Leaked GM Memo Proposes Eliminating “Chevy” Nickname for Chevrolet

Say hello to GM’s version of New Coke.

By Chris Haak

The New York Times received a copy of an internal GM memo, signed by Alan Batey, vice president for Chevrolet sales and service, and Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s vice president for marketing, that asked Chevrolet employees at GM’s Detroit headquarters to cease referring to Chevrolet as “Chevy” in memos, communications with dealers, speaking with friends and family – basically every opportunity.

The rationale provided in the memo, which unfortunately was not posted in its entirity on the Times’ website, was to provide more consistency in the brand.  The memo cited Apple and Coke as examples of companies that have very carefully managed their brands over the years, to great success.

Interestingly, the Coke reference brings many parallels to mind, and none of them are really favorable to Mr. Campbell’s and Mr. Batey’s arguments.

As we all know, Coke is short for Coca-Cola.  Bottles and cans of Coke have both names, but I could not tell you the last time that I’ve ever asked for a Coca-Cola in a restaurant.  Probably never.  “Coke or Pepsi.”  But the Coca-Cola company maintains both names, and seems to do quite well with both.  Perhaps GM should have come up with a non-nicknamed brand name when attempting to make its point.

The reference to New Coke above the byline in this post is there because it reminded me right away of Coke’s decision in the 1980s to alter tradition and force consumers to accept something they were not used to in an attempt to boost sales.

As the Times article says, there are numerous examples of companies moving in the other direction, going from a formal name to a nickname in all branding and discussions – a trend noted by branding experts.  Federal Express is now FedEx, Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC, and even Apple Computer – another example cited in the memo – is now Apple.

Checking the score based on how many Google search results are found shows how much work is ahead of GM if it plans to push ahead with this fool’s errand.

‘chevy’ on chevrolet.com:  5,480 results
‘chevrolet’ on chevrolet.com:  6,790 results
‘chevy’ on gm.com:  1,730 results
‘chevrolet’ on gm.com:  8,550 results
‘chevy’ on the Internet:  36,900,000 results
‘chevrolet’ on the Internet:  97,500,000 results

As you can see, the word ‘Chevy’ is extremely pervasive throughout GM’s own materials, saying nothing for the way the rest of the world uses it.  Now, the genie is out of the bottle already anyway, and no matter what GM tries to do, it will never stop owners and other referring to Chevrolets as “Chevys,” but my advice to GM would be, if you can’t beat them, join them.

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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