Here’s a simple question. Why do a “brand ad?” You know, the kind with very little copy, no call to action, no URL…just sort of a “this is us” statement.
The obvious answers, of course, are “to build awareness,” or “to support the other integrated efforts with frequency or broader reach.”
But what happens when that “brand ad” doesn’t hardly mention the brand, and only a certain segment of the population will even understand the headline?
Such was the case recently when this ad appeared the day after the news of Prince’s passing broke.
To borrow a phrase, this ad is insanely great. It’s smart. It’s sexy. It was perfectly timed. There’s no waste there. It appeared as a full page in multiple newspapers, including USA Today and The New York Times.
But there are people that might ask: why bother? It won’t sell any more Corvettes, and not everybody will “get it.”
That’s exactly the point. It’s not meant for everybody. It’s aimed entirely (and only) at people who do get it – in order to say something very purely and very simply.
A couple of things to note about this ad:
1 – It’s brilliantly executed. The derivative use of the lyric from the song is so perfect, and gives this ad a strong emotional overtone. (It also alerts people in the know that Chevy, too, is in the know. Wink, wink.) The 1958 – 2016 tells you it’s a tribute. And have a good look at the art direction – all that black space creates not only a sexy mood, but also an appropriately somber one. Note how the curvaceous rear view of the car creates a gorgeous and vivid topography to anchor the otherwise colorless page.
2 – It’s not self-serving. There’s no logo here. No URL. No Twitter handle. Sure, there’s a Corvette nameplate in the lower right corner, but it’s not retouched or enlarged so you’ll notice it. Neither Chevrolet nor GM used this as a platform to say “hey, look at us! We loved Prince too! Now go buy our shit.” You’ll also note that Chevy used a 1963 body type, with the identifiable split rear window, and NOT the 2016 body type. Instead, they used the space (and the money it cost) to make a genuine statement and to quietly share in the collective sadness along with all the other fans. Too many other brands used this as an opportunity to call attention to themselves, and in some cases, it backfired pretty badly.
My compliments to CMO Tim Mahoney for having the guts to do this ad, and of course, the folks at Commonwealth/McCann for coming up with it.
These days, we place so much emphasis on goal-meeting, sales benchmarks, quarterly returns, and year-on-year improvements. (Especially in the auto industry!) Add to that the relentless testing and measurement protocols now afforded via digital, and we’ve exact-ified ourselves into a dark marketing corner.
And here comes Chevy, the pride of behemoth General Motors, with a small statement that has nothing to do with sales goals, or a dealer group, or a competing nameplate. A simple, elegant statement to honor the passing of a musical legend.
Stop scratching your head. I can see you there, reading this, saying to yourself “yeah, but WHY do an ad that won’t sell any more cars today than yesterday?” Your left brain hurts. You want accountability, returns. You want it to DO something.
But that’s just the thing about brand building. This IS doing something. It’s furthering a sense of alignment. An orientation around the coolness of Prince, and around the collective grief we all share when an icon like this passes away.
If you got your hands on the Corvette brand book, I’d bet the word “cool” appears in there more than a dozen times. Remember, a brand is simply a stand-in for a promise of value. Corvette is about the promise of cool. The promise of sexy. The promise of fast. The promise of classic American indulgence. [Listen to the lyrics of Little Red Corvette, and you’ll see those same themes. Heck, Prince was all those things!] This ad, very simply, synthesizes all those same themes into one elegant execution. And I would argue that this one ad does more to build the brand essence than the last decade of stuff combined.
When “Little Red Corvette” came out in 1982, it probably didn’t sell any cars, either. But it sure built awareness! So, Chevrolet is simply repaying a small favor that was done some 34 years ago.
Good on ya, Chevy.