Brand Awareness? It’s Elementary: Part I

By Charles Krome

(This column is dedicated to Ms. Y and her wonderful third-grade class. Thanks!)

Your intrepid correspondent was out in the field yesterday, conducting some hard-hitting research on a topic that’s near and dear to the imaginary hearts of automakers everywhere: Brand awareness among elementary school students.

Here’s the deal: Two of my kids’ teachers were kind enough to let me stop by for a visit, during which I passed out a single, one-question survey asking “What is your favorite car?” The students then filled in the blanks, and the results were no less than fascinating. Here are the answers and number of “votes” per each answer for the third graders; I’ll post the results for the fifth graders in the near future.

  • Ford Mustang (including Mustang GT): 4
  • Ferrari: 3
  • Van: 3
  • Ford Flex: 2
  • Jeep: 2
  • Convertible: 2
  • Ford Fusion: 1
  • 2008 Lincoln Navigator: 1
  • 2005 Ford GT: 1
  • A Limo: 1
  • Monster Truck: 1
  • Truck: 1
  • Chrysler Town & Country: 1 (The student actually wrote “Chrysler Stow-n-Go.”)
  • Chevy: 1
  • Honda: 1
  • MAZDA2: 1
  • MAZDA5: 1
  • Maserati: 1
  • Corvette: 1
  • VW New Beetle: 1 (The student actually wrote “VW Bug.”)

Total: 30

(There were “only” 29 students in my kid’s class—don’t get me started on the fact that my school district is laying off teachers at the same time it’s giving our school superintendent a $50,000-a-year raise—but one kid couldn’t decide between a Ferrari and a Corvette, a decision I have difficulty with as well.)

Now, a couple of particularly interesting things stand out to me. First off, the Blue Oval took home a total of nine votes, with no other automaker scoring more than three. I live in the metro Detroit area, so it doesn’t surprise me that a domestic automaker leads the way, but I’m a bit surprised at the turn-out for GM and the Chrysler Group. It’s especially surprising that the Mustang was picked by four students and its arch-rival, the Camaro, wasn’t mentioned at all—a situation all the odder when you consider the Chevy earned five votes from the fifth graders.

Getting back to Chrysler, it’s also worth noting the student who remembered the name of the company’s innovative seating system ahead of the moniker for the vehicle itself. That’s some strong marketing and shows just how big of a shadow Chrysler still casts in the minivan segment despite all of its recent troubles.

Notable as well are the votes for generic vehicles styles, like “van” and “convertible.” Here, I believe we’re seeing a reflection of how far the automotive culture doesn’t penetrate into children’s lives. In contrast to these students, none of the fifth graders, roughly two years older, went this route with their answers.

Finally, I debated a bit with myself over whether the entry for the “2005 Ford GT” might actually have been another mark in the Mustang’s column; I mean, how many kids are even aware of the Blue Oval’s recent supercar? But then one of the fifth graders chose the SSC Ultimate Aero as his favorite, and I realized I was just dealing with some serious gearheads!

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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1 Comment

  1. What is surprising (or perhaps not so) is that “green” or energy efficient cars and trucks aren’t at the top of the 5th graders’ list.

    Don’t they teach ecology in schools these days?

    Nissan, Mitsubishi and GM need to consider some serious product placement of LEAFs, i-MiEVs and Volts in video games and feature films.

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