After the chaps at Autocar began following me on Twitter yesterday—after all, I had been reading the magazine since it was part of the Ministry of Magazines, in the post-Iliffe days—I noticed a Tweet about Chevrolet asking its dealers to not refer to the brand as Chevy.
According to Autocar:
A leaked GM memo revealed: “We’d ask that whether you’re talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising, or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward.
“When you look at the most recognised brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding. Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer.”
The document was signed by Alan Batey, vice president for Chevrolet sales and service, and Jim Campbell, the GM division’s vice president for marketing.
Bad example there, Alan and Jim.
Coke is to Chevy as Coca-Cola is to Chevrolet.
And no one ever complains of Coke being inconsistent.
This is the sort of daft thinking that makes any of us brand professional shudder: total amateurs talking about branding—out of their rear ends.
It’s this lack of awareness of what branding is, inter alia, that started GM down its slippery path—with only a brief reprieve when Bob Lutz, aware of what GM’s brands stood for, was around.
By demanding that Chevrolet people not refer to the brand as Chevy does the exact opposite to what brand experts and marketers recommend today: to be one with the consumer.
I can understand if Chevy was a very negative word, but it isn’t. It’s an endearing word and it does not create inconsistency with the full Chevrolet word. It complements it, connects the brand to the audience, and, perhaps most importantly for GM, builds on the brand’s heritage.
After all, Chevrolet itself has encouraged the use of the Chevy name for decades in its own advertising—including during its heyday. Omitting the use of Chevy instantly cuts many Chevrolet connections to its stronger past. And that’s a past that can be used for internal brand-building and loyalty.
There was even, formally, a Chevy model in the 1960s—the line that later became the Nova. The Chevy II nameplate even continued in GM in Argentina in the 1970s.
The Chevy diminutive is used in many countries where the brand is sold, including South Africa, where it was once as local as braaivleis, rugby and sunny skies.
Maybe GM can’t afford the same branding advice it used to—in which case it might be better to shut up than issue memoranda that can be ridiculed so easily.
Or get Bob Lutz back again. One month after retirement, and the natives have lost direction again, Bob.
PS.: From Robin Capper on Twitter, who sums this blog post up in 140 characters or fewer: ‘Poor Don McLean: “Drove my Chevrolet to the levee, but the levee was dry” just doesn’t work’.—JY