Yes, we all fall down. We all make mistakes. We fail, we get up, succeed, just to fail again.

  • A boxer that gets knocked down, just to get up again and continue the fight.
  • A rocket that fails, just to launch successfully later.
  • Evel Knievel, crashing with his bike, just to be helped up again.
  • Popeye, knocked out, revived by spinach.

Great commercial. Tapping into popular culture and the emotion many Americans are feeling right now after they fell down. Battered and bruised. But ready to get up and fight again.

But it’s a commercial that shouldn’t have been written for GM. It should have been made for a company that made one huge mistake and tries to move on from there. It might have worked for Nike when they were associated with sweatshops. Nike is a well-run company with an innovative spirit. Sure, they fall down. Like we all do.

GM didn’t fall down. GM’s demise was decades in the making. It was based on being not in touch with the desires and needs of people, their arrogance of not watching the competition closely and, maybe most importantly, how GM’s structure and culture related to its strategy. When I started working with Mercedes-Benz in the 90’s, their executives were already talking about the future demise of GM.

You can create beautiful commercials (as to be expected by Goodby) but if your message is at its core intellectually dishonest, you still waste your money. And create an uproar on conservative blogs and in comment sections on various Social Networks:

“This makes me SICK. I don’t owe auto workers union members a retirement, medical care, or ANYTHING else. I will NEVER-NEVER-NEVER own a GM product.”

“One major difference GM. Everyone that you showed getting back up, did so on their own.”

“It does take courage, because GM just slapped taxpayers in the face. Should thieves make commercials expressing gratitude to their victims?Most companies wouldn’t make this because the bailout resides in so many moral hazards it was inconceivable. Perhaps we’ll see more of these ads in the future now that the precedent’s been set.”

“This makes me sick to my guts. GM could never get approved for a loan from a bank, but small businesses and individuals get laughed at when they need help.”

Instead, GM should have stuck with the tone of its initial apology letter:

While we’re still the U.S. sales leader, we acknowledge we have disappointed you. At times we violated your trust by letting our quality fall below industry standards and our designs become lackluster. We have proliferated our brands and dealer network to the point where we lost adequate focus on our core U.S. market. We also biased our product mix toward pick-up trucks and SUVs. And, we made commitments to compensation plans that have proven to be unsustainable in today’s globally competitive industry. We have paid dearly for these decisions, learned from them and are working hard to correct them by restructuring our U.S. business to be viable for the long term.”

Oh, and Randle D. Raggio from HBR disagrees with me.