Marketing the Corvette: What GM doesn’t get.
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
(Posted 1/22, 5:30 p.m.) Detroit. Now that the smoke has cleared (somewhat) from the frenzy of the Detroit Auto Show – and the big bang debut of the new Corvette – it’s time to take a hard look at Corvette from a brand image and marketing point of view.
As I’ve said repeatedly in this column, there are only two cars (and car names) in modern American automotive history that qualify as true icons in this business, the Chevrolet Corvette and the Ford Mustang. Around for 60 and 50 years, respectively, the Corvette and the Mustang transcend all others because of their evocative imagery and indisputable status as America’s two brightest automotive lights. The true test? Even non-car people know what a Mustang and a Corvette are. Even more, they can conjure these two cars in their own historical image banks and can instantly remember an experience when they saw one for the first time or rode in one in their formative years.
But dealing with that kind of iconic status isn’t easy for Ford and GM. Half the battle revolves around knowing what you have and understanding its place in the automotive universe. That might sound simple but believe me it isn’t. Executives with – ahem – varying degrees of competence who have been given the marketing reins for these cars have come and gone over the years, and battles have ensued and mistakes have been made, but the ball more or less has kept moving forward for these two icons despite the occasional egregious missteps. It can't be overstated that it has taken tremendous effort by the True Believers involved in order to maintain the focused consistency that these nameplates deserve.
In Ford’s case, the F-150 may be The Franchise, but the Mustang is the heart and soul of the company. And I can assure you that as much time is spent on not screwing it up or sending it down the wrong path as there is time spent on marketing the car. Or thinking about the next Mustang that’s in the works.