Blog: Graeme RobertsTake your Chev-row-lay to the lev-row-lay

Graeme Roberts | 10 June 2010

Chevrolet, Chevy, Chev - it

Chevrolet, Chevy, Chev - it's all good

What a wonderful row has broken out in the US..., sorry, United States of America following the memo from GM suits, er executives Alan Batey, the chief of..., er, vice president for Chevrolet sales and service, and Jim Campbell, head of..., er, GM division vice president for marketing that, henceforth, and subject to a 25 cent penalty for each and every infraction at head office, the word 'Chevy' is no longer to be used.

Please substitute 'Chevrolet' (Chev-row-lay) for each and every utterance, the fuhrer directive from RenCen, er, the Renaissance Centre, instructs.

“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,” said the memo. Moving forward? How about 'in future', Messers Marketing Wonks?

It goes on. "“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,” the memo said.

Uh-huh. Well, for a start, Coke is an abbreviation of Coca-Cola and I don't think I've yet heard an edict out of Atlanta saying that 'Coke' henceforth ist verboten. I've often seen Coke and Coca-Cola in the same ad or shop. Mention either and a sugary, fizzy liquid and a uniquely shaped bottle come instantly to mind.

Apple? iPad, iPhone, iTunes come into focus way ahead of a green fruit, a record label or a certain movie star's daughter. And, as commentators have already pointed out, you don't hear Steve Jobs whining because legions of fans say 'iPhone' instead of 'Apple'.

Chevrolet isn't a world-wide brand anyway. It's Holden in Australia (with Holdens rebadged as Chevys for the Middle East and a few other markets just to really confuse things) and Daewoo in Korea. And the next significant Chevy for the US, the Cruze, is a rebadged Daewoo no more related to the 1m unit a year mid-'60s Impalas (bent eight iron, truck-standard frame, foot-thick doors) of my fond childhood memory than I am to the Queen Mother.

Nonetheless, thanks to the bow-tie badge, a tube of glue and some clever marketing, the Korean designs can be linked to the see-the-USA-in-your-Chevrolet slogan of old and consumers still get a decent car for the dollar. But can Batey and Campbell not see that abbreviating or modifying a brand name is a mark of affection bestowed by consumers - and the retailers with whom said consumers (in today's marketing psychobabble) 'interface with the end user'?

Judging by the comments I hear, customers (what consumers were once called) are getting a bit sick of being bossed around. All too often 'improved customer service' really means cheap offshore labour in sweatshop call centres reading scripts to callers who've spent 30 minutes repeatedly being told how much 'your call matters to us'. Yeah, right.

When I buy a car, I want good personal service from one salesperson who can handle the whole deal, not a 'sales adviser', a 'closer' and 'the F&I department'. Once I've bought it, I'd like to deal direct with the mechanic, sorry, technician who's going to fix or service it, not some detached 'service advisor', who's never lifted a spanner, trying to upsell me to a 'menu' of services the car doesn't need. And I don't give a monkey's about how the staff pronounce or abbreviate the brand, the typeface on the invoice or the colour of the showroom carpet. So why is there so much obsession with 'branding'?

Years ago, I worked in a dealership where one of the old timers used to refer to our brand as 'Tie-oita'. Today he'd probably be escorted from the premises. And shot.

I would have thought GM, a company still operating on the US taxpayer's dime, with foreign-owned rivals snapping at its heels, would have better things to worry about.

Pushback took little time as US commentators and bloggers took GM to task over this pointless communication.

"We love Chevy. In no way are we discouraging customers or fans from using the name," GM said today.

So why hassle your staff about it then?

Just one of many US views


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