Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chevy and the Zen of Advertising Slogans

Is "Chevy Runs Deep" the worst ad slogan ever?

Jalopnik.com, the car site that may have the worst name ever, thinks so.

UPDATE: It appears that Chevy has traveled a long and winding path to come up with this water-logged slogan. (With mixed metaphors like that, maybe I should go into advertising for Chevy.)

Chrissie Thompson of The Detroit Free Press reports:

The new work is GM’s first attempt at brand-wide advertising for Chevrolet since Ewanick’s arrival in May from his weeks-old job at Nissan. It uses the nostalgic “Chevy” label after the brand’s top U.S. sales and marketing executives in June asked employees to stop referring to the brand by its nickname, then reneged after widespread complaints.

The new Chevy strategy comes after a year of marketing turmoil, which started last summer, when the brand began publicly looking to replace its 5-year-old “American Revolution” tag line. After deciding to remain tagless, Chevrolet in April broke off a 91-year relationship with Warren-based ad agency Campbell-Ewald and said it would give its advertising contract to Publicis Worldwide.

The result of that relationship was the tag line “Excellence for All, ” which appeared only in print ads before Ewanick arrived in May and promptly canned the slogan. Days after arriving, he dismissed Publicis and chose San Francisco-based Goodby as Chevrolet’s agency.

In August, Ewanick replaced Chevrolet marketing head Jim Campbell with, Chris Perry, Ewanick’s former colleague from his three years at Hyundai. Perry is Chevrolet’s fourth top marketer since GM exited its bankruptcy in July 2009.


  1. Yes. Simple question, simple answer. "That phrase don't make no sense."

  2. What happened to that directive from Whitacre that "Chevy" was now a banned term, and the product was to be known in all marketing communications as "Chevrolet"?

  3. I'm impressed (negatively) by one of the analyses in the Comments over at Jalopnik:

    1. The new head of GM, what's-his-name, is an ex-USN-submariner.
    2. "Pride Runs Deep" is a long-standing slogan of the USN submarine service.
    3. What's-his-name decided to overrule the pros at Chevy's expensive ad agency, because he had a better idea.

    It's a common observation, I think, that brilliant ideas frequently come from one unusually creative individual. Mediocre-to-good ideas frequently come from a committee. Truly stinko ideas frequently come from one powerful individual who doesn't understand his limitations, and is surrounded by people whose job it is to think he's brilliant.

  4. Trust me, in my travels through the Fortune 500, I've seen CEOs override every single tiny decision made from what kind of toilet paper to use in the bathrooms, to what programming language to use on the website.

    The ad agency might have pitched this knowing the background of the CEO, or he might have just come up with it himself. Who knows, but it's baaaad either way.

    This dovetails into my analysis that "Heartbeat of America" was one of the worst marketing decisions ever made by Chevrolet. It totally alienated the yuppies of the East and West Coasts, yuppies that drive their cars for about two years max and buy a new one.

    It did appeal to rednecks, who drive their cars into the ground, then park them on their front lawn.

    What is the better growth market? Chevrolet could have been Mazda or Toyota, but instead tried to became "American #1 USA Heartland Motors." Well, that's why GM was dead and buried in 2008 until President Obama decided to keep them going. And for what? "The Volt?" More insanity from Chevrolet.

    GM has had the worst marketing people in the history of American industry.

    This proves me right all these years.

  5. To fuel the debate of worst ever, I offer up...

    Catera: The Caddy that Zigs

    And as someone who regularly crosses large bodies of water on very large suspension bridges, I don't like any ad campaign that conjures up visions of cars underwater.

    Finally, is that true about the GM exec really a former submarine guy?

  6. > ...is that true about the GM exec really a former submarine guy?

    I guess I should do more fact-checking, or go with better sources. No, according to the Internet, he did graduate from Naval Academy and served five years in the Navy, but he was stationed on destroyers.

    There could yet be some legs under the story, though. He might well be familiar with the diesel-subs patch and slogan in question. The coincidence of the wording and his background seems too improbable otherwise.


  7. > "Heartbeat of America" was one of the worst marketing decisions ever made by Chevrolet. It totally alienated the yuppies of the East and West Coasts

    But how far back do you have to go, to get to a time when Chevy sold well in SF, Seattle, metro New York and Boston...the 50s?

    By the 70s, Boston was heavily into anything Euro-imported...especially Volvos (!) and BMWs, and Benzes and VWs to a lesser extent. For the original yuppies, owning an American car was unsophisticated and class-inappropriate.

    GM tailoring its marketing to people who actually liked their products (and also outnumbered the coastal yuppie-import-lover types by a large ratio) made a certain amount of sense, IMO.

  8. I had a hell of a comment, but I forgot it. I spent too much time watching the trailers.

  9. As long as the topic is automobiles and GM:

    Consumers Union put out a release today naming GM as having the fastest rate of quality improvement of any brand, and close behind Toyota, Honda and Ford for the absolute lead in their surveys of ~ 1 million vehicle owners.

    The auto industry timeline for changes to get from the executive suite to owners is 3 to 5 years. That means that these improvements happened on the watch of Rick Wagoner, Fritz Henderson and Bob Lutz.

    We all know those names. They're the guys that Ed Whitacre and the Obama team told us were incompetent and unable to correctly manage an auto company.

    The most important parameter for auto company marketing success is of course quality. People buy Toyotas because they have consistent quality. Radically turning around GM's quality and setting it on a path to the top is pretty impressive. Bob Lutz had a lot to do with that on the design side and Fritz Henderson on production resources, but Rick Wagoner was the ultimate re-shaper of the corporate culture into a team that could compete with the best.

    I hope Mr. Wagoner in particular is getting some satisfaction from this, even if it's unlikely that he'll get an apology from the financial doofuses who made him the fall guy after the past and current administrations' extraordinary mismanagement of the economy cut the financial legs from under that aspect of his corporate turnaround plan.

    If I ran the universe, he'd get his job back, if he wanted it. Consumers Union's statistics have proven he knew his stuff, at least in circumstances that didn't include a radical economic crash. The guys who followed him, so far, seem useless by comparison.

  10. http://www.subshipstore.com/images/Sweats/sweat-prd-emb.jpg


  11. Since your original post of October 26, 2010, I have seen several versions of this commercial at least 100 times. They usually play two versions back to back on CNN. I actually like the one about a truck and a dog. But as the previous sad owner of a Corvair, 2 Vegas, a Chevette, and a Citation, I feel obligated to correct an obvious typo that appears in every advertisement. The "n" is misplaced. The phrase is suppose to read " Chevy Rusts Deep.

  12. I think Chevrolet should do away with the subliminal slogans and go straight to the point. What we need is to inform consumers about the benefits of hybrid cars, not make them think about it.

    used car loans

  13. I partly disagree with you Boyd. Telling people in subtle messages make them think about their choices, and thus, pave way to them understanding the benefits of hybrid cars.

    auto loan

  14. Supposedly one of the reasons why Bob Lutz was once again formally hired, instead of being just a constant presence as a "consultant" and "advisor" to GM top management, was that he was advising them that they were rapidly unwinding all of the improvements from the malaise years that Lutz (along with Wagoner and Henderson, of course) had crafted, most especially in marketing, and they acknowledged that once again he was right. Putting Lutz formally back in the org chart was the easiest way to let him fix things, because he could do his own firing.

    So, who's been canned so far since he came back?

  15. Great George. Although in my case, I want them to tell me upfront than hide them in messages I may not get (or worse, misunderstand).

  16. Update:

    "Chevy Runs Deep" is currently "being reviewed".

    According to Joel Ewanick, in many countries outside the US, it's "gaining acceptance". Now if it just worked in the US.


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