“Chevy” is no more

Last year, General Motors got rid of Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Saturn and a few other brands. Now the company wants to get rid of Chevy – not the cars, the nickname.

On Tuesday, G.M. sent a memo to employees at Chevrolet’s Detroit headquarters asking that they refer to the brand as “Chevrolet” when talking to dealers, reviewing dealer advertising, or even when speaking with friends and family.

“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, which was quoted in a story in the New York Times, said. “Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer.”

Officials at General Motors told the Detroit Free Press Thursday that the brand must now be referred to as Chevrolet because doing so would give the company “an opportunity to drive consistency in our communications” globally. The company said the nickname “Chevy” was very “U.S.-based.”

Not surprisingly, a reader poll in the Free Press that was being conducted as this was written revealed that only about 7 percent of respondents agreed with the move.

Chevrolet dealers weren’t too enthusiastic about the idea either. One told the Free Press – in separate story on the subject – that he would continue to use the word Chevy in his ads unless the company was “very committed.” And another, who asked not to be identified, was even more direct: “They have lost it. I just read it. My kids love Chevy. Is my son going to say a Chevrolet Camaro? No way. Ugh. … Crazy.”

General Motors’ decision isn’t really related to the boating industry other than perhaps as an example of the importance a major corporation places on its branding strategy, and the lessons other businesses can learn from that. But as I think about it, isn’t the real lesson here more about common sense?

Branding experts preach the importance of a consistent, unified message, and they certainly know more about the subject than I do, or ever will. However, in this case it seems the new ad agency GM hired in April is creating a problem where one didn’t exist.

Aren’t Chevrolet and Chevy already synonymous? I could understand this strategy if the company’s nickname was something ironic, like the way people call a fat guy “slim” or tall guy “shorty.” But even in another language, if you’ve heard of Chevrolet, then hear Chevy in any context dealing with an automobile, you don’t exactly have to make a leap to get from one to the other.

Is the backlash that comes with officially disavowing the Chevy name really worth the perceived benefit? Not in my opinion. Then again, maybe this whole thing is just some publicity stunt designed to get people talking about the company.

If so, nice job Chevy.

If not, what are you thinking Chevrolet?

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