Chevrolet Backtracks in “Chevy” Debacle

Chevy sign

If you are a car guru, you must have heard the noise about the Chevrolet brand yesterday. We even gave it a brief mention here. Seems that a memo went out to Chevrolet employees not to use the shorthand “Chevy,” but to refer to the brand henceforth as “Chevrolet.”

Company officials decreed that term would promote brand consistency and avoid confusion in the 130 countries in which Chevy sells. Using Coke and Apple (examples of just what they were trying to avoid), the memo asked that employees avoid using the nickname in conversation, and in “reviewing dealer advertising, or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward.”

That’s Chevrolet-Moving-Forward? Within a few hours, the company claimed in a press release that the memo was “poorly worded,” a severe understatement, and that it was only trying to work toward consistent branding. In fact, what they did was to undercut the consistent branding that exists in the Chevy name.

Big companies do this sort of thing all the time. And they never learn that the shorter tag the public gives their product is the one the public wants and will use. The corporate-mindedness of the global consistency argument flies in the face of common sense and common usage.

Some examples: Think about US Airways, which changed its name from USAir in 1996 and continues to promote the longer version, though customers still say “USAir.” Check out their financials to confirm the value of this approach. Coca-Cola has thrived as Coke; so have KFC and FedEx.

When companies are lucky enough to have their products branded as generics—like Kleenex and Xerox—they should welcome it instead of fighting it. Usually, they fight it. Chevy is not there yet, but like many car companies, it confuses the issue still further by rebadging its cars and calling them by different names in different countries.

Alan Batey, GM’s new vice president of sales and service for Chevrolet in the U.S., was one of the authors of the infamous memo. Formerly boss at Holden in Australia, he’s climbing the corporate ladder and, in the video below, offers a classic example of GM-speak.

Which car would you prefer to buy—a Chevrolet or a Chevy—and what’s the difference?

—jgoods

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2 Comments

  1. As a footnote here, I cannot count the marketing mistakes GM has made over time, and the point is that they continue. A pretty good catalog can be found at http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/aug2009/bw20090813_397576.htm.

    And their management seems never to learn. Nobody wants to fire Susan Docherty, so they just keep putting her in a new office. See http://www.autoblog.com/2010/05/24/gm-names-susan-docherty-gm-vp-of-international-operations-sales?icid=sphere_searchsphere_news.

  2. Ah, another group-think GM potato head. See, no matter how hard they try, the idiots at GM can’t do anything but surround themselves by similar idiots, even when they go outside to hire. How many of you are getting ready to buy GM stock when it goes public? Just remember what happened to the last set of GM stockholders– Their stock turned from blue chip to buffalo chip.

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