By on October 26, 2010

I had the pleasure of spending part of a dinner at last week’s Volt press launch chatting with GM’s marketing honcho Joel Ewanick, better known for his work as “marketer of the year” at Hyundai. Ewanick’s a confident, engaging guy, and when the “Don’t Call It Chevy” mini-embroglio came up over desert, his eyes took on a mischievous twinkle. As other GM communications and PR staff recounted their stories of the 24-hour madness that followed the release of a memo which indicated that the term “Chevy” was no longer a welcome marketing feature, it became clear that neither Ewanick nor any of his staff had any regrets about accidentally launching a full-blown public debate over the value of the term Chevy. The very debate, it seems, reconnected the brand that had tried everything marketing-wise with its hidden core: consumers care enough about Chevrolet to have a popular and affectionate nickname for it. And what started as an unnecessary PR blunder seems to have given birth to Chevrolet’s newest marketing tagline: Chevy Runs Deep. Or, as Chevy’s ad man Jeff Goodby puts it

It’s such a deep, wide, connected brand in America. All things being equal, Americans want to buy Chevys. And we have to put them in that position

Certainly there seems to be some evidence of this. As much as marketers of GM’s recent past complained about the so-called “perception gap,” the reality is that, given the quality of its products, Chevrolet was lucky to maintain the volume it did over the preceding decades. Chevy’s long history in the US market has allowed the brand’s marketing to weave itself into the cultural fabric of America, giving it an advantage that is certainly worth more than any one product or feature.

Not that Ewanick discounts the importance of product either. When asked about Hyundai’s success in the US, he credits CEO Chung Mong-Koo for spending 24 years in customer service before becoming head of the company, and challenging his firm to deliver quality that is on par with the best in the business. “It all comes down to product,” Ewanick said, sounding more like an engineer than a marketer. “Who’d have thunk it?”

But, as with any idea, 90 percent of getting “Chevy Runs Deep” will be in the execution. After all, a number of commentators are already lining up to declare “Chevy Runs Deep” dead on arrival. Jalopnik‘s Justin Hyde figures the line doesn’t actually say anything about the brand, and that it “sounds less like a pitch and more like a diagnosis from a dermatologist.” MLive’s Patrick Wattrick reckons that

Drawing on Chevy’s history, however iconic, to sell the brand runs counter to GM’s recent “may the best car win” ethic. It’s hard to imagine potential Cruze buyers responding to a slogan that appeals to crotchety oldsters’ nostalgia for the ’57 Chevy they never owned.

Newsweek’s Mickey Kaus follows a similar line of criticism, arguing that the line

appears to be yet another attempt to sell you patriotic “heritage”—in other words, to get you to buy an American car because American cars used to be really good and everybody drove them!

But one thing is clear: “Chevy Runs Deep” is both more honest and more convincing than its predecessor “Excellence For Everyone,” ousted Marketing Boss Susan Docherty’s attempt to refocus Chevrolet marketing on products. And though it’s easy for auto enthusiasts to argue that a brand should be focused solely on its products, this goes against the whole point of branding. Obviously, good products are a precursor to success, but a brand tagline should be about adding emotional appeal on top of what the vehicle itself offers. Ewanick and Goodby insist that the tagline won’t be in every ad (for example, the Volt will feature the “more car than electric” tag), and that it won’t shift the focus entirely away from product-oriented advertising like the recent crop of Cruze commercials.

Chevrolet’s marketing has been all over the place since “American Revolution” ran out of steam (well before it was discontinued, it must be said), and we haven’t seen a convincing stab at the effort since GM emerged from bankruptcy. Product-based taglines like “Excellence For Everyone” and “May The Best Car Win” simply didn’t give consumers a real reason to think about Chevrolet as anything other than an underdog. More importantly, they were premature in the sense that they debuted while Chevrolet still had a number of deeply uncompetitive products like the Cobalt, Aveo, Impala and Colorado. Until Chevrolet has a lineup without a single weak product, saying “look at our products” simply isn’t good enough.

“Chevy Runs Deep” is far from perfect, but it expresses the heritage of loyalty to Chevrolet in contemporary terms. It’s also the product of learning from mistakes, a sure sign that Ewanick’s arrival has shaken things up at Chevy’s marketing operation. Though we don’t see “Runs Deep” turning into the next “Heartbeat of America” or “Like a Rock,” it’s a fairly solid effort for a brand that still has a long ways to go.

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43 Comments on ““Chevy Runs Deep”… But Does It?...”

  • avatar

    And the Volt runs silent.

    Run Silent, Run Deep

    Will Clark Gable be coming back from the grave as a spokesperson?

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    “Chevy Runs Deep.”  Yes it does but for me the Chevy (excluding all the rest of GM) that runs deep is a small block Chevy purring away under the hood like in the caption.  (Although to me it was more of the throaty rumble of a sleeping beast.)  Even a 305 resting under the hood of a smog choked mid 80s Caprice Classic was music too my ears.  Turn off all the accessories, let her idle, step out and just listen…. sigh.
    The last time I checked if I wanted to drive a V8 Chevy car (I despise SUVs) I needed to buy an Impala SS (discontinued in 2009 model year.)  It may have been wrong wheel drive but at least it was SBC powered.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah…I had a 66 Parisienne with a 283 [Canadian car eh] my machanic would spend an hour tuning it, and dammit she would purrrr.

    • 0 avatar

      The last time I checked if I wanted to drive a V8 Chevy car (I despise SUVs) I needed to buy an Impala SS (discontinued in 2009 model year.)
      There is still the Corvette and Camaro. I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for the return of mainstream V8 cars though.  Or even V6/I6 ones.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @ajla, good point but I would like to be able to take a family vacation in it.
      @mikey, my dad’s second car was a 1962 “bubble window” Bel Air with a 283 and Powerglide.  Still talks about it.

    • 0 avatar

      Doggone it, Dan, there you go again, tugging at the deep-seated emotions! You really know how to hurt a guy, don’t you?

      When I owned my ’64 as shown in my avatar, after I had the 283 rebuilt with the substitution of a 327/350 hp cam and dual exhausts, I used to cruise around my air force base with the radio off listening to the very sweet throbbing of the engine at 25 mph. Sweeter music than was on the radio in 1972! Even tho’ it was a 2 bbl Powerglide, that thing came to life from 50 mph up and really began to wail a pretty tune!

      It’s memories like that many of us once experienced back when Chevy truly meant something. That’s also what set Ford and Chrysler apart, too. The big three had it and lost it to a variety of factors. While no one can return to the past, it’s still sad that the auto we want to love and embrace in our culture are pretty much indistinguishable from each other, regardless of who’s badge is on them. I believe ubiquitous silver paint and charcoal interiors have something to do with it, too!

      I need to hang my head and go hide for awhile…

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I don’t wish to make you cry but my father’s second car was a 1962 Chevy Impala convertible in light blue with a black vinyl interior, I think it had the same ubiquitous 283/Powerglide combo.  (Now these were cheap cars when the old man bought them, he didn’t graduate high school till 1973!) I still think his pride and joy though was the metallic silver 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass Coupe with the light blue interior.  Believe it had an Olds 350.  Call us what you will younger members of the B&B and members who drive Porsches and BMWs, but THOSE are the cars we want to buy.

    • 0 avatar

      The transmission, body, frame, suspension, brakes, and woodgrain trim it’s attached to may have aged twice as fast, but the timeless 350 LS1 under the expansive hood of my dad’s ’95 Caprice wagon still purrs like a newborn kitten when you put your clog down. The motor could probably do another 200K miles in its sleep; too bad the rest of the car won’t last.

    • 0 avatar

      <<The last time I checked if I wanted to drive a V8 Chevy car (I despise SUVs) I needed to buy an Impala SS (discontinued in 2009 model year.)  It may have been wrong wheel drive but at least it was SBC powered.>>

      Errr, Camaro, Corvette and coming soon the Caprice PPV, which is all but promised to have a civilian version for all offered by 2012 ~ 2013 as the flagship car for Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac.  Sweet Zeta Platform heaven.

    • 0 avatar

      …which is all but promised to have a civilian version for all offered by 2012 ~ 2013 as the flagship car for Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac.  Sweet Zeta Platform heaven.
      That “all but” thing is the big part. GM North America is the biggest bunch of RWD teases ever. They absolutely crushed my soul when the production-ready G8 ST was canceled.
      I’m not going to get my hopes up anymore for a Buick or Chevy Zeta sedan. I’ll believe it when I can buy it.

  • avatar

    To my generation (mid-20s, early 30s), Chevy runs deep with Cavalier and Lumina DNA.  Not a good thing.

    • 0 avatar

      Amen.  If I were Chevy, I wouldn’t make too big a deal about its heritage, given the long string of disasters and mediocrities that eventually culminated in the bail out.  I have fond memories of growing up with Chevies in the 60’s and 70s, but never had the desire to buy one.  Assuming the Cruze and Volt pan out, Chevy needs to emphasize their new-found commitment to quality, design, and engineering.  The heritage angle might work with their truck customers, but it won’t move cars.

    • 0 avatar

      “The heritage angle might work with their truck customers, but it won’t move cars.”

      I would venture a guess as to why: Chrome bumpers, trim, and a long options list that one can personalize their vehicle to death. Simply stated: INDIVIDUALITY!

    • 0 avatar

      I owned several Luminas (including 2 Z34s) and loved them. The only issue I ever had was that the damn EGR went bad on each one (except the Z cars), and it was expensive!
      What sucks about Lumina is that they’re still selling them under the guise of 
      Impala/and former Monte Carlo…

  • avatar

    Nixing the Chevy moniker is the stupidest marketing mistake since “New Coke”. The complete volt-face can only come from getting their asses whipped by virtually everybody and their grandmother. On the other hand, New Coke lead to Coca-Cola re-inventing themselves. Perhaps Chevy can do the same?

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    The constant shuffling of taglines is nauseating.
    LIKE A ROCK will always be the Chevrolet tagline I remember. That should be made permanent.

  • avatar

    You mean Daewoo runs deep.

  • avatar

    “You can live in your Chevy when the next batch of jobs are offshored to line the pockets of our corporate masters or Congress, again, increases the number of visas that allow non-citizens to fill your job for less than money than you need to live on”
    “Chevy, your home away from home when your home is lost”

  • avatar

    In 1956, it was possible to buy a 210 business coupe, with a 265, dual four-barrel, solid lifter engine for $2200.00. With a few minor, and legal modifications it would be unbeatable on the drag strip. This is what some of us remember about Chevy.

  • avatar

    “Chevy Runs Deep” . . . . About 6 feet?

  • avatar

    Americans want to buy Chevys

    There’s no way that’s true no matter how many times you say it. Chevy would like it to be true and will spend large amounts of money to convince you its true but its just false.  Its cheery, well-dressed patriotic chevy propoganda, dont belive it.

  • avatar

    Chevy Runs Deep?  More like “Chevy’s in Deep Sh*t” if this is the best they can come up with.

    My initial thought is ‘worst tagline ever’, but agreed that a miraculous execution could take some of the stink off…and assuming the ads aren’t set in a proctologist’s office, it’s obvious they’re going for a heritage/fond memories pitch…
    Mercedes showed them all how to do nostalgia with their sepia-toned “Falling in love again” ads of several years back, those were truly masterfully done…maybe Chevy can show some soft-focus images of a Vega blowing it’s engine, or the excitment of catching the neighbors giving envious glances at your family’s new Lumina, or do a morphing slideshow progression of the Monte Carlo from an elegant personal-luxury coupe to a cartoonish Nascar joke…

    I kid…I kid…seriously, I think Chevy should focus at least as much on convincing today’s consumers that Chevy has relevant products to compete in TODAY’S marketplace, as it does mining images of the past for former “glories”.

  • avatar

    Chevy does run deep…but it’s not uncommon for someone to have a classic Chevy in the garage, and a Honda or Toyota as the daily driver. Or a Tahoe parked next to an Accord in the driveway.

    An appreciation of classic Chevys, or even Chevy trucks or SUVs, doesn’t necessarily translate into an appreciate of the Impala, Malibu, Cruze or Aveo. Chevy has lots of work to do here.

  • avatar

    I hate to double post, but my edit function is not working right.  It strikes me that the Chevrolet boys need a kick in the head.  Chevy has been outsold by Ford for what, 15 or 20 years?  Honda and Toyota have been cleaning Chevrolet’s clock in individual models for years.  These guys are advertising like they are still number 1.   This would have been a great slogan in 1979.  But it is a rotten slogan for someone well down in the pack and trying to break out.

  • avatar

    As jpcavanaugh already did a cemetery joke… how “deep” does Chevy want its customers to go back into their memories for a happy story?

    “Remember when your Dad told you fond stories of his father’s 1957 Bel Air… while you both waited in the Service Department lounge for your S-Blazer’s third transmission to be installed?

    “Remember that first date with that special someone, in your 1975 Vega? Remember how she helped you push it into your driveway? Remember how the rusted rear bumper fell off and broke her foot?

    “Remember the 1990 Lumina? Wait… please don’t.

    “Remember the Malibu you rented last year in Atlanta? I mean, it was pretty decent, right?

    “Chevy runs deep!”

  • avatar

    Typical old GM. They put as much effort into [usually bad] marketing as they do designing the products.

  • avatar

    The Corvette has usually been a very competitive product.  The new Camaro is a commendable offering a makes a very compelling statement as well… but sports cars are easy to get people excited about.  Offer a car we can get passionate about and use everyday.  Give us the upcoming Caprice in civilian trim.   Then we’ll revisit Chevy ‘running deep’ and all that.

  • avatar

    10 years into a new century and GM still doesn’t have a clue what to do with Chevy as a brand name.
    Playing the fiddle to a long gone era when Chevys dominated each market segment won’t save this brand.  Is there a plan to bring out the best car in each segment versus the me too approach?
    Marketing hocus pocus and building a vehicle that’s good enough to be an entry in every segment won’t be enough to grow the brand.

  • avatar

    Yesterday I photographed an absolutely gorgeous, cherry, red ’64 Chevelle El Camino. Last week I got a ’65 Impala. In those days, I loved Chevy, and GM was the One True Car Company as far as I was concerned. I still get those feelings when looking at those cars.
    But by marketing standards I’m old, and I’m Honda now, and they need to get people who never knew the three circular tail lights, and who probably don’t care. My guess is that the debate over the name, Chevy, wasn’t half as meaningful to their target audience as it was to me, because I knew Chevies. I loved Chevies. And these things they build today, these just aren’t Chevies (with apologies to Lloyd Bentsen).
    Still, as the former Boston mayor James Michael Curley said (probably from jail, where he served some of his time as mayor), he didn’t care what people said about him as long as they kept talking about him, or something to that effect.

  • avatar

    Given GM’s steady slide in market share since 1960, I’d say that Chevy only runs about 40% as deep as it used to.

  • avatar

    “Chevy runs deep?”….how about “Chevy’s in Deep XXXX?”  Somewhere I heard the famous
    comment that nostalgia was looking at the past wearing rose colored glasses and blinders and
    simply seeing what you want to see, ignoring everything else.
    Trying to stir up nostalgia of 50 years ago does not strike me as a viable ad campaign especially when you consider the Chevrolets of the last 40 years were prime examples of mediocrity and failure.  My memory of Chevrolet is a POS Vega, enough said.

  • avatar

    Successful in that it ties in Chevrolet’s biggest strength – our collective sense of what it once was, and what it may become again.
    Total failure in that upon hearing the tagline, I did remember all of the great products they used to have through the rose-colored glasses of memory.  This does not put the current crop in a particularly great light, even if they are objectively all improvements over the past.
    With the right commercials emphasizing how the GOOD parts of the past products are embodied in the current products, I can see this working.  We’ll see how it gets implemented.  Although the release of the line without any context may kill the entire campaign before it gets off the ground.

  • avatar

    This slogan’s success will ABSOLUTELY depend on its execution.
    As to whether Chevy runs deep in American culture…watch any music videos lately…or ever? Genre really doesn’t matter, whether it’s Eric Clapton getting off on ’57 Chevies in “I’ve Got A Rock & Roll Heart” or Nelly’s “black SS with navigation” in “E.I.” Have you heard “Mud On The Tires” by Brad Paisley? And what did Don McLean drive to the levee in “American Pie”??
    Back in the day I had a Vega. Also an X-car and a J-car. So I’ve got my stories of regret. I also can regale you about my first ’57 Chevy, or a gaggle of S-10s including Blazers and the Caprice that I ran to 317,000 miles.
    Back in 1954, Zora-Arkus Duntov penned a memo to GM brass suggesting Chevrolet make it easy for hot rodders to modify the coming Small Block V8, since at that time the hot rodding magazines were “full of Fords”. While it’s not the Bible or the US Constitution…that memo is probably one of the most important in the history of General Motors. And the positive equity Chevrolet built on value for the dollar back in those days – thru 1970, for sure – has kept the brand alive…through decades of gaffes, missteps and just plain junk…with just enough hits to save it from extinction, to this day.
    So does Chevy run deep?
    If it didn’t, the marque would be long gone, and have taken GM out with it.

  • avatar

    How about “Chevy–It’s Gettin’ Deep” with all the BS GM’s been shoveling.  Like the all-electric Volt that is…a hybrid.  Ooooh, big deal.


  • avatar

    Americans want to buy anything not made in America sadly enough. The drones think it is “cool” to be anti American. Simply aftermath from Vietnam era hippie potheads imo.

    • 0 avatar

      Vietnam?  Well, that ended for the US in 1975, and I’d say a generation of bad Big 3 cars since then has cemented an arm’s length relationship between the American consumer and the products from GM and Chrysler.  Ford, on the other hand, is earning their reputation back.

      It’s not “cool” to go broke supporting the home team.

      And, does “made in America” mean an Ontario-built Ford, or an Alabama-built Hyundai?  Or is “made in America” code for union-built, which a Korean Hyundai also is?

      I hope your shoes and computer are Made in USA.

    • 0 avatar

      Vietnam-era hippie potheads?   Yeah, come on over here to E. TN. and find the driver to that old camo-painted Toyota pickup with the 2nd Amendment etched into the rear window, and call them a hippy pothead.  I’ll sell tickets, we’ll clean up.   Thanks for the chuckles.

  • avatar

    “Chevy runs deep”.  It’s such a deep, wide, connected brand in America. All things being equal, Americans want to buy Chevys. And we have to put them in that position.
    More like a clunky reprise of “Heartbeat of America” and “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet”.(-The commercial tied for first place in Car and Driver’s January 2005 Ten Best Car Commercials and is widely considered to have changed car commercials and automotive branding forever.)
    Deja vu all over again.

  • avatar

    I love the tagline! Then again, I love all GM taglines.
    Chevy runs deep … discounts.  They’re in deep doo-doo, running second now to Ford, and losing out only to the Japanese due to currency fluctuations (which hurts the Japanese’ ability to build competitive product at price points, not only in the export markets but also in the home market) and because every street corner in America, even after the dealer cuts, is still 4-deep with Chevy dealers, otherwise Hyundai would be more deeply entrenched in the US market.  Maybe they should run a little more deeply with discounts, and not play GM’s game of trying to screw over the consumer.  The more they try to artificially enhance transaction prices, the more likely consumers are going to see where they can find deep value in Hondas and Hyundais.
    Chevy ran deep into the ground and is a relic of the 20th century.
    Maybe they could build a pink Caprice for Susan Docherty to drive as a retirement present, after she runs most deeply into the dirt? (Dunno why still is still in the GM empire, what’s left of it, although that place runs through deep darkness, which allows space for those who run deep.)
    Much better than ‘Excellence for Everyone,’ but still not as good as ‘Not That Old Fart’s Oldsmobile.’

  • avatar

    All the GM haters are coming out of their holes.  You think your precious little Toyota’s “moving forward” campaign is any better?  Especially in the light of the unintended acceleration fiasco.

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