NEW YORK (June 11, 2010) — A recently leaked General Motors Co. employee memo revealed two vice presidents' efforts to squash all uses of the well-loved “Chevy” brand moniker in favor of the more formal Chevrolet.
That plan hasn't fared well with readers of Advertising Age magazine, a sister publication of Tire Business.
A crushing 96 percent of respondents to an Advertising Age poll said the shift is the wrong move for Chevrolet and for GM. Many cite Chevy's place in the American zeitgeist—a niche dating back to the brand's birth in 1911—as reason enough to keep it around.
“I drove my Chevrolet to the lev-rolet...nah, doesn't work, does it?” wrote Steve Dolan, in reference to Don McLean's epic 1971 song “American Pie,” which features a reference to Chevy in its oft-repeated chorus (the word that rhymes is “levee.”)
Others note that reverting back to Chevy's more formal proper name undermines its appeal with millions of “average Americans” and would likely do more harm than good.
Several respondents noted that a marketer should consider itself “blessed” when both its proper name and its nickname are widely embraced by consumers. “Few brands are (that) iconic,” wrote Dave Wilcox. “Only a marketing fool would squander that equity.”
Quizzically, the memo—which was signed by Alan Batey, vice president-Chevrolet sales and service, and Jim Campbell, the division's vice president-marketing—mentions Coca-Cola as an example of consistency in marketing, despite the omnipresence of that company's shortened name, “Coke.”
That led readers to reference Coca-Cola's botched 1985 re-branding as New Coke, speculating that this effort is similarly little more than a ploy to stir up brand buzz. At least, that's what many are hoping. “If (the memo) is really taken at face value, and (GM) really wants to squash ('Chevy'), then it's a sad statement and a major step back from the work that really needs to be done,” wrote Greg Mazza.
Regardless of GM's intentions, others speculated whether a rechristening on this scale is even possible with a brand so culturally entrenched.
“Will the consumer really care what GM declares?'” wrote Steve Stepanik. “It is mind-numbing that the 'new' GM actually thinks (it) can mandate how consumers refer to their products. This sounds like the old GM arrogance is back, and old wine in new bottles has a very bitter taste.”
This report appeared in New York City-based Advertising Age.