This year, Chevrolet is rolling out 13 new or redesigned vehicles, including some of its most important nameplates, such as the Silverado full-sized pickup, Impala large sedan and the seventh-generation Corvette.
The busy launch schedule comes at a time of flux for Chevrolet marketing. The brand is launching a global advertising theme after a restructuring at its creative ad agency, Detroit's Commonwealth. Silverado advertising recently shifted to a different agency. And General Motors hired Tim Mahoney as its global marketing chief for Chevrolet, effective April 1.
Chris Perry, 52, Chevrolet's vice president of U.S. marketing, says the brand's new marketing theme, "Find New Roads," will help convey an emphasis on innovation and the notion that the bow-tie brand's best days are ahead. He spoke with Staff Reporter Mike Colias.
Q: How is the "Find New Roads" campaign supposed to reposition Chevy and its message?
A: It positions Chevrolet as a very contemporary, modern, forward-looking car manufacturer.
The good thing about "Find New Roads" is it's not an advertising campaign. It's really a brand platform. It emanates from the philosophy that Chevrolet has lived by for 100 years, which is bringing innovation and ingenuity to the industry.
So you'll run various campaigns under the "Find New Roads" banner?
Right. I was talking to [GM product development chief] Mary Barra and she was saying how her entire organization is pumped and excited about this refocus on bringing ingenuity to the product development process, and focusing on those key pillars that we've established in design, technology and performance. So it's not just marketing. It's the whole organization that is re-energized.
The previous tag line, "Chevy Runs Deep," didn't translate well in other markets. Does this solve that problem?
"Chevy Runs Deep" did a great job of reminding people -- particularly in the U.S., because it was a U.S.-focused campaign -- about the role we played culturally in the U.S. and celebrating our heritage. But what we needed as we move forward is to show people that, yes, we have a rich heritage, but we have a very promising future as well. Every country is in the process of executing it. They're all following the same platform.
In recent years, Chevrolet has been criticized for lacking a clear marketing message. Does the diversity of the lineup now -- from the Volt to trucks to a Cruze diesel -- make it harder to explain Chevrolet's identity?
I don't think it makes it difficult, because all of those things are tied to that idea of ingenuity. We're now in the process of launching Impala. That's a great representation of performance, design and technology. Same with Cruze diesel at 46 mpg, the best nonhybrid fuel economy sold in the U.S. Cruze Eco, at 42 mpg, is the best gas-powered fuel economy in the industry. Those things represent and prove the ingenuity that we bring to the marketplace. While we have different products, they're all still tied together around that same theme.
How hard is it to reposition the Impala, a nameplate that has grown so stagnant?
Impala has such a rich heritage and history. When you look at the consumer research we've done, that was the appropriate name to give it and to re-establish that as the flagship of the Chevy passenger car lineup. So far the reaction we've gotten from the press and our customers and dealers has been fantastic. We're just now filling the pipeline, but the turn rate is the fastest we have in our lineup.
Any grass-roots marketing plans to get the car in front of people?
We have a pretty extensive relationship with Major League Baseball. Looking at that target audience for Impala, and people who enjoy baseball, it's that guy who keeps score for himself. He knows the batting average of that guy who his team just traded for vs. the pitcher and what his ERA is. He knows about the history and craftsmanship that comes with baseball. That's the same person who's interested in the Impala. There's a really nice tie-in between our relationship with MLB and the Impala. We're executing that across 21 of the baseball parks across the country, where we have vehicle displays to give people a chance to touch and feel the product.
At the advertising agency level, the Commonwealth venture that handles Chevrolet creative was just restructured, and Leo Burnett is taking over Silverado. Has it been disruptive to have so much churn right before so many key launches?
No. The Commonwealth issue was really an ownership issue. When you look at the people working on our business at Commonwealth, it's the same people who were working on it two months ago. The team that developed the campaign around "Find New Roads" is the same team. We really haven't seen much disruption. The agency is made up of people, not what's on the door.
What's the marketing strategy for the Silverado launch?
It'll be probably in the third quarter. We'll have some support in the second half of the second quarter, and then it will start in earnest in the third quarter. It's a significant launch for us. All of our launches are important, but not all are created equal. We will put resources behind it that are equal to the importance of the launch.
Can you say anything about the creative theme or flavor of the Silverado campaign?
Not at this point.
You've talked about the importance of getting people to experience the truck firsthand. Is there a big grass-roots element?
Nothing that we can talk about in detail. Getting people into that truck to drive it will be an important component of the launch, absolutely.
But the launch is pretty important for us, so we will use every weapon in our arsenal to support this launch, big and small, mass and targeted. There will be no rock unturned to make sure that this is successful.