Something's Wrong With GM, Not Facebook or the Super Bowl

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Companies do just implode overnight. Long before the downfall -- before we draw conclusions on the wall -- we often can point to some sort of writing the company in question wrote on the wall.

Take Research in Motion ( RIMM) as an example.

While I receive quite a bit of credit for calling that short, I was not on the case until April of 2011. Former RIM CEO Jim Balsillie gave us a red carpet preview of his ineptness the previous fall. Consider an excerpt from the tour of inanity Balsillie went on late in 2010:
You don't need an app for the Web. I don't need a YouTube app to go to YouTube. There's this view that Web sites need to be repurposed for mobile and you need a special set of tools to do it. We don't believe that to be true.

I'll pause while you call over a co-worker, your spouse, mistress or dog to see that ...

Just an astonishingly off-the-mark analysis.

For the record, here's the comment from Apple's ( AAPL) Steve Jobs that Balsillie was likely reacting to:
"We've now passed RIM, and I don't see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future," Jobs said. "They must move beyond their area of strength and comfort into the unfamiliar territory, of trying to become a software platform company."

It's all so simultaneously pathetic and comical that I could go on all day, but enough about RIM and the company Steve Jobs built that Tim Cook can only hope to sustain. That nifty lead-in shows us how being ahead of the curve can pay off big time for everybody from entrepreneurs to investors.

General Motors ( GM) could very well be at the early stages of a RIM-like decline.

Of course, all corners of the media -- from financial outlets to yak-happy morning shows -- could not see through their Facebook ( FB)hate, as they beat the news that GM decided to stop advertising on the social media powerhouse.

Then, days later, GM announced it would no longer shell out the dough to advertise on the Super Bowl. Apparently, one of the nation's biggest advertisers finds itself in the middle of marketing-related reorganization as it takes an apparently long, hard look at how it throws its ad dollars around.

Maybe so. Or could we be witnessing the not-so-early stages of a dying company?

When you question Apple, you get a negative response from the combination of uber-cool and geeky segments of society. I get it; I react the same way when somebody tries to talk down Steve Jobs. When you go after RIM, you receive reaction from the few Canadians who just cannot let the RIM dream go. I get that as well; my Dad was born in Toronto and I am a diehard Maple Leafs fan.

And, when you dare challenge one of the big three, a mix of retired union men, folks right out of an All in the Family episode and ardent Michigan natives brand you everything from un-American to certifiably insane.

Defenders of General Motors make me curious. On one hand, gaggles of people despise Facebook for one hysterical reason or another, yet some appear ready to die for a company that rode a government bailout to record profits. Something's not right.

I am not pronouncing GM dead. I am just saying to keep your eyes open before making the company's stock a long-term play.

Clearly, GM thinks it can find a way to use advertising more effectively. But, as it changes course, it seems to be questioning everybody and everything but itself. It claims Facebook ads do not translate to vehicle purchases. It thinks a Super Bowl ad has become too expensive. It has found a new ad buyer. And it fired a whole bunch of creative agencies. GM points fingers in every direction, but not in the reflection it sees in the windshield of the underwhelming Chevy Volt.

Meantime, consider Ford's ( F) view of the landscape via this blurb from a Reuters article:
Ford also is boosting its spending on Facebook, including ad buys.
"You just can't buy your way into Facebook," said Ford spokesman Scott Monty. "You need to have a credible presence and be doing innovative things."
More than 20% of Ford's marketing budget is spent on digital and social media ...

Ford and most other automakers find that Facebook serves them well, as they attempt to connect with a younger audience, boost name recognition and reimage their brands. GM doesn't seem to be able to wrap its very large collective head around this concept.

The differences in opinion between GM and Ford look something like the philosophical divergence between Steve Jobs and Jim Balsillie. We all know how that ended. Stay alert. We might just be witnessing another member of the old guard too stubborn or unable to adapt to the new ways business gets done.

At the time of publication, the author was long FB.

More from Opinion

Elon Musk's Latest Twitter Tirade Is the Dumbest Thing on Wall Street

Elon Musk's Latest Twitter Tirade Is the Dumbest Thing on Wall Street

Elon Musk's Twitter Tirade Is the Dumbest Thing on Wall Street

Elon Musk's Twitter Tirade Is the Dumbest Thing on Wall Street

Why Google's Search Momentum Won't Be Badly Hurt by New EU Rules

Why Google's Search Momentum Won't Be Badly Hurt by New EU Rules

Flashback Friday: Amazon, Chip Stocks, Memorial Day

Flashback Friday: Amazon, Chip Stocks, Memorial Day

Time to Talk Tesla: What Happened This Week, Elon?

Time to Talk Tesla: What Happened This Week, Elon?