Defensive Strategy

Chevy Runs Deep

5 Nov 2010  

Chevrolet is out with its long-awaited new advertising effort; the campaign began running at the end of October.  The effort is apparently the work of Chevy’s new advertising agency, Gooby, Silverstein & Partners, and head of marketing, Chris Perry.

You can see the TV spots here:

So how is the new campaign?

I’ll begin with two positives.  The best news is that the campaign is for Chevrolet; the GM brand is nowhere to be found, even in the fine print.  This is very positive.  In recent years, the GM brand has played a greater and greater role in much of the company’s advertising work.  This was a mistake, of course, presumably driven by a need for efficiency and cost savings.  GM is not a strong consumer brand.  Adding GM only weakened the individual brand messages.  This new campaign is all about Chevrolet.

The other piece of good news is that the campaign is very focused on brand building.  Chevrolet is a somewhat tarnished brand; rebuilding the equity of the business is critical.  GM’s prior campaign, built on the line “May the Best Car Win” was a bit of wishful thinking.  The best car doesn’t always win.  The winner is the car that people think is best.  You can sell the world’s most reliable car under the brand name Yugo and people won’t buy it.  So the team at Chevrolet is right to focus on fixing the brand.

Unfortunately, things go downhill from there.  The campaign, in both print and film form, builds off the idea of heritage.  The print campaign features old photos with the line, “Chevy Runs Deep.”  One of the TV spots notes that the company has been around for one hundred years.  The ad begins with old film clips and the voiceover explains, “This isn’t just any car company, this is Chevrolet.”  It then discusses safety, fuel efficiency and technology.  Another one of the ads features scenes of trucks and dogs, concluding with the line, “A dog and a Chevy.  What else do you need?”

The problem here is simple.  What people really need is a reason to buy a Chevy.  And that seems to be missing from the new campaign.  The line “Chevy Runs Deep” isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t connect to anything that matters.  What is the implied benefit?  Seriously, why would someone buy a Chevy?

Marketers should always be careful with a heritage messages.  For established brands, this is always easy place to play.  The brands have been around a long time.  This is a clear and undisputable fact.   But heritage is usually a trap.

The problem is that heritage isn’t a benefit.  Most people just don’t care that GE began in 1892, or that Apple started up in 1976.  Or that Stella Artois can trace its history to 1366.  The fact that Chevy has been around for a long time is good but it isn’t a reason to buy one.

It is great to see Chevrolet building its brand but the initial spots lack a compelling reason to buy.

2 Responses

  1. Tim Calkins says:

    Jake—Thanks for posting the Cadillac spot. I agree that is much more effective, with a clear frame of reference and point of difference. Now Cadillac just has to consistently communicate and deliver against the positioning. And be patient; it will take a long time to reposition the brand, even with good marketing efforts.


  2. Jake says:

    For the most part I agree, although you could make some arguments about connection to higher order benefits. A stretch. Whether this is an effective campaign or not, my main issue is that it’s back to the same old tricks that got GM in trouble, pickup trucks.

    By contrast, Cadillac’s newish campaign which reinvents their early 1900’s tagline “the world standard” as “the new standard of the world”. Specifically the add showing the CTS-V’s running the Nürburgring track.

    The add does a lot of things right: positions the product (names the BMW M5 and Benz E63 AMG as competitors), shows a benefit that matters to the segment (fastest production sedan), and reinforces the benefit with excellent imagery. Finally it connects the product and benefit back to the brand positioning, “the new standard of the world”.

    Interesting how GM can get it right on Cadillac and wrong on Chevy. Where does Buick’s “the new class of world class” fall, somewhere in between?

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