden knew this so they made plenty of “badge specials” to get rid of stock, like the 6 cylinder LH SL/R – the same as a standard Torana, except for extra stripes paint and mark up!
As we got older many of us need to upgrade to a bigger car; Kingswoods for the blue collar worker, Premiers for our Mums and Dads, and if you were rich a Statesman De Ville. If you were a politician you were rewarded with being driven around in a Statesman Caprice, the car that set the price for the now not needed Luxury Car Tax.
If you were a sales rep you got a Kingswood wagon, families often had them too. Kids and the dog fitting into holden wagons for Easter and Christmas holidays
If you were rev head you bought a Monaro. In 1968 to 1969 they won the Bathurst 500, our most iconic car race. Dealers would open the doors on Monday and sell cars. Racing improved our cars with gains made of the race track filtering to next year’s models. Credit seat belts and rear disc brakes, power steering and ABS all to racing.
Holden made cars to suit everybody. However, in recent years they made cars that suited others with a range of overseas badge-engineered SUV’s and Utes, their leading sales light the Colorado, another big ute washing around in a market of other big utes. The public abandoned them.
Holden had its fair share of racetrack heroes and none better than Peter Brock. He had a love for his fans and he delivered on the racetrack. He developed the “Holden Dealer Team” building sport and luxury variants of the Holden Commodore.
There are few kids who didn’t have a Peter Brock poster on their wall and along with his cars etched Holden as a brand into our heads. Pristine examples of his best cars now fetch high 6 figures.
The Holden/Ford battle would go on for 5 decades, and Supercars know too they have to reinvent their brand to save them from obscurity too, with their future yey undecided.
Will we forget Holden?
Not this year, but the Holden name will fade over time, especially as older fans pass on. Brands must reinvent themselves to cope with market changes and the products they sell must evolve to meet the market.
The demise of Holden as a brand is complex. In our view they lost touch with their market mid-way through the Commodore life cycle. They allowed SUV’s and people movers sold by competitors to steal market share and in the process forgot loyal supporters by not developing attractive, key products that had Holden DNA. Locally, Ford with their ailing Falcon brand were in strife too.
When Holden stopped making cars locally in 2015 the writing was on the wall for the brands’ survival.
Holden now joins with other iconic brands that got it wrong; Pan American Airlines, Kodak and Yellow Pages just to name a few. They never saw the warning signs and ingored market signals thst their core businesses were under threat.
What can we learn from Holden?
Brands cannot rely on loyalty. Product development, relevance and most importantly marketing are the essential elements to brand longevity.
Holden gave up advertising their cars long ago, losing the focus of customers and when they did advertise the message was poorly executed and the product was not accepted by consumers. Sucessive marketing teams lost the connection to their customers. While government and workers all contributed, overall their product offering did not stay on-trend and even th eloysl customers drifted away.
Keep up or move on. Like Holden
Google is now the world’s most recognised brand. Few are not touched by the Google brand daily. This is because they own the platform where you find out about anything on any device. The idea that Yellow Pages created and lost.
We won’t be forgetting Holden anytime soon. We feel for the Dealers, the employees and the undying loyalty of millions of customers who put their heart and soul, trust and loyalty into Holden. They have been duped and they deserved better.
Keeping the dream alive
You would think that large companies have enough smarts to avoid these costly mistakes. In reality, there are lots of reasons for Holden’s demise, but the outpouring of sentiment for them in the last 48 hours only goes to show that they missed the mark and it will cost GM not only the 1.6 billion to close up, but will damage the GM brand in the process.
Holden created loyal brand junkies and then let them wither away over years.
What can I do to protect my Brand?
Stay relevant, develop your brand and don’t take the market for granted. Try new things, update your image, ask customers what they want.
Keep striving to satisfy and delight your customers. Every day.
Coca-Cola is one of the world’s top 10 brands and you can argue that “everyone knows” them.
They spent over 6 billion on advertising last year. Why? Ask Holden…
Keep your brand alive by talking to R6 Digital today. We could not have saved Holden, equally to continue growing and flourishing as a brand, you need to recognise where you have been and what you had to do to get there. And we can help.
Special thanks to Capital Classic Autos for the pics. They have one of the best collections of classic Holdens.