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JEFF HURLBERT CAMARO

By Published on .

Chevrolet needed a home run. As the spring of 1993 arrived, the General Motors Corp. division's products were languishing in an automotive market deep in the doldrums.

Enter the Camaro, a muscle car dramatically restyled and brought up to date with safety features like dual airbags and antilock brake systems.

Jeff Hurlbert, 46, who directed the launch as Chevrolet's general marketing manager, knew a product in the fashion-conscious sporty car segment had to be an immediate hit-or an also-ran.

He and other Chevrolet executives made it a priority to introduce the Camaro at an attractive base price of $13,399.

"We came up with the right price point to say, `Hot car, great value,'*" Mr. Hurlbert says.

Chevrolet and agency Lintas Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., fashioned a marketing effort that touted the sleek new model as being as American as rock 'n' roll. TV commercials featured a Jimi Hendrix song, "Fire," while a unusual radio effort used 10 Camaro songs written by up-and-coming artists.

Camaro sales took off. In the first seven months of the 1994 model year, Chevy sold 72,037 Camaros, a 370% increase from the comparable period the year before.

Importantly for GM, the Camaro showed the auto giant had gotten back in touch with customers. From the get-go, Mr. Hurlbert's marketing department was involved in providing designers with consumer input.

"Our research told us we had a real opportunity to gain some import conquests and regain a toehold in California, where people historically would not consider a domestic product," Mr. Hurlbert says.

The psychological boost of having a winner helped propel Chevy sales across the board. Chevrolet brand sales finished up 11.8% for 1993 compared with 1992, and increased another 12.5% in the first four months of 1994 compared with the year before.

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