Chevy Plucks Heartstrings With Silverado Marketing Blitz

Campaign For Pick-Up Focuses on American Values and Targets Traditional Buyers

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It's not quite "Like a rock," but Chevrolet is bringing back similar emotional imagery in an evocative new campaign for its Silverado.

To introduce the marque's first new model since 2006, the company will once again play on traditional American values of self-reliance, family, community, hard work and dependability with a push that breaks -- fittingly -- on July 4. Chris Perry, U.S. VP-Chevrolet marketing, said that the goal for the campaign, which the company described as its largest in years, aims to let Chevy to take "back the soulfulness of the category."

"If you think about trucks, that segment is one of the most steeped in values and imagery," said Mr. Perry. Yet those bedrock American values "aren't reflected in advertising now," leaving an opening for the brand. "We want to reflect those customer values."

Chevy had largely left behind stirring emotional pitches that were its hallmark with "Heartbeat of America" and "An American Revolution" in recent years to focus on what Mr. Perry called more product-driven advertising. And truck makers in general have paid less attention to their core customer as they tried to diversify by finding new types of buyers, he said.

Now, however, Silverado is returning to target "the folks that have always bought pickups," said Mr. Perry.

The spot features everyman archetypes and is set to an original song, "Strong," written for Chevrolet by Nashville-born Grammy-nominated musician Will Hoge. The anthem includes lyrics about an American man who gets to work on time, has loved one woman for all his life, and is someone who can be trusted. "Everybody knows he ain't just tough, he's strong," Mr. Hoge sings. The company's new tagline, "Find new roads," appears in the spot as well.

The first commercial was created by Chevrolet's global-marketing agency, Commonwealth, even though the agency lost the Silverado creative business to Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett in December. When asked why, Mr. Perry said that Burnett will handle subsequent digital and broadcast creative for the Silverado and that "the [launch] spot was as much about Chevy as it was Silverado."

Parent company General Motors is simultaneously launching the Silverado as well as GMC's counterpart, Sierra. The trucks' rollout was delayed by the company's 2009 bankruptcy, but it's hoping the launches will help stem a slide in market share over the years. GM in 2012 had 35.1% share of the pickup-truck category, down from 40.4% in 2001, according to Automotive News DataCenter.

Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Edmunds, said that prior to the recession, truck sales were soaring because "people were just buying them whether they needed them or not...they were cool." As the recession hit, sales dropped. Ms. Krebs noted an improvement in the market recently, however, and estimates that truck sales will hit the 2 million mark this year for the first time since 2007.

The Silverado campaign is launching in Texas, where GM says one in six pickup trucks are bought. Chevy will roll the campaign out nationally July 15 during the Chevrolet Home Run Derby on ESPN.

That Chevy is choosing to launch this campaign with a focus on Texas comes as no surprise. "The truck market in Texas is hugely important for the automakers," said Kristen Andersson, analyst for Texas is the biggest market for large trucks -- the most popular car in the state -- by a long shot. In 2013, Texas accounted for 17% of large truck registrations, nearly three times larger than the next largest market, California, according to

Texans' preference for large trucks isn't that different from the national average, though Ford and Toyota trucks get a noticeably higher proportion of buyers, while GM products seem to be less favored in Texas, according to Edmunds analysis of Polk data.

Aside from the TV spot, Chevy will run digital, print and out-of-home advertising for Silverado, and put an emphasis on experiential marketing, bringing the Silverado to events such as Nascar events and baseball games. "We want people to touch, feel and experience this new Silverado," said Mr. Perry.

Silverado is arguably one of GM's most important vehicles. The Silverado and Sierra generated two-thirds of GM's profits in 2012, according to an Automotive News story that quoted Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas. Ford's competitor, the F-150 is the best-selling car in the pickup truck category, and accounted for 90% of Ford's profits in 2012.

In 2012, the company spent about $957 million on U.S. measured media for Chevrolet, with $297 million, or 31.1% of that, dedicated to Silverado, according to Ad Age DataCenter analysis of Kantar Media data.

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