General Motors made a mistake by telling its employees to never use the "Chevy" name again and to refer to the brand only as "Chevrolet."
A nickname is not a bad thing. It's a good thing. People who use a brand's nickname feel closer to the product than those who don't. As a matter of fact, nicknames are one of the most under-utilized aspects of marketing. If at all possible, every company and every brand should have a formal name as well as a nickname. Two names are better than one.
Ad Age versus Advertising Age?
Should Advertising Age change its name to Ad Age just because everybody in the industry uses the nickname? I think not. That would destroy some of the connections industry people feel toward the publication.
Formal names and nicknames are somewhat like "vous" and "tu" in the French language. When meeting someone for the first time, it's common in France to use "vous." After a friendship or working relationship is formed, it would be common for one party to suggest using "tu." When someone uses "Ad Age" instead of "Advertising Age," you know that person is in the ad business or is familiar with it.
Nicknames serve a communication function. They indicate an emotional connection with the brand. Or in the case of a formal name, the lack of one.
The Chevrolet owner who calls his or her car a "Chevy" is communicating some emotional connection with the brand. Hopefully positive from Chevrolet's point of view, but it could also be negative.
Chevrolet is fortunate it has two names. Most automobile brands have only one. Of the six leading automobile brands, only Chevrolet has a nickname. Try to figure out a nickname for the other five.
- Toyota -- Toy?
- Ford -- F?
- Honda -- Hon?
- Nissan -- Nis?
- Dodge -- D?
The original title of a book Laura and I wrote was "The 23 Immutable Laws of Branding." The 23rd law was "the law of nicknames." But we dropped the 23rd law because everybody knows that nicknames are a valuable aspect of a brand.
The nickname killers.
Many companies and many brands are hell-bent on killing their nicknames by substituting them for their formal names.
- Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC.
- British Petroleum is now BP.
- American Association of Retired Persons is now AARP.
- Computer Associates is now CA.
- Federal Express is now FedEx.