Focus – Pixar vs GM

This weekend, Pixar took top honors at the box office with Up, smacking about $70 million dollars out of our pockets and tickling the cranky critics. At the same time, GM is approaching bankruptcy and, if it clears, will be the third largest in the history of this country.

Why bother mentioning both of these companies in the same post? Although it would be insane for me to say that I know what that one thing was that sunk GM and made Pixar a winner, I will offer up food for thought. GM lost the race because they offered too many choices (aka brands) to allow for their success and Pixar kept it simple.

In 2008, GM manufactured Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, HUMMER, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, Vauxhall and Wuling. General Motors began by purchasing different car and truck companies in its early years, but kept the manufacturing, looks and brand personalities separate. More recently, it merged different brands and models together. No longer was it clear to GM and its customers what a brand or model stood for and why it was necessarily different or better than its shared parts cousin.

Pixar’s history is quite different. Since the launch of Toy Story in 1995, Pixar has only launched one movie every one to two years. Pixar has been nominated six times and has won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature 4 times since its inception in 2001. The company’s movies consistently earn well at the box office and are well received by critics and viewers alike.

If you review the mission statements/objectives of these companies, you will notice that GM’s generalized statement talks about providing their customers “superior value” from “products and services.” Contrast Pixar’s objective to “develop computer-animated feature films with memorable characters and heartwarming stories that appeal to audiences of all ages.”

When you overwhelm your employees with too many options, you make it difficult for them to provide a clear and concise sales message for a particular item. Additionally, it does not allow your company to focus on what matters most and what your company can be the best at. At the same time, too many choices confuse your customers. The decision becomes overwhelming and customers become lost. Could you slice your product offering in half, leaving more time to better your best offering? What effect would this have on your employees and your customers? I’d love to get your feedback in the comments!

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Graham Christensen
Graham Christensen

Interestingly enough, Pixar also has released sequels for only one or two of their movies. They make the movie complete and in one package, and never re-make a movie. Their work is good, solid, and together. (vs. Disney who remakes and remakes, rarely coming up with an original idea.)

Farris Khan
Farris Khan

Interesting... but you are talking about completely different markets. Why isn't Kellogg or P&G failures for having dozens of brands? GMs revenue per year is literally in the 10s of Billions, Pixar is 1 or 2 order of magnitudes smaller. GM's failure is due to lack of previous support from Government on healthcare, execution and inability to win negotiations with the UAW... number of brands is a distant fourth. Thanks for letting me chime in: