Thursday, June 10, 2010

is Goodby responsible for killing Chevy?

Slow news day when story about a company wanting to change its branding hits the front page of New York Times. Or is it clever placement for a whip-smart campaign using free earned media, as Rohit Bhargava suggests it could be?

According to an internal memo leaked to the Times, Chevrolet wants you to stop calling it "Chevy." The memo was from GM to employees at Detroit headquarters: "We ask that whether you're talking to a dealer...or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet." "Swear jars" have been placed in hallways, and employees who let "Chevy" slip are expected to contribute a quarter. But, wait. Isn't Chevy one of the world's best-known product monikers, and longest lived? And isn't the trend away from proper brand names, to be more consumer-friendly and casual a la FedEx, KFC and The Shack? A GM spokesman who confirmed the memo linked the change to the recent switch from long-time ad agency Campbell-Ewald to Goodby, Silverstein (after a brief stopover at Publicis USA.) Could it be that smart cookies at Goodby "leaked" memo themselves, landing astonishingly good media coverage and generating heated convos about a brand that's been in the doldrums for years? They don't give out those Clio Lifetime Achievements for nothing.

UPDATE: Steve Hall of AdRants reports that GM has released a clarification that states the brand will not, in fact, urge people to discontinue the use of the word Chevy: We deeply appreciate the emotional connections that millions of people have for Chevrolet and its products. Pretty much plays out the way Bhargava predicted.

UPDATED UPDATE: The august Gray Lady devoted a Sunday (best-placement) editorial to Chevrolet vs. Chevy, ending with "foreigners will learn to love 'Chevy' the way Americans have ever since the company was founded in 1911." This is from a New York Times reporter? Or GM annual report?


Jessie said...

Ha! Love that ad. And the cat's in a cloud above the house. In case you forgot what animal purred, but wouldn't be found in the front yard by a revving car.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Ha. Did PETA exist in those days, Jessie? Maybe they forced agency to show animal out of danger.

California Girl said...

In the spirit of old ads and brand names and perception is reality, visit my blog tribute today to really terrible old ads:

Steffan Postaer said...

Chevy/Chevrolet bit a PR scam.
I'd like to say I knew it!
Well, I sort of new it.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Loved the collection, California Girl. Smoking Santas, soda-swilling babies, housewives as throw rugs--them's were the days!


Brian Belefant, DGA said...

In related news, we are no longer to use the name 'Goodby' when discussing the legendary ad agency. The shop will henceforth be referred to as 'The Great and Mighty Goodby, Silverstein & Partners'.

Due to an unexpected rise in the peso, that story was relegated to page 13B.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Ha, Brian. Thanks for bringing 13b to my attention. You've always been a guy who sees what others miss ;)