On the front page of today's NY Times there is an article about the death of Chevy. Not Chevrolet as a brand, but a leaked memo from GM that directs employees to stop using "Chevy" as the brand shorthand for Chevrolet. Supposedly citing brand consistency as the key reason for the move, the article notes that the brand is moving counter to a trend for brands to be more casual in their names, from Federal Express being FedEx to Coca-Cola being Coke. Yet the brand still heavily uses the Chevy name across branded sites on the web and is still running keyword marketing against "Chevy" without changing the name.
More interesting is that the leaked memo has gotten the brand on the front page of the NY Times and has already awakened the emotions in consumers who have a connection to the brand through perhaps owning one in the past or to some of the pop culture references to the brand through songs such as American Pie. So, to recap – the memo that tells employees not to call the brand "Chevy" gets big media attention, focuses coverage on how much of an American icon the brand is and stirs up latent emotional connections among consumers to the brand … and this is a bad thing?
My guess is that pretty soon we'll see another "leaked" memo from the brand bowing to "consumer passion" and embracing the Chevy name as shorthand for Chevrolet once again. As a campaign, it's a fairly brilliant idea – denounce an iconic pop culture reference to your brand so that public outcry and media attention will combine to demonstrate the passion that still exists for it. The only question is whether it was intentional or not.
UPDATE 06/11/10 – It looks like this was intentional and GM did turn around on this after all. The Wall Street Journal reports the brand making a U-turn on this internal memo and now giving the OK for people to use the "Chevy" brand abbreviation. Apparently this was indeed an effort to get a spike in buzz around the brand as I guessed … it's just too bad they didn't follow it up with some bigger announcement or anything of significance to take advantage of the attention.