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Is GM Trying To Be Unintentionally Brilliant By Killing Chevy?

IMB_chevy-logo On the front page of today's NY Times there is an article about the death of Chevy. Not Chevrolet as a brand, but a leaked memo from GM that directs employees to stop using "Chevy" as the brand shorthand for Chevrolet. Supposedly citing brand consistency as the key reason for the move, the article notes that the brand is moving counter to a trend for brands to be more casual in their names, from Federal Express being FedEx to Coca-Cola being Coke. Yet the brand still heavily uses the Chevy name across branded sites on the web and is still running keyword marketing against "Chevy" without changing the name.

More interesting is that the leaked memo has gotten the brand on the front page of the NY Times and has already awakened the emotions in consumers who have a connection to the brand through perhaps owning one in the past or to some of the pop culture references to the brand through songs such as American Pie. So, to recap – the memo that tells employees not to call the brand "Chevy" gets big media attention, focuses coverage on how much of an American icon the brand is and stirs up latent emotional connections among consumers to the brand … and this is a bad thing?

My guess is that pretty soon we'll see another "leaked" memo from the brand bowing to "consumer passion" and embracing the Chevy name as shorthand for Chevrolet once again. As a campaign, it's a fairly brilliant idea – denounce an iconic pop culture reference to your brand so that public outcry and media attention will combine to demonstrate the passion that still exists for it. The only question is whether it was intentional or not.

UPDATE 06/11/10It looks like this was intentional and GM did turn around on this after all. The Wall Street Journal reports the brand making a U-turn on this internal memo and now giving the OK for people to use the "Chevy" brand abbreviation. Apparently this was indeed an effort to get a spike in buzz around the brand as I guessed … it's just too bad they didn't follow it up with some bigger announcement or anything of significance to take advantage of the attention.

11 thoughts on “Is GM Trying To Be Unintentionally Brilliant By Killing Chevy?”

  1. It’s intentional.
    Goodby isn’t that stupid.
    Free PR for a bit- while people scratch their heads and think that those idiots from the Government running GM are just that.
    Face it. Chevy advertising has had to be about hot dogs and apple pie for so long because the cars were boring- ugly- and you could get the same exact thing as a Pontiac.
    Now that the cars are actually cool- and reliable- they have to break the brand, and bring it back.
    This is cheap PR.

    Reply
  2. I’m not buying it. It’s a nice theory, but is doing something so overtly stupid, then conceding it was a stupid decision really a good PR strategy? It just makes me think they’re more inept than ever.

    Look at their recent track record: Hiring/firing Bob Lutz, hiring/firing Publicis…now this?

    Also, now GM is saying it was only a “rough draft” and “a bit of fun.” Yeah right. These guys are buffoons.

    https://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/g-m-says-chevy-memo-was-poorly-worded/

    Reply
  3. I think it shows that GM’s marketing are focusing on the wrong things. Instead of trying to change an inconsequential detail (which would be nearly impossible to change) they should focus on making their products remarkable.

    Reply
  4. Brand Marketing at its Best!

    I don’t believe anything was leaked by accident…not for a second.

    Float a trial baloon…everyone starts talking about it (like all of us)…then come out with a formal announcement of some kind and people keep talking for a little while longer.

    Remember…Brand Marketing starts with people paying attention to the name…exactly what we are doing. The idea was brilliant if you ask me.

    Thanks for the post…

    Reply
  5. Both client and agency are too smart. So I don’t believe this was an accident.

    Smart PR move that’s generated tremendous word-of-mouth, and getting people thinking (once again) about this brand – particularly those of us who go back many years with with Chevy; I mean Chevrolet 🙂

    However, I think that’s where the momentum will stall. Don’t see this leading to anything beyond the buzz and the chatter. Too bad the “leak” wasn’t about anything more important — like an exciting new product that will challenge our expectations about the brand.

    Eric Brody
    http://www.twitter.com/ericbrody

    Reply
  6. Very clever marketing and I hope whoever came up with it got a big bonus. Create a big stir about nothing at all. Amazing. But as others have said they need to follow it up with something, like a new product launch, otherwise what was the point?

    Reply

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