Anyone remember the episode of TheSimpsons where the makers of Malibu Stacy spend an entire night coming up with a way to save the doll from the threat of Lisa Lionheart? The solution? The same old Malibu Stacy -- with the addition of a hat.

Malibu Stacy, meet GM (NYSE:GM) and its new name-badge plan. Yes, you heard me right. One of GM's efforts to shore up its shaky finances is a renewed effort on branding.

"The GM name speaks to people," says Mark LaNeve, GM North America vice president.

You bet it does, Mark. But what does it say? That's the question on my mind as I read the latest syrupy news release from the struggling automaker/bank/Wall Street whipping boy. It speaks of a "heritage of leadership" and "a promise of trust." (Sniffle.)

Why do I suspect we'll soon be subjected to turgid commercials touting this commitment, with flags flapping in the breeze and "Like a Rock" playing in the background? And why do my thoughts immediately turn to GM's recent hissy fit over a bad Pontiac review? Oh yeah, it's because junk like this reinforces my suspicion that GM doesn't have its eye on the ball.

Upon scanning this latest bit of senseless PR, my colleague Rich Smith -- another astonished witness to the ongoing American car wreck -- was quick with a couple of pointed questions that had also crossed my mind.

Does GM really want people to associate Cadillac with GM? Are they going to feel the same way once their bonds reach "junk" status? Seriously, GM dudes, with headlines pointing out every day just how deep a hole you've dug, do you really want to try and convince consumers to rally 'round your corpse?

Here's why the badges don't matter: GM's problems aren't in trust, public perception, or related phenomena such as market share. The underlying problem is that it earns little, if any, money on cars and, like competitor Ford (NYSE:F), tries to make up the difference via the attached banking business. And that's no longer working as well as it used to. Oh, and major problems like pension funding and debt rating aren't getting any easier to handle.

No amount of feel-good brand-pumping or anti-media wagon-circling can fix those problems. What CEO Rick Wagoner and his well-paid executive team ought to do is this: Fire that "department of useless PR." Next, roll up your sleeves and remake the automaker in the image of, say, a profitable enterprise -- the kind of thing run by Toyota (NYSE:TM), Nissan (NASDAQ:NSANY), or Honda (NYSE:HMC) -- and the good PR will come on its own. I'm not saying this is an easy job. But it needs to be done. The hat thing worked for Malibu Stacy, but it's not going to help GM.

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Seth Jayson owns a Ford Ranger, but it is free of any Calvin-whizzing brand snobbery. At the time of publication, he had positions in no firm mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.