Don’t call me ‘Chevy’

It appears the owners of Chevrolet do not like the nickname ‘Chevy’.

According to a report in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ (Friday June 11) in a memo to Chevrolet staff at their HQ in Detroit, GM urged them to stop saying ‘Chevy’ even at home.

They feel it apparently cheapens the brand.

In a memo to staff by Alan Batey, the vice president for sales said: “That most recognised brands concentrate on the consistency of their branding….. the more they were consistent about the car’s name, the more prominent and recognisable it is with the consumer.”

Yet the word ‘Chevy’ has become synonymous with the American brand, the open road, popularised in such songs as Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ (singalong now, ‘Take the Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry…’)

There are two ways of looking at this:

One is an ingenious way of generating appeal, creating talkbaility, and getting attention for a seemingly much loved, yet perhaps, overlooked brand.

The other is that the top guys at Chevrolet don’t know the first thing about word of mouth communications, in particular memes.

Whether the top brass at Chevrolet like it or not, the word ‘Chevy’ is a meme; it is a self-replicating body of information that replicates itself beyond the control of the original instigators; did Don McLean get instructed to write his song and make sure there was some product placement? No, he did it of his own volition.

By self-replicating beyond the reach of the originator, the meme can go on and on.

I always say in my talks to managers that a memo ≠ communication.

In this case, the managers at GM have not got a hope in hell in taming their meme by issuing formal instruction. Like the people in charge of health and safety, who face the problem of the healthandsafetyitus meme, information alone cannot change your brand landscape.

The only hope I would suggest is launching a counter meme, a rival information virus to ‘Chevy’ that could dominate, grab people’s attentions over ‘Chevy’ and in turn, people start using the new meme.

Initial ideas – and these are initial, and frankly, I do not hold much hope for them, include, ‘the CY’, ‘the Chev’, to make it even shorter and quicker, easier to use, or the other strategy of making it more outstanding, what about ‘the Chevrolasticmotorcation’ (think of the Mary Poppins song ‘Supercalifraglistic…’)

Thinking about the nickname, I wonder what the actor Chevy Chase thinks? Or should we call him Chevrolet Chase now? How will Mr. Batey at GM motors instruct him to change?

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