GM fails with Chevy

Consumers don't always want change especially when its forced on them for the benefit of marketing departments and not making the brand part of their lives.....

Chevy LogoIt seems that once again marketing has managed to get the upper hand over common sense, with a company menu announcing that staff will no longer be allowed to refer to Chevrolet as Chevy when speaking with family, friends or customers.  There are two problems with this heavy handed approach, first the memo should have not been made public as it makes it less credible and the second is forcing consumers/customers to use correct terminology is not always the best way to rebuild a brand. Consumers don’t always welcome change especially when its forced on them for the benefit of marketing and not making the brand part of their lives as Chevy was…

Some other branding examples where a brand has accepted its use in time and not tried to kill a brand like Chevy:

  • Google is not a verb – Google lawyers used to send out letters  to warned media organisations not to use Google as a verb “Googling, Googled”
  • Coke – It is now accepted and used for marketing brands such as Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, Coke II and also extensively used throughout the corporate site to describe their range of cola products.
  • McDonald’s is Maccas – The Australian abbreviation for McDonald’s is now a trademark, which is heavily used in marketing and promotional campaigns.

Googled vs Googling

Googled Search Chart

Analysis: The actual volume for the term “Google” is around 8000% higher but it skews the graph and doesn’t allow you to see the use of the term “Googled” has found a place in consumers hearts as the preferred alternative to “Googling” over the last 6 years. It would be a bad branding decision for Google to select “Googling” as its preferred branded verb as consumers have shown they are increasingly preferring to use the alternative “Googled”.

Coke vs Coca-Cola vs Coca Cola

Coke Search ChartAnalysis: The correct branded term “Coca-Cola” when measured against the variation of “Coca Cola” or the abbreviated “Coke” show that consumers don’t typically use the exact product/brand name.  The chart shows a massive 911% difference in web interest using the “Coca Cola” phrase and even the use of “Coke” seems to be starting to match the product phrase.  So the point would be that if Coke were to be disallowed from marketing, it is likely that a majority of consumers would not switch to using the correct “Coca-Cola” phrase when referring to their beverage product.

The top markets that are suitable for marketing only with “Cola Cola” are Mexico, Brazil, Spain & Germany.  The US, Canada and UK consumers seem to prefer the abbreviated version “Coke”. So if Coke was to make just a change in english speaking countries it would likely affect branding and interest in the brand.

McDonald’s vs Maccas

Google Results for Maccas

Analysis: The interesting point to note is that until mid 2006, the term wasn’t often used online but is increasingly common in company advertising and is often used by Australian consumers in casual conversation with friends and family. The screenshot above shows that even Google understands Maccas is the same as McDonald’s in Australia, but notice the 2nd result is actually referring to Macca’s breakfast as a product the company offers consumers.  This shows a company has accepted local colloquial names and integrated them into marketing, encouraging Australian consumers to accept the US fast food chain as has Google.

Hungry Jacks vs HJs

HJs or Hungry Jacks

Analysis: The Australian Burger King franchise is often referred to as “Jacker’s or “HJs” by consumers and you can see from the screenshot above that Google understands consumers intentions when searching for fast food restaurants, and they don’t try to correct consumers with their “did you mean” search assist.

Chevy vs Chevrolet (USA)

Chevy Chart

Analysis: A majority of the US states have a stronger preference for the term “Chevy” but a few states stand out as they have a massive preference towards “Chevy”. The few states below are ranked top down by from strongest preference for “Chevy”.
  1. South Dakota
  2. North Dakota
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Iowa
  5. Arkansas

Chevy vs Chevrolet (Worldwide)

Chevy Search Chart Worldwide

Analysis: According to AdAge’s article on the issue, the reason for the change is for their global brands, but there is a clear movement worldwide that is showing preference for Chevrolet, so what the sudden need for the change, which will impact mostly on their US Chevy supporters.  This is a perfect time for the old “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” principal to be applied by GM to the Chevrolet brand.

Chevrolet Google Results

Chevy Search Results

Analysis: You can see clearly that GM is still referring to their products on the company sites as Chevy marked with the red boxes on the search results above.  This practice seems to contradict the memo asking for staff to stop using the short term when they are still clearly advertising it to consumers.  It would be easier for GM to start with properties it controls such as their corporate website and then expand offline via dealer networks, but I see it as going up a creek without a paddle. The other side issue not shown here is a number of car enthusiast groups are more commonly named “Chevy….” and typically its easier for consumers to spell than Chevrolet.

Chevy Bing Results

Chevy Results BingAnalysis:  On Bing once again the official Chevrolet site is the place for all new 2010 CHEVY cars…. so this shows that they are not really serious and it might just be a publicity stunt to get consumers and media promoting the importance of the Chevy brand.  Can it really just be a viral marketing stunt?

10 Replies to “GM fails with Chevy”

  • David, This is an awesome post and hopefully the leadership at GM and Chevrolet will take a good look at it. I really enjoyed the round-up of statistics, and hope both GM and Goodby get a chance to see this.

    We may not know the full story behind the decision, and there could be factors we’re not aware of (with clients, there always is!), but it seems pretty delusional to think 100 years of consumers taking personal, intimate “ownership” of the brand can be undone. Doesn’t GM realize a moniker is a term of endearment that’s earned and adopted over time? Most brands would kill for that. Look at Coke. They’ve embraced it.

    • Hello Michelle,

      thank you for the comment, I really appreciate it. I do find blogs where figures are shown in graphs it allows the information to be more easily absorbed. I agree there is most likely a much more complex story behind the scenes, I did from a youtube clip from the official Chevy channel discussing it in more detail, it is actually quite good.

      Chevy vs Chevrolet

  • Here’s the official back-pedal from GM corporate: Their response focuses on the fact that they sell more Chevys in other countries than the U.S. and other countries don’t know Chevrolet as Chevy yet.

    Apparently the goal was to prevent fragmentation of the brand in other countries. Makes sense, but at the same time, wouldn’t using the moniker naturally encourage their dealers and customers in other countries to also adopt it quicker? And feel like part of the “inner brand circle?” As long as the Chevy culture is coming across in conversation and dealer support materials, it seems like “Chevy” would quickly extend into local vernacular.

    Alan Batey said he’d love to see Chevy adopted around the world in 10-20 years. That seems like a long time given the flat nature of today’s communication. It shouldn’t take anywhere near that long.

    • And the search data from the post seems to support that they are actually on the right track, just maybe it should have been a non-US announcement as it may slow the return of their brand in the US, I know over at AdAge they highlighted it could be tied to how similar Chevy is to the Chinese auto company Chery. Based on the extensive number of songs & movies i’m not sure why Chevy hasn’t been adopted more, but I would think Hollywood could be more supportive of that branding through product placement like in Transformers.

  • Hi David… there’s a lot at play here, and I know that there will be cynicism about my/our response — but here is the situation (and thank you for posting the video explanation!):

    First, this was an internal memo meant for employees, and was never supposed to be external — so the idea that we’d try to dictate to people (I’d say “consumers” but I hate the term since it just reduces people into buyers only) what they can nickname or call our brand is just not accurate. (I agree that this would be highly unwise.) As Alan points out in his video (sorry about the shaky camera, my buddy Joe was caffienated today!), the nickname “Chevy” has resulted from more than 100 years of passionate & loyal fans and buyers, and we’d be crazy not to appreciate that.

    Second… the memo was intended to refer to markets in which Chevrolet is still being established as a brand. If people start organically or colloquially calling us Chevy in these markets, GREAT! But from a consistency in branding standpoint, if the brand’s not fully established it makes sense to go with the official name. Best analogy I can think of: when I was at IBM, we knew people called us Big Blue; we embraced it, we liked it, we used it ourselves. But in all official branding and documents and press releases, we always said “IBM” to remain consistent. That’s all this memo was intended to do — promote that consistency. As Alan says, if in a few years in all these markets people refer to us as Chevy, we’ll gladly take it.

    I appreciate the chance to come in and help clarify (even if I am sure some will have a skeptical read on it). Have a nice night, and thank you!

    • Hello Christopher,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, it is important as part of building trust with brands that they reach out and show the human side. Although the video was quite shaky it appeared to be honest and increased my respect for how the marketing team and getting involved and responding with the right message earlier, and not trying to sell a PR script. I congratulate Alan & Joe for the candid video and wished more PR agencies could follow their lead.

      I understood that it is was likely not the type of memo that would really be directed at Chevy fans but I guess these days anything is public, just looking at Apple and its recent leaks around iPhone 4 well before it was ready. I do like the analogy of Big Blue and IBM being the same yet still officially to remain consistent IBM was used. As I highlighted in the post the indirect effect might be a strong viral resurgence in the Chevy as a brand, people don’t always miss something until there is a chance they might lose it, so best of luck to the international branding team.


    • i would suggest redbull but if he drinks the 24 Oz cans he may just throw the camera at the end of filming and yell “oh yeah!”, if i buy into advertising I would suggest to him try 5 hour energy drink for long lasting energy without the crash. With zero sugar, zero net carbs…. 🙂

  • Change the name to shorter version and there gona be no problem, don’t make people think hard and remember big words, it’s not that easy:)

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