Chevy Runs Deep into Marketing Trouble

By Larry Teren

General Motors tolerance for being patient for the success of Chevy marketing campaigns does not run deep. Earlier this week, General Motors fired its chief marketing person, Joel Ewanick, for failing “to meet the expectations the company has of its employees.”

Mr. Ewanick a year or so ago came up with the advertising slogan “Chevy Runs Deep”. Apparently consumers did not catch on to its ambiguous meaning. This reminds me of the time many years ago when General Motors could not understand why the Chevy Nova was not selling in Mexico and other parts south of the border. That is, until it took for a Spanish speaking person to explain to a General Motors corporate honcho that nova, or “no va” in Spanish means “doesn’t come or go”. The Mexicans thought it was a joke to own a Chevy Nova, a car that doesn’t go. I’m guessing that today a lot of truck owners have an image of a truck not being able to get out of a muddy or snowy pile while the tires dig deeper into the mire.    

Another faux pas Ewanick perpertrated was deciding to withdraw a ten million dollars commitment to advertise on Facebook. He questioned its effectiveness. He also declined to advertise on the next Super Bowl broadcast. I’m no expert in understanding if this was a wise move or a cost-cutting effort that was penny wise, but pound foolish.

On the one hand, hundreds of millions of people worldwide connect onto Facebook on a daily basis. I’d take a thousandth of that type of traffic to this blog site. The question is whether visitors ignore the display ads and/or the click through invitations.

Wait- I just went to Facebook and I don’t see any display ads. So, I’m not sure what GM initially had in mind with promoting cars on Facebook. As for the Superbowl, can anyone right now six months after the fact tell me what commercials are shown for cars? I guess smarter minds understand the impact of a thirty second ad that will be remembered for at best a month.

Through the first six months of this year, General Motors has sold a little more than 1.3 million vehicles in the U.S., a 4% gain while other automakers have grown sales a combined 15%. General Motor’s share of the U.S. Market fell to 18.1% during this time period from 19.9% during the same period last year. You can argue that last year’s Superbowl commercial didn’t make a difference anyway or maybe the RUN DEEP campaign did not strike an accord with potential customers.

My simple take is this: Somebody at General Motors forgot that we were still in the Great Recession that started a couple of years ago. My first car bought in 1975 was a 1965 Chevrolet Impala. Even though it was pretty much banged up, I was proud to own a model that had a reputation for being a status symbol to middle class Americans. Our family always considered Chevrolet the niche automobile. At one time, dad owned a black 1959 Chevrolet Biscayne with tail fins. It was like a tank on wheels. The last brand new car he purchased was a gold 1970 Chevy.

My current vehicle of transporation is a ten year old Chevy Cavalier. I got news for you. If I can keep this tinder box going, it is going to serve my driving needs regardless of its comfortability. Who can afford to buy what now costs ups to $20,000? It used to be that you would take out a loan for three or four or five years and hold on to the car for another year or two. This way you would build up some equity in savings to buy another new car. Now, since most people cannot afford this luxury, the car manufacturers have suckered us into leasing a car for a few years. There is no owner’s equity and the car reverts back to the dealer. Unless, of course, you negotiate an option to buy the car at a price more favorable to the dealer.

Getting back to Mr. Ewanick, another reason that has been speculated for his dismissal has to do with a deal he cut with the Manchester United British soccer team. Manchester United is like the New York Yankees in the United States. It is very popular and iconic to all of Europe. Apparently, despite all the money he gave Manchester United for endorsement tie-ins for the next five years, he forgot one tiny little request. That was to put the name Chevrolet across Manchester United uniform jerseys. This type of advertising is very common overseas. I believe on the day of Mr. Ewanick’s dismissal, General Motors and Manchester United announced that Chevrolet will be the club’s shirt sponsor beginning with the 2014/2015 season.

I dont know Joe Ewanick personally, have never met him and therefore have no axe to grind or flowers of sympathy to send. In a Forbes.com article penned by Dale Buss, he writes that Ewanick was known for going into tirades, kicking over furniture and breaking glass to make a point. Look, everybody can have a bad year. Even GM.

Facebook has its own corporate misery. Their stock shares are hovering at a 30 percent drop from their IPO value of a few months ago. It may possibly get worse because the period that all the employees vested with stock ownership at the IPO cannot unload their stock is about over. This will potentially flood the market causing the stock price to go even lower. There is talk that as an antidote Facebook will release more corporate owned stock at the same time to scare off employees from selling at a low price.

Yahoo, the granddaddy of Internet portals, recently fired their own CEO and replaced him with a former Google vice president who also happens to be a female and pregnant. (The two go hand in hand, right?)

Supervalu, the owner of many grocery store chains around the country, has just now replaced its third CEO in three years. The last one was a corporate executive previously at Walmart. Ironically, the new CEO promises to aggressively cut food prices to be able to compete with Walmart and other deep-discount stores now selling groceries.

I guess being the CEO of a big corporation can be a temporary job but the pay is good and I’ll take my chances. Any offers? C’mon, anybody with pockets that run deep?

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