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THE SILVERADO pickup truck drives in sales.

The Memo

For years, Chevrolet's full-size pickup trucks have hauled in big business for General Motors, to the tune of "Like a Rock." In fall 1998, GM was ready to introduce the Silverado, Chevy's first new full-size pickup to be introduced in a decade. But it was also the first time the company was going to name one of its full-size pickups, a change that worried management. Would consumers link Silverado with the Chevy truck brand?

The Discovery

Truck owners are self-reliant, independent, and traditional folks - at least, they were back in 1994 when Chevrolet last commissioned a study on them. To find out if those values were still relevant, the company dispatched researchers from Cultural Dynamics to hang out with pickup owners and talk trucks. Interviewers learned that truck culture was kickin' in America, an important insight for Chevy. With the Silverado, Chevrolet could capitalize on its long-established relationship with truckers and their desire for authenticity.

Focus groups of full-size pickup owners were asked to identify people and objects that were good metaphors for a variety of trucks, to help differentiate the Silverado from its competitors. Among the metaphors chosen for the Silverado: Muhammad Ali - because, like Chevy trucks, he could take a lot and still keep going.

The Tactics

Based on the research, Campbell-Ewald's creative team developed five campaigns and consulted pickup truck owners for feedback twice. Several elements appealed to consumers and wound up in the final campaign. Owners liked the idea of Silverado as "The Truck," the benchmark against which to measure all others. Respondents also helped the creative team determine which features to spotlight. Perhaps not surprisingly - these are truck drivers, after all - attributes like bigger, stronger, and more powerful struck the right tone.

Campbell-Ewald then created six television commercials and showed them to consumers with the help of Diagnostic Research International. Three spots excelled in delivering the message that the Silverado was a tough machine. Interviewees said they felt good about Chevrolet and its dedication to customers.

But who were those customers? Research from J.D. Power and Associates and others sketched a profile of the Silverado's target audience - married guys between the ages of 25 to 54 who blast country music in the cab and work on do-it-yourself projects at home. To reach the right guys, Chevy aired Silverado commercials during the Country Western Music Awards, and sponsored the NCAA Basketball Tournament last year.

Truck owners may dig shots of pickups blazing up mountains, but they also want to know about things like horsepower and torque. Prior to Silverado's debut in the fall of 1998, Chevrolet ran a 30-minute "behind-the-scenes" infomercial on selected cable channels. Viewers could call a toll-free number to request more information. Chevy built a massive database of callers and followed through with targeted mailings based on their specified interests.

The Payoff

>From assembly line to street: Chevrolet is selling as many Silverado >trucks as it can build. Its market share has remained steady at 28 >percent, mainly due to production constraints on total output. Tracking >studies by Millward Brown showed that TV advertising awareness exceeded >goals for the campaign and consumer interest in buying a Silverado also >rose.

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