Chevrolet has introduced 10 vehicles in the past 20 months. The company is launching the new HHR and redesigned Impala. Kim Kosak, Chevrolet's general director of advertising and sales promotion, is responsible for positioning the division's cars and trucks in the marketplace.
Since she took the job in 2003, Kosak, 38, has unified car and truck advertising under the umbrella of Chevrolet's "An American Revolution" campaign. Now that campaign must accommodate General Motors' value pricing message as well.
Kosak discussed Chevrolet's advertising strategies with Retail Editor David Kushma and Special Correspondent Laura Clark Geist.
How does Chevrolet define GM's "Total Value Promise?"
I define it as redesigned vehicles that offer more features and more content than the competition, and a great price position. You've got to talk about features and benefits right at the launch.
How are you integrating GM's "value promise" with the American Revolution campaign?
It's very easy for us to do that, because Chevy has always been about value. The Total Value Promise is not about discounting vehicles. It's about great products at a great value.
You will see that on the HHR campaign. We talk about the $15,990 starting price. It's not a discount. It's where the vehicle is price-positioned. You get all this for this amount of money.
You see it on Impala. It's a 303-hp V-8 that gets 20 miles per gallon. (The Impala's base model) starts at $21,990. That is going to set the foundation for what we mean by Chevy Value Promise.
Over the past three months you've been talking about the great deals of the employee discount program. How do you shift consumers' attention away from that?
It wasn't just a discount. What we tried to communicate is (that Chevrolet has the) most dependable, longest-lasting trucks. We've always talked about product, and then linked it to employee pricing as a natural migration to Total Value Promise. Now admittedly, the consumer takeaway was the employee price.
How do your dealers tie in with value pricing?
Right at the launch we have ads that the dealers can (customize). When we do the new Impala campaign or the new HHR campaign, or any new piece of work that is significant, we review it with the dealers up front and get their input. They are very forthright.
We ask them about our retail spots - is it the right message, it is the right tone of voice?
Did ad budgets increase this year for Chevrolet?
We've had aggressive spending on Chevy because of all the launches. If you've got a new name and a new product, that's going to take more money in many cases than an existing product. Some categories are more crowded, like the mid-sized segment, so you've got to have share-of-voice leadership.
How much is spending up?
I'm not allowed to say.
Less than 10 percent?
No, it's more.
Do you know what you'll be getting for 2006?
I do not have my '06 budgets yet. We're hoping that, given the strategic-volume importance of the Tahoe, Suburban, Avalanche and Silverado next year, the budgets will be strong.
What kind of marketing challenge does $3-a-gallon gasoline pose in launching your new trucks?
It's a big challenge. The good thing is that we've got the displacement on demand technology. We are very careful in how we position the Tahoe with this fuel economy (concern).
There's a group of people who are very accustomed to the real capability of full-sized utility. They've got kids and a dog and stuff.
That's kind of the American way right now.
We've got a great claim on Tahoe with power and efficiency. That's a critical component of the launch.
We want to remind people why they love their utility. There are some people we talk to who are not going to sacrifice it. The challenge is the people coming into the (full-sized SUV) market. Or keeping them in full-sized, so they don't go back down to a smaller vehicle.
(The full-sized trucks) are probably the most important product in General Motors history. What better challenge as a marketer?
What are you doing for the Silverado campaign?
We are coming out with a new body of work. We will use the World Series to do that. It's a campaign that we developed with dealer input. It is intended to reclaim and reseed the "most dependable, longest-lasting" truck label. We are really trying to shore up that ground. We've got some bold product claims, so it has some teeth to it.
(GM Chairman) Rick Wagoner has said he wants better brand definition from each of the divisions. As much as "American Revolution" has defined Chevrolet as a brand, how much more differentiation can you do?
We just went through a whole process of defining a brand. And fortunately, we found that our positioning - which internally is expressive, value-conscious - is very cohesive and consistent with American Revolution. Right now we've got a really good brand fit.
We did a lot of research to come up with American Revolution, so it's not surprising that we got that fit.
How are you adjusting your media mix for advertising?
We look at it by the launch. For Impala, we had much more of a focus on prime-time network television and traditional magazines. The Impala buyer tends to be a little bit older.
The HHR (customer) is a totally different buyer. About 21 percent (of HHR's ad budget) is digital.
It's a strategic question for us. You've got a lot more media options now. Traditionally, you had television, print and out-of-home. You didn't have digital or video on demand. Traditional media are getting a lot of competition. At Chevrolet, we're being smarter with TV. We've been pursuing big, iconic media properties: the Super Bowl, the Grammys, the Olympics, the Country Music Awards, the World Series.
We try to get the right creative with the right type of media property. On the cable side, we are being very strategic with the buys. (Viewers of) country music programming, I know they are not buying HHRs as much as they are buying Silverados.
Same thing with magazines. With the HHR, we have very specific headlines for fashion books vs. music books vs. shelter books. Whatever our property, we are tailoring our message where it makes the most sense.
What are dealers' expectations of the creative that you supply?
They are very happy with American Revolution. They like the boldness and the confidence. They like the fact that we are buying assets for them that they normally could not buy as an individual. We just signed (National Football League commentator) Howie Long as a spokesperson for Chevy trucks. That's something that they couldn't necessarily afford on their own.
We're seeing a lot of creative sharing. We'll do something for California, and the Northeast will pick it up.
What are your plans for branded entertainment?
We are a big brand with a big portfolio, and we need to reach a lot of people - Hispanics, African Americans and Caucasians. Music is a unifying force that's multicultural. It's a great strategic platform for us. We have the Grammys, we have the Country Music Awards. We did a calendar with Rolling Stone. We want to make (product content) organic. We want to make it part of the fabric of the program.
How about ethnic marketing?
We try not to do separate African-American campaigns. Because it's such a big audience, we try to make it part of our normal work. We've got dedicated Hispanic work for the Impala and HHR.
We learned that there is a real appreciation for African-American talent and African-American music on general-market television.
If you look at the Equinox campaign, we used all African-American talent and African-American music. Chevy is America's brand, whether you have white skin or dark skin or whether you speak English or Spanish.
How do you feel about car companies asking print media to place their cars in editorial space?
We've got to be very careful. I would be very worried if I were an editor, blending church and state.