The advertising world briefly united in howls of laughter a couple weeks ago when two marketing and sales VPs at General Motors came up with the brain-wave of forbidding the word "Chevy" when talking about Chevrolets. (Read about it here in the New York Times.)
First, as a 61% shareholder in GM, I want those two VPs fired in a special ceremony that includes driving them away from company property in a Honda. Second, I want to join everyone else in asking, WTF?
It doesn't answer the question, but here's part of the memo announcing the plan, which you can read in full in the New York Times Wheels automotive blog:
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.... The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer. This is a big opportunity for us moving forward.... One way to achieve this is with the use of Chevrolet vs. Chevy. We'd ask that whether you're talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward.
We have a proud heritage behind us and a fantastic future ahead of us ... speaking to the success of this brand in one consistent manner will ensure Chevrolet becomes even more prominent and recognizable than it already is.
(Note that the memo contains the phrase moving forward, which is required by all VPs everywhere as a special code meaning "I'm a moron, and if you didn't already think so, this memo will confirm it for you.")
Within hours, the geniuses at GM started backpedalling. They claimed the memo was poorly worded, and it didn't at all mean what it seemed to say. So all those songs about Chevys won't have to be re-written.
How does all this matter to the nonprofit world? In just one way: We are suckers for branding and marketing gurus form the commercial world. I'll bet virtually any nonprofit who could afford them would hire either of the Chevy geniuses in a heartbeat ...
And then they would proceed to put their brains to work doing to their nonprofit employer what they tried to do to Chevy (I mean Chevrolet).
Because that's what they do.
They do it in their own world They'll do it even worse in ours, as they never quite seem to grasp that we aren't selling junk, but motivating people to give.
So if your organization hires a hot-shot commercial branding or marketing expert, drive your Chevy to the levee! Because you are in for a couple of very rough years while their errors and sloppy thinking slosh through your marketing and fundraising.