DETROIT -- When Joel Ewanick killed the new "Excellence for All" tag line last month, some Chevrolet marketers' first instinct was dismay. Almost a year of searching for a new tag line, and back to nothing?
But better nothing than the wrong thing -- not at this crucial moment for the Chevrolet brand. While archrival Ford is gaining momentum in sales and image, Chevrolet still has for many shoppers a Rust Belt aura of poor quality and yesterday's mistakes.
Defining a new identity for General Motors Co.'s top-selling brand has been one of Ewanick's most urgent tasks since he joined GM last month as U.S. marketing chief. No one thinks the brand is in crisis, but the heat is on to get it absolutely right.
The Chevrolet marketing team, now headed by Jim Campbell, has endured a revolving door of top executives and ad agencies. Early this month, the current team's judgment was ridiculed nationwide when executives discouraged the use of the iconic Chevy nickname.
And as Ford attracts higher-paying customers with such cars as the Taurus, it's clear that an old Chevy marketing standby -- wrapping the brand in heartland values -- is becoming problematic.
Chevrolet, which accounted for 72 percent of GM's 2010 sales through May, must keep loyal customers who prefer domestic brands and connect with Chevy's long-established image. But it also must lure new buyers, who in many cases equate Chevrolet's Americana with bad experiences with the age-old brand.
"Chevy needs to evolve, and it doesn't mean leaving behind that heritage, but it certainly could mean leaving behind some baggage," says analyst Rebecca Lindland of IHS Automotive. "It's a balance between appealing to the domestic buyers and pulling in the new buyers."