- The Hummer’s rise to popularity came as a result of the appreciation of military culture, a rise in patriotism after US wars, cheap gas prices, as well as the love for “bigger and better” products
- All these factors also lead to Hummer’s collapse years later, after the Iraq war lead to gas prices increasing, environmental concerns growing in the mainstream and the economic crash of 2007 – shedding light on the gravity cultural and contextual changes have on brands
- In 2019, only 2.5% of the world’s passenger vehicles ran on electricity, according to Virta. 7% of global vehicles should be running on electricity by 2030 if Covid 19 hasn’t derailed development according to the International Energy Agency
- As the rise of environmentalism impacts the car industry’s R&D and the rise in popularity of luxury SUVs, Hummer is seizing the moment and due to release its new and very first electric model in the coming months after advertising in February’s Super Bowl in the US
Do you remember the Hummer?
It’s been gone for over 10 years now. It was tough, and inspired by military utlility, hence the consequent aesthetics – it was symbolic of “cool” in the early 2000s.
Celebrities from The Hills cast (shout out to my favourite childhood show on MTV!), to Paris Hilton, Britney to Mike Tyson were all seen in them back in the day.
But, despite the hype, in 2010, manufacturing and sales ended. Gone, and back again a decade later as they are bringing the military style SUV back to life. The rise and fall of Hummer is symbolic of the times we live.
The rise of Hummer
The Hummer’s heritage was in the military. The US military used the vehicle as its go to transport during war. In the 80s the military wanted something more powerful. The Pentagon offered AM General (Hummer’s intial owner) a billion dollar contract to create something new, something better, and more powerful. Voila! Humvee was invented. These were used to transport military staff as well as cargo.
They rose to fame after being seen in the field during the Gulf War and started being used in military parades – which is where they caught the eye of Arnold Schwarzenegger … Cue the Humvee’s segue into popular culture.
TLDR; AM General created a more mainstream friendly version of the Humvee, which lead to the fist civilian car being launched – what we all know as the Hummer. AM General later sold Hummer to General Motors.
The infamous car averaged less than 10 miles a gallon!
In 1999- Hummer acquired the rights to market and sell its cars and the zeitgeist was on Hummer’s side.
The US economy was booming and the price of fuel was low. Hummers became incredibly popular, especially in Hollywood, where they were featured in 32 films which helped increase the car’s brand recognition.
While we may frown on affiliation to military use today, this was seen as good thing in the US when the car came out. If it can be used for combat, it’s for sure good enough for weekend breaks and driving around California’s vast landscape!
In comes the concept of patriotism, a powerful notion to work with. There is huge respect for the armed forces in the USA, and the affiliation to the military therefore added to the car’s desirability.
In a country and at a time where “bigger” was often seen as “better”, the Hummer ticked all the boxes.
Until the culture began to change. The public started to become cognizant of environmental impacts and the Hummer’s gas guzzling nature conflicted with that. Thus began the outdating process of the Hummer.
The downfall of the US economy, military patriotism and cheap fuel
Symbolic of what was wrong with American culture- over consumption, bigger and better, glamourisation of militarisation, mistreating and exploiting the environment – eco warriors began to rebel against the cars by damaging them in public.
Gas prices went up, ironically, as a result of the war in Iraq, and then the nail in the coffin was the economic crash of 2007. 2009 saw the bankruptcy of General Motors who then shut down many portfolio brands in order to streamline. In 2010 a failed acquisition resulted in Hummer being shut down too.
The rise again, in the context of electric vehicle hype and the market’s love of SUVs
Today things are slightly different. 10 years after Hummer disappeared, big cars are more popular than ever, and there’s growing demand in the luxury sector – with the likes of Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Porsche and BMW all purveying 4x4s and SUVs. However, there is also increasing market appetite for economical and environmentally conscious fuel options.
In 2019, only 2.5% of the world’s passenger vehicles ran on electricity, according to Virta. Northern Europe is leading the way with electric vehicle adoption, with 56% of Norway’s vehicles, 25% of Iceland’s and 15% of The Netherlands running on electricity in 2019. 7% of global vehicles should be running on electricity by 2030 if Covid 19 hasn’t derailed development, according to the International Energy Agency.
In this context, Hummer is having a renaissance, with a re-launch and its first electric car being fully revealed later this year. The brand aired its first ad spot in a decade during February’s Super Bowl featuring basketball player LeBron James and the latest all electric model, the Hummer EV which is due to be available to purchase in the not too distant future.
This reinforces the point that successful brands need to be a part of, grow and evolve with the mindsets of the societies in which they operate. Culture is fundamental to brand journeys. Prioritise this, or risk a decade before your brand’s resurrection.