2010.06.16 Singing the praises of Chevy versus Chevrolet

Written by David Green.


Yes, it’s once again acceptable to use the nickname “Chevy” when referring to the vehicle brand originally known as “Chevrolet.” The folks at General Motors have apparently regained their senses just two days after an attempt to ban the shorter version from use throughout the company.

A memo sent to Chevrolet employees at the Detroit headquarters of General Motors stated that “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.”

The memo suggested that the way to achieve consistency at Chevrolet was to use the longer name only and drop use of “Chevy.” There’s an even weirder side note—a “Chevy” can was placed in a headquarters hallway with employees expected to deposit a quarter whenever they slipped up and said “Chevy.”

Think about that for a minute. Chevrolet has been around since 1911. I’d bet that there isn’t much confusion in the marketplace as to what brand you’re referring to no matter which version of the name you use.

And, as many were quick to point out, Coke is not the model of brand consistency the General Motors executives were claiming. The soft drink brand uses the formal name of Coca-Cola interchangeably with the short form Coke in their advertising. For GM to use the short nickname of the soft drink as an example as to why the car should be called by its longer name is hilarious, though I’m sure, in retrospect, not to the memo writers.

And who thought it was a wise idea to fine employees who went astray and said “Chevy,” reducing the use of a long-time alternate version of the brand name to the level of the F-word? And no, I’m not talking about “Ford.”

Am I the only one who thinks that one of the government advisors looking over GM and Chrysler’s shoulders these days came up with this idea? Anyone want to bet?

I can see it now. Soon, the people behind the “Smart” car will be demanding that we refer to it as the “Intelligent” car. The only problem there is, hardly anyone ever refers to the car at all except to ask, “What is that tiny thing sitting on the used car lot?”

GM’s memo had barely been sent when it was leaked to the media and the uproar began. Alert reporters noticed that dozens of uses of the banned C-word appeared on Chevrolet’s website. Someone obviously forgot to get their act together before spreading the news of the name banning. Much more coverage of the move focused on popular culture.

Many pointed out that Bob Seger, who lent his music to the marketing of “Chevy” trucks for years, might have to change the words to “Night Moves.” No longer can he pursue adult activities in his 1960 Chevy.

Elton John would also have to rewrite “Crocodile Rock.” Motley Crue and the Beastie Boys also were mentioned as artists who would have to make changes in songs, although I have to admit I don’t recall what songs they might be. I did think of another, however. Steve Earle would no longer have “the hottest little Chevy around” in the opening verse of “Sweet Little ’66.”

I’m sure many of you out there can think of even more “Chevy” references in popular music. Feel free to send them in if you like, but thankfully, our long-revered songs are safe.

It only took two days for the auto giant to change its decision and issue a new memo saying it “in no way” wants to repress use of the name “Chevy.” And all those media references about Don McLean having to change the lyrics to “American Pie” can now stop.

But the more I think about it, maybe General Motors should take whatever amount of money they raised during the short life of the Chevy “swear can” and send it to McLean to help support him while he works on a comeback album.

Can’t you just hear the first single? Something like, “My career has stalled, like an out-of-tune Chevrolet...” Yeah, that’s got platinum album written all over it.

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