CHICAGO -- General Motors Corp. plans to unveil today five concept vehicles starring in the upcoming summer blockbuster sequel "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" -- a marketing move the struggling automaker is hoping will boost its image at a critical time.
The automaker is revealing the concepts during the Chicago Auto Show, which is open to the news media through Thursday.
The first "Transformers" movie, two summers ago, about alien robots that disguise themselves as cars and trucks was a marketing bonanza for GM, which had several Chevrolet vehicles in the film playing lead roles.
Consumer opinions of the Chevrolet brand jumped 72% after seeing the movie, according to internal statistics GM shared with the Free Press. More importantly, consideration for the brand increased 14% after the movie.
Steve Tihanyi, GM's general director of media operations and branded entertainment, said that having products in a movie provides "two hours of a strong brand message" and one "that's going to resonate with customers."
"The numbers will bear that out," he said.
Marketing experts say the new movie, which is to be released June 26, is an efficient way for GM to attempt to improve its image after its disastrous run in Washington late last year. The automaker is staying afloat with a $13.4-billion federal rescue package and is undergoing dramatic changes including the announcement Tuesday of 10,000 salaried jobs being cut. The company's sales were down 22.7% last year.
"When you are looking to change your image then the best way ... is with what appears to be nonpaid promotion," said Christie Nordhielm, associate professor of marketing at the University of Michigan.
"You want to stay clear of advertising. The more that it steers toward product placement and you get the product appearing with the people you want to reach, the better off you are," she said. "For image change, there is really no other way to go."
Tihanyi said that GM did not pay to have its vehicles in this summer's movie. Rather, the automaker provides the vehicles to be used and helps in the promotion of the film. To GM, he said, the movie looked like "a one in a million opportunity."
The big question for GM is whether a sequel can replicate the marketing magic found during the first "Transformers."
Director Michael Bay was excited to turn to GM again for the sequel. He worked with Ed Welburn, GM vice president of global design, who gave Bay a special tour of GM's Warren design center. Bay used the time to pick out concept vehicles he wanted to feature in the new movie.