Dropping the “Chevy” Name was a “Mistake” According to GM

An important lesson in changing a name...

Some years ago, the Wall Street Journal revealed that apparently GM’s attempt to drop the familiar term “Chevy” for the more formal “Chevrolet” was a “poorly worded memo” and a mistake.  I’m not so sure, but I hope that’s true.  As suggested by numerous folks online, it might have been a way to generate a little buzz for a dying brand, or truthfully, a really stupid move by a car company owned by the government.  My take:

Either way, when a company or product has so much brand equity that customers or donors call it by a more familiar name, then stick with it!  I found some of the responses to the Advertising Age poll on it interesting:

How many songs are out there with Chevy in the lyrics?

Don’t do it Chevy, unless this is merely a massive PR stunt, then ride it as far as you can.

I agree that this is a part of a PR strategy to incite excitement, and conversation.

“I drove my Chevrolet to the levy but the levy was dry.” And so was the marketing.

Do you think that maybe they’re just trying to create a buzz? Like Coke Classic?

How stupid can one company be?

Budweiser over Bud? Coca Cola over Coke? Few brands are so iconic that their nicknames are as popular and powerful (or more so) than their proper names. Only a marketing fool would squander that equity.

What if there were no Bimmer, Coke or Vette, Merc, Lambo or Jag – what a sad world it would be if we were forced by the GM speech czar to formalize our vehicle names!

What do I take from these responses?  A familiar name matters.  It’s created out of love for the product.  Don’t screw around with it.  Most products and companies should be so lucky.

Hopefully, The Wall Street Journal is right and it was just a “mis-communication.”  Otherwise, I’m afraid the government owned car company is taking too many bad cues from the new owners….

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  1. Maybe it was to create buzz, but I’m not sure that kind of buzz would translate into more sales considering most of us thought it was a dumb move by the company.  So at best, a pretty bad marketing idea.  At worst, in my cynicism, I think it’s political correctness gone awry.  Seems like maybe a motivation was to bring the ‘international’ tone into the company- as “Chevrolet” definitely sounds French, over the very American “Chevy.”  Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but placed in the context of the current Administration and Government’s penchant for promoting Europe over America, it’s a possibility- equally as dumb as the other option.

  2. Have you noticed the Obama Administration tweets employ the phrase “This week on West Wing Week”, which I believe is phrased to evoke memories of The West Wing TV show and the Bartlet administration. They own the West Wing brand and should exploit those feelings.

  3. Definitely not a smart move either way. Nicknames are *given* as terms of endearment and should be regarded as such. Federal Express was smart about their nickname … people had been calling them FedEx for a long while before they officially adopted the moniker. That was a smart move.

    … or maybe they should have put out a tersely worded memo forbidding its use?

  4. Maybe it represents change…. And change is what all cultures need in order to survive and thrive. Looking at the outward appearance and brand name is quickly becoming second to the inner quality and state of being the company and product represents….

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