A recent article in the NYT’s regarding an internal General Motors memo to its employees and dealers to use the full brand name, Chevrolet, and eschew the consumer pet name “Chevy”, gave me pause as a marketer. Having led multiple branding and rebranding efforts, I’ve published company Brand Books which laid out very similar guidance. So how to reconcile this with the gut feeling that the “suits” at GM clearly got this wrong?
I think clarity comes when you think about where in the brand creation process you sit. When creating new brands or trying to clear up significant brand confusion from the use of variants or legacy labels, getting coherence and consistency around a brand is critical. Invest in those unified brands, and it’s just possible you will be able to break through the clutter to gain awareness…and then beyond that, hopefully build positive associations with that brand.
The Chevrolet brand has been part of GM since 1917 and already had some brand equity at that time as Lois Chevrolet was a successful race car driver (this despite the fact that one of the first Chevrolets was called the “Baby Grand”, both a comment on its size and cost).
After almost a century of brand building, Chevrolet has moved way beyond the awareness generation stage. In fact, I would argue that the adoption by the public of the brand, and it’s successive shorthand, is the surest mark of brand success (reference FedEx’ move to align its company brand of Federal Express with consumers’ moniker). The company’s responsibility now is to tend to the brand’s positioning and messaging in order to ensure it’s as positive an asset as possible….not to try and yank the brand away from the public and redefine it in a vacuum (especially not in today’s age of consumer participatory branding and marketing).