GM has had a 14-year journey in India. The auto major launched Chevrolet in India in February 2003, and since then has introduced cars across the spectrum, which include Spark, Beat, and Captiva, among others. Today, Chevrolet claims to be the country’s fastest-growing vehicle nameplate and also India’s fifth-largest car maker.
Client: General Motors
Past and Current Agency: Earlier McCann Erickson, Enterprise Nexus and currently, the portfolio is split between two agencies – Leo Burnett and Wieden+Kennedy for creative. Media is handled by Madison, while the digital mandate rests with Quasar. CRM is handled entirely by Ogilvy One.
GMIP (General Motors India Pvt Ltd) was formed in 1994 as a joint venture between Hindustan Motors and General Motors in a 50-50 partnership to produce and sell Opel branded vehicles. GM bought out Hindustan Motors’ interest in the JV 1999. GMIPL continued to produce Opel cars at its Halol facility till 2003, when it started the production of Chevrolet vehicles at that location.
In 2000, GMIPL moved its headquarters to Gurgaon. Three years later, in 2003, the company opened its technical center operations in Bangalore, which included R&D and vehicle engineering activities. GMIPL began construction of a second vehicle assembly plant at Talagaon in 2006, which began the production of Chevrolet vehicles in September 2008. In late 2009, General Motors announced that it would put its India operation into a 50-50 venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation of China, which is the partner of GM’s main venture in China. Chevrolet Optra (launched 2003), Chevrolet Tavera (launched 2004), Chevrolet Aveo (launched 2006), Chevrolet Aveo U-VA (launched 2006), Chevrolet Spark (launched 2007), Chevrolet Captiva (launched 2008), Chevrolet Cruze (launched 2009), and then Chevrolet Beat (launched 2010).
Gaurav Gupta, Business Head, Commercial Vehicle Operations and Strategic Business Development, General Motors, elaborated, “There is a shift of the branded house and the focus on Chevrolet. As we expanded our portfolio in the country, we made a very conscious move to approach the ‘Branded House’ approach over the ‘House of Brands’. We were sure that we wanted Chevrolet first to be a brand of choice for consumers. In fact, we have specifically designed industry first initiatives like ‘Chevrolet Promise’ and communicated them through impact campaigns. This is not to say that sub-brands do not get their due, some of our advertising on specific brands has been top rated on consumer likeability, but the focus at large will remain Chevrolet and the bow-tie brand mark will have precedence and prominence across creative.”
He added, “The focus on Chevrolet’s cost of ownership and its messaging has been a long term strategy, which was a very big perceptual barrier to the entry into the brand. The ball was set rolling with the Chevrolet promise of ‘Lowest Cost of Maintenance’. We ran this for a year, and then to add value, included this in the cost of the car itself, which went free to the end customer for a period of three years/ 45,000 km. This was an industry first initiative and has made a lasting impact towards addressing the COO issue on Chevrolet. Specific campaigns over a period of time, which we leveraged on, had high impact media properties like IPL 2009 plus on ground efforts at front end of the business, which have seeded the message and yielded great results.”
Speaking on Spark campaign, Gupta said, “‘Spark Chutki’ has been one of the most endearing campaigns and has really helped create an emotional bond with our consumers, while positively impacting the brand’s consideration. From the launch phase, where the car was positioned as a cheeky prankster with the blinking headlight to where we are today talking about the ‘ownership experience’ of the Spark, through an endearing character ‘Chutki’, has further seal the bond with the consumers. Primary focus for this campaign was to connect with the first car buyer while addressing rational expectations from their first car. Key was to ensure that we do not dilute aspiration and desirability for the brand, which is what has taken us from just another small car to the car delivering a smile through every drive.”
Build faith & new launches
Gupa further said, “The year 2009 was very crucial for us as we had to reaffirm our commitment and position in the India market owing to the bankruptcy news from North America, the overall market sentiment, plus the impending new launches. The counter to bankruptcy was a pre-planned campaign – ‘There for you, There for India’ – with heavy skew on print and digital. With this campaign, we were able to regain or correct any wrong notions that consumers might have had about Chevrolet and its commitment to the Indian market. We established ourselves as a long standing player with investment and time-bound future launches.”
“This laid the foundation going forward to the launch of our 300 series range. The mandate was to strengthen the marquee brand’s equity and introduce the new face of Chevrolet with its new range of products – 300 series. We strategically introduced our range of the 300 series products – Beat and Cruze – as the ‘All new Chevrolets’, which had a very positive rub-off on the overall brand imagery and metric. Consequently, our consideration scores have moved from 17 per cent in Q1 2009 to 23 per cent as of date,” he added.
Build activity in new media
With increasing skew towards targeting the youth segment, specifically so with new age media like digital and the role this medium is playing in the car buying process, Chevrolet has seen its spends growing into double digits vis-a-vis less than 1 per cent in 2007. The brand is evolving in all spheres of digital media to search, social media and banner advertising. “We feel digital should play a pivotal role in our plans, considering this is an extremely versatile medium and depending on the need works as a great awareness platform as well as a multiplier medium,” Gupta said.
KV Sridhar, NCD, Leo Burnett India, commented, “When Chevrolet was launched, not much advertising was done for Optra. When they launched Optra, they wanted to connect with the Indian consumer. The time was to bring in an emotional bond with the consumers. Spark came as a younger generation car. It was the best-selling car in our portfolio and was really easy to maintain. Tavera connected the connected masses with cricket. Aveo connected with Bollywood. Captiva and Beat have given a new boost to the glamorous technology leader. Great initiatives have been taken by the car indeed.”
According to Mohit Dhar Jayal, MD, W+K Delhi, “Chevy advertising reflects the design philosophy of Chevy’s product line-up. For example, campaigns for the Cruze and Beat echo the bold, stylish and aggressive character of these two models, while Spark communications focus on ease of ownership and excellent value-for-money.”
He further said, “We’ve consciously stayed away from the conventions and clichés of automotive advertising – no father and son going for a drive, no happy families, no fake chrome-and-glass dream world – just 100 per cent Chevy.”
Asheesh Sethi, President, Noshe Group, pointed out, “Chevrolet’s advertising has certainly become more exciting and trendy over the years. It has become young and happening, which is actually doing a lot of good work to break the staid and ‘heavy-duty’ image of GM. The vibrant communication for Beat and Cruze is definitely hitting the TG with ‘great lifestyle options’, rather than a mere ‘over-harped ‘utility and size’ strategy adopted by most competitors.”