America

GM Bans 'Chevy' — Tells Workers: It's Chevrolet

Some stories leave you scratching your head.

Such is the news that General Motors is telling its workers not to use the nickname Chevy for its long popular brand but Chevrolet instead.

The New York Times reported it obtained a memo to that effect. An excerpt:

On Tuesday, G.M. sent a memo to Chevrolet employees at its Detroit headquarters, promoting the importance of “consistency” for the brand, which was the nation’s best-selling line of cars and trucks for more than half a century after World War II.

And one way to present a consistent brand message, the memo suggested, is to stop saying “Chevy,” though the word is one of the world’s best-known, longest-lived product nicknames.

“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, which was signed by Alan Batey, vice president for Chevrolet sales and service, and Jim Campbell, the G.M. division’s vice president for marketing.

“When you look at the most recognized 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. “Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer.”

Although the memo cites Coke, it does not note that Coke is shorthand for Coca-Cola — or that Apple is not commonly used in reference to its products, which are known simply as iPads, iPhones and MacBooks.

One expert on branding said G.M.’s effort ran counter to a trend in which corporate names had become more casual. The consultant, Paul Worthington, head of strategy for Wolff Olins, a brand consulting company, noted that FedEx had replaced Federal Express, KFC. had supplanted Kentucky Fried Chicken and “even RadioShack has evolved into the Shack.”

The NYT story mentions how much a part of American culture the nickname Chevy has become, making the obligatory reference to Don McLean's iconic song "American Pie" with its famous line "Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry."

Chevy Cruze t-shirt

hide captionChevy fits on a t-shirt better. 

Tony Dejak/AP Photo

Also strongly made is the point that, in the end, consumers decide what a product is going to be called.

It does seem odd that GM would try to force Chevrolet back into the psyches of American consumers especially when Chevy is a huge brand already.

Some cynics have noted, however, that the new consciousness about Chevrolet versus Chevy brand names coincides with a change in advertising firms at GM, the thought being that maybe the memo is a clever strategy to gin up a lot of free media attention, including in the blogosphere.

An advertising firm wouldn't do something like that, would it?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: