GM's New Revenue Stream: Charging Staffers Quarters for Saying 'Chevy'

Automaker Tells Employees to Drop Brand Shorthand for Sake of 'Consistency'

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If there's one thing we now know about the work General Motors has Goodby Silverstein & Partners cranking on, it's that the shorthand "Chevy" won't be used in any of the communications. Because it's, you know, easy to get consumers to kick a 100-year-old habit.

Credit: GM
The New York Times got its hands on a memo that GM sent to employees yesterday, which, in the name of consistency for the brand (the automaker's biggest, started in 1911), tells staffers to quit saying "Chevy."

The note wasn't signed by GM's new marketing head/change agent, Joel Ewanick, but by Alan Batey, VP-Chevrolet sales and service, and Jim Campbell, the division's VP-marketing. It said:

"We'd ask that, whether you're talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward. ... When you look at the most recognized brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple, for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding. ... Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer."

Adages is now preparing a return memo to inform GM that Coke is, in fact, shorthand for Coca-Cola.

A GM spokesman told the Times that it was Goodby that influenced the move -- a bit hard to believe considering the agency set up the (quickly yanked-down) site and knows a thing or two about the importance of infusing brands into pop culture, having done campaigns such as "Got Milk?"

The best bit? A postscript to the memo says a plastic can has been placed in the hallway, and "Every time someone uses 'Chevy' rather than Chevrolet," an employee is expected to toss in a quarter.

GM's gonna need a lot of cans to collect all them coins. Its own Twitter page says "Talking Chevy One Tweet at a Time"; it has sponsored links on Google driving folks to the website by calling it "The Official Chevy Site"; and clearly so many people simply type in the URL that it currently redirects to the full brand name.

*GM today put out a statement that said the memo was "poorly worded" and the resulting debate was an example of "how passionately people feel about Chevrolet."

"We love Chevy," the statement said. "In no way are we discouraging customers or fans from using the name. We deeply appreciate the emotional connections that millions of people have for Chevrolet and its products.

"In global markets, we are establishing a significant presence for Chevrolet, and need to move toward a consistent brand name for advertising and marketing purposes. The memo in question was one step in that process."

What do you think of the no-Chevy mandate? Tell us in the comments.

*This post has been updated from a previous version with GM's statement.

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