Since its founding in 1911 in Motor City, Chevrolet has gone from being as American as apple pie to a global brand that 's selling some 4 million cars and trucks in more than 140 markets. That evolution means the patriotic messaging used to sell the brand to consumers in the past -- slogans such as "See the USA in Your Chevrolet," "Heartbeat of America," "An American Revolution," and, its most recent rally cry, "Chevy Runs Deep" -- won't resonate with a huge segment of the market anymore.
So parent company General Motors Co. today announced a new tagline for the brand: "Find New Roads."
"Chevy Runs Deep," the previous tagline was ushered in by former CMO Joel Ewanick and U.S. agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Mr. Ewanick brought in the Omnicom shop after he tossed aside longtime Campbell-Ewald and Publicis, and they unveiled the tag during the World Series in 2010. GM was immediately met with wide criticism from car buffs who claimed that "Chevy Runs Deep" lacked substance, with Jalopnik going so far as to call it as the "worst slogan ever."
Jeff Goodby, one of the partners at Goodby, came to the tagline's defense, predicting that it would eventually have legs. Despite continued criticism and a global review, GM said in October of 2011 that it was sticking by its choice. But a year later, amid slips in market share and following the ouster of Mr. Ewanick, GM was openly announcing the possibility of axing it.
"We might transition," Chris Perry, Chevrolet's VP-marketing, told Ad Age sibling publication Automotive News in October of 2012.
That became definite today, with GM's announcement of "Find New Roads." It will be used to market nearly 20 new or revamped vehicles around the world, and it will also be used as an internal mantra. The new positioning, which was developed by Chevy's agency of record, Detroit-based Commonwealth, marks the second major change under interim CMO Alan Batey, who stepped in to replace Mr. Ewanick in July. (Commonwealth is an Omnicom and Interpublic joint venture composed of executives from Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and Interpublic's McCann Erickson.)
Burying "Chevy Runs Deep" comes at a time when General Motors is focused on markets like India and Russia, and market share for its largest brand, Chevy, has been slipping. It's also been cutting marketing spending. Domestically, GM spent $1.18 billion during the first three quarters of 2012 compared with $1.30 billion during the same period in 2011 -- a 9.3% decline, according to Kantar Media. The marketing spending on Chevy for the first nine months of 2012 was $663 million, down from $746 million, an 11% decline, according to Kantar Media
So how long can we expect "Find New Roads" to stay intact? Mr. Batey has asked Mary Barra and Ed Welburn, GM's heads of product development and design, respectively, to help with making the theme a part of company culture going forward. Unlike those taglines that have come and gone, he predicts this one will stick around for at least a decade.
Ad Age : When "Chevy Runs Deep" was launched, it was met with criticism, but GM asked for the public to be patient and said that they'd see it was a campaign that would ultimately resonate and convey the passion of the brand's fans. Does this mean the critics were right?
Mr. Batey: What I would say is that it was a campaign that was developed and implemented around the time of our centennial. When you have a centennial you have an opportunity to look back on your history. ... [Chevy] has a rich history and I think the campaign -- and all the results track this out -- did well at that point in time. Now we are taking it on the global stage to the next level. We are the fastest-growing major vehicle brand in the world today and have 20 new launches around the world in 2013. "Find New Roads" is more than a tagline, and in fact, I would say, for it to be successful, we have to create internal alignment. We want "Find New Roads" to become for all of us our North Star -- something that inspires us and builds around that spirit of ingenuity.
Ad Age : What makes you confident that "Find New Roads" works more meaningfully and works on a global level?
Mr. Batey: We have been working on this for the last five or six months hand in hand with Commonwealth, our global agency. From day one, we've been looking at this from a global perspective. We know it creates a lot of meaning and is also very flexible. You can think of two vehicles, in very different spaces, perhaps a Volt and a heavy duty truck [and it applies to both]. We also think it translates into the services we provide our customers; it gives us an opportunity to surprise and delight our customers.
Ad Age : You say this is meant not just to be a tagline but an internal mantra as much as an external one. What are you doing to get those working at GM at all levels, in all positions to rally behind the positioning?
Mr. Batey: We have a meeting with our senior execs which will take place next week [during the Detroit auto show]. It gives us a great chance to speak with all of our senior execs around the world [about the new approach]. They'll obviously take that back to their teams. I'll also be doing somewhat of our a world tour to ensure consistency. It will start toward the end of February.
Ad Age : After having such a strong presence in previous years, what will it be like to sit on the sidelines for the Super Bowl this year? Do still you think that was the right decision?
Mr. Batey: It definitely was the right decision. We had success with the Super Bowl in the past, and if you use it correctly it can be a great platform. Stay posted and you'll see some of the innovative things we're going to in the future.
Ad Age : You recently moved Silverado duties to Leo Burnett, aligning all truck advertising under the Publicis agency. Now this announcement about the tagline changes. Can we expect you to undertake more ad changes in 2013?
Mr. Batey: No. Those really were the two big ones we needed to put in place to make sure we have a successful 2013 when we have 20 new-product launches around the world for Chevy.
Ad Age : So you are happy with the way that the Commonwealth structure -- which has been an unprecedented partnership between competing ad companies -- is working for General Motors?
Mr. Batey: Yeah, I really am. We came together on this global effort at the same time. We previously had not operated as a brand on a global level. We have got some great global learnings. I'm feeling good about where we are right now ... I'm very excited.
Ad Age : It's been a busy few months for you since you've made the transition to the CMO role. How have you found it?
Mr. Batey: If I take you back to when I took this role on in the July time frame, I stressed it wasn't about one person but a team. We have got great people and I've really enjoyed it. It's been a fantastic time. We always new that looking into 2013 it would be an incredibly busy time.
Ad Age : What can we expect with regards to the search for a permanent CMO?
Mr. Batey: As I sit here today, we're still looking at our options and haven't gotten anything to announce yet.