Case Study Chevy “Like a Roc

Case Study Chevy
“Like a Rock,” the long running business and brand building campaign that aired for 12-years, 1992 – 2004, featuring the music of Bob Seeger, communicated that Chevy trucks were durable and dependable. It celebrated both the truck and its target-customer.

Ten years later Chevy is launching the 2014 Silverado 1500, an all-new version from hood to hitch of Chevrolet’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S. According to Chevrolet it is designed to be the best-engineered and more refined full-size pickup. Its trio of new EcoTec3 engines offers the best fuel economy of any V-8 pickup with class-leading payload and towing capabilities. That’s a lot of truck!

But the Chevy Silverado 1500 is not being launched with traditional product driven truck talk of features, features, features and, perhaps, a few product benefits thrown in but, instead, with emotional imagery of a strongly attractive brand character that badges Silverado owners who are as hardworking, honest and dependable as their truck.

It features an original song “Strong” created by Grammy-nominated recording artist Will Hoge. It’s an anthem that reflects pickup truck drivers and their values – American values. Most of the people who appear in the launch video are real Chevrolet owners, not professional actors.

Chevrolet claims that the Silverado and the people who drive them inspired the lyrics to “Strong”:

Music Plays:
Man sings: He’s a twenty year straight get to work on time
He’s a love one woman for all his life
Everybody knows he ain’t just tough
He’s strong
He’ll pick you up and won’t let you down
Rock solid inside out
Somebody you can trust
Steady as the sun
Ain’t nothing gonna knock him off the road he’s rollin’ on…
Anncr. V.O.: The all-new 2014 Chevy Silverado, Strong for all the roads ahead
Man sings: He’s strong.
Click here

The campaign plays on traditional American values of self-reliance, family, community, hard work and dependability. The campaign, introduced, fittingly, on July 4, aims to let Chevy to take “back the soulfulness of the category.” Similar to the “Like a Rock” campaign, it reflects the values of Chevy Silverado and those of its target-customers.

We can differentiate our brands with any one of the brand positioning strategy elements: target-customer; perceptual competitive framework; benefit (product, customer and/or emotional); reason-why support; and/or brand character. Iconic brands differentiate on more than one element. Chevy Silverado is playing to win with two elements with its “strong” badge. It is differentiating the new Silverado 1500 with both brand character and an aspirational target-customer. The two go hand-in-hand to deliver a more potent punch.

The Silverado approach is not all that different than Harley Davidson. Harley is a brand that boasts a gas tank designed in 1936 among other features many motorcyclists would feel are outdated. Imagine, the last time your product had an innovation dating back to 1936. We’d be screaming for R&D to get to work in support of the brand. Yet, fuel tanks designed in 1936 play to the rebellious, independent spirit of outlaws who “believe in the man upstairs but want to stick to the man down here” badge that serves to attract and unite Harley enthusiasts. Harley is a brand idea born of brand character that badges an aspirational target-customer. Yes, aspirational, since people from all walks of life, including professionals such as doctors, lawyers (okay we’re being generous here), and CEOs count themselves as members of the Harley tribe. They relish being part of an outlaw community riding astride a “hog.”

As the target-customer is aspirational the brand character itself is universal for both Silverado and Harley-Davidson. The brand character applies to women truck buyers as well as to men. Everyone with a mother knows from experience that women are strong, very strong. In fact, Silverado has a spot in their pool featuring a women Silverado owner.

Click the pix.

It is important to note, that brand character is established through more, much more than traditional advertising. Harley-Davidson has its retail establishments and rallies that attract hundreds of thousands of Harley riders, clubs, merchandise, etc., to establish its brand character. Chevy plans to run with digital, print and out of home advertising for Silverado. It will also emphasize experiential marketing, bringing the Silverado to events such as Nascar and baseball games. The goal is to get target-customers to touch, feel and experience this new Silverado. It’s about linking brand character with the target-customer.


1. Differentiate with Brand Character – Brand character is a strategic element of brand positioning. It serves to differentiate brands whose products share common features and benefits. In our “age of sameness” where products work in the same way and do the same things brand character can be the strategic difference in driving customer preference. It encourages customer affiliation with the brand. Don’t confuse it with tone. Tone is merely a facet of, and therefore subordinate to, brand character. Tone, or tonality, is executional in nature and dependent upon the brand, marketing or campaign idea. But brand character reflects the soul of the brand.
2. Be Choiceful in Your Approach to Brand Character – There are basically two approaches to brand character. The first is “badging.” As previously mentioned, it the approach taken by Chevy Silverado and Harley Davidson. It can be an extremely powerful and compelling approach. The second approach is to “reflect the relationship of the brand bundle to the target-customer.” Tylenol is a terrific example of this approach. It’s compound, acetaminophen, coupled with endorsements from medical practitioners and use in hospitals, along with its handling of the 1982 crisis, had made it one of the most trusted brands in the U.S. (at least, to our knowledge, up until the most recent recall due to quality problems in the past few years).
3. Think of Your Brand as a Person – Brand character is about “who” your brand is, as in a person. If your brand were to walk into your home, who is it that you would expect? One of the ways to help define the brand character is to think in concrete versus abstract terms. For example, think of a celebrity or archetype that you believe best reflects your brand character. Then describe the inherent character that the brand shares with the celebrity.
4. Get Beyond Adjectives to Define Brand Character – Not all brands include a brand character statement as part of their brand positioning strategy statement. That’s most unfortunate because as we noted it provides another opportunity to differentiate the brand from products, and competitive brands. Nearly all that do include brand character employ overused, trite and non-differentiating adjectives such as “caring,” “authority,” “trustworthy,” and “modern,” or synonyms of these. These are worthless. Instead create a narrative. For example, “Tylenol is the trusted expert (such as your family physician) who knows you and helps you overcome problems without causing complications.” Note that this narrative is clear and fits the brand to perfection (as in reflecting the relationship of the brand bundle back to the target-customer). Better yet, go 3-D to articulate your brand’s character. Create a video that brings the brand character to life.
Click here to view an example of Harley-Davidson’s brand character.

5. Reflect the Brand Character in Everything You Do – We learned a long time ago that it is more important to watch what people do then listen to what they say in order to get a measure of them. Likewise brand character comes through from more than a nice jingle or video but what you do to make your target-customers feel and experience it. Brainstorm with your team regarding ways to make the brand character come to life for your target-customers.

Get competitive with brand character and be strong for all your roads ahead.

Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney