Chevy Switches Up Small Car Marketing Tactics

Automaker Takes Bundled Lifestyle Approach Uniting Spark, Trax and Sonic

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A new outdoor ad for the Chevy Spark.
A new outdoor ad for the Chevy Spark. Credit: Chevrolet

Chevrolet is taking a new approach when marketing its smallest vehicles that relies on the power of three.

Rather than plugging the Spark, Sonic and Trax in separate campaigns, the automaker is bringing them together in a digital-intensive push that takes a lifestyle approach. A new content hub called includes "Small Talk" videos produced by Funny or Die, a music video from an up and coming band, a custom podcast with John Hodgman and more. Chevy has also launched a sponsored Pandora station called "Smallwave."

The thinking is that the three small-vehicle brands -- which lack the marketing budgets of other Chevy brands like the Cruze and Malibu -- will get a bigger bang for the buck when advertised together and in a more targeted way. Outdoor ads, for instance, will target 12 neighborhoods that are home to "striving urbanites." They include Wicker Park in Chicago, Astoria in New York, Westwood in Los Angeles and Pecan Park in Houston.

"We don't want to compete with the huge launches of Malibu and Cruze that are out there. So we are finding college town or neighborhoods that are taking off with young people," said Mary Kubitskey, senior advertising and marketing manager for Chevrolet cars.

"They are not core vehicles for us," she added. "But it's a nice opportunity for us to put them together and talk a to a very singularly minded consumer: They are all quite young, they all shop for pretty much the same reasons [and] they all live in pretty urban areas." Also, "they don't have a long history with Chevrolet, so it's kind of a way for us to start to talk to them in not-so-much the traditional ways."

Agencies on the campaign include Commonwealth/McCann and Spike DDB.

Chevrolet sold 17,729 Sonics in the first four months of 2016, down from 20,015 in 2015, according to data compiled by Automotive News. Spark sales fell from 12,847 to 8,237 in that period. Sales of Trax -- which is considered a subcompact crossover -- fared better, rising from 13,137 to 18,237.

While the new content is hosted on the microsite, Chevy will spread it across the web using paid digital buys with Mic, Complex, Thrillist and others. Ms. Kubitskey said it's hard to find the young buyers Chevy targets on social media because they "are not the destination Facebook people that Generation Xers and boomers are." So Chevy will spread content widely, including on Instagram, Snapchat and Tinder.

One feature is called "Sonic Sessions," which shows Kickstand Band performing one of its songs in Sonic, belting out the tune using small instruments.

Another feature on the microsite is called "Find Your Smallmate" that asks viewers a few questions and then seeks to match them with one of the three small vehicles based on their lifestyle.

The targeted consumers are "very socially savvy so they have all kinds of places to find car information," Ms. Kubitskey said. "So this is way for us to engage them at a lifestyle level and not so much of a really hard sell."

The Funny or Die videos feature comedian Al Madrigal. Here is the first one:

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