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Chevrolet: Creating an Indian connect

By , agencyfaqs! | In | May 12, 2003
The idea behind the montage-based Chevrolet campaign is to build an aura of trust around Chevrolet by cueing from elements of timelessness and putting these in an Indian context


What does an iconic, dyed-in-the-wool American car brand such as Chevrolet do when it chooses to introduce itself more intimately to Indian consumers? Why, introduce itself as the iconic, dyed-in-the-wool American car brand that it is, and say, 'I am Chevrolet.'

Easily done, considering quite a few Indian consumers already know Chevrolet fairly well, especially from Hollywood movies of the fifties, sixties and seventies. And memory hasn't dulled images of those big, sexy metal beasts that gleamed out of the rare American magazine that one was able to lay one's hands on. Chevrolet, Chrysler, Pontiac, Buick, Cadillac… for many Indian consumers, these are names that are synonymous with America and the Great American Dream. So, the logical thing to do for General Motors India (GM) would have been shining the spotlight on Chevrolet's established stars-and-stripes pedigree.

But what if the brand's pedigree, though respected, has no relevance to the Indian consumer? What if the imagery that the brand hauls along isn't a significant enough reason-to-buy? Worse, what if that imagery is dated, and has non-verbalized connotations - such as 'gas-guzzling machines' and 'not made for India' - to boot? Clearly, the risk in doing an 'American car' number outweighs the advantages. Which is why GM has chosen to launch of the Chevrolet badge in the country as a made-for-India brand. And in an effort to make a connect with the Indian consumer, the company is seeking out relevant cultural cues through its umbrella branding campaign - 'I am Chevrolet' - for the brand.

The first part of the television campaign went on air in March, to coincide with the World Cup. And in the coming weeks, the second part of the campaign - essentially a bigger edit spanning a wider spectrum of the idea - is scheduled to go on air. The idea behind the montage-based campaign is to build an aura of trust and dependability around Chevrolet by cueing from elements of timelessness, and putting those elements in an Indian context.

Set to a lovely background score, the ad starts with the shot of a man performing a 'suryanamaskaaram'. The words 'I am the sun' scrawl as a super. Next, the shot of a fisherman casting his net in a rainy morning. 'I am the rain,' goes the super. The shot of a man standing next to the cutout of a matinee idol, waiting to get his picture clicked. 'I am the smile.' A couple offering prayers. 'I am your prayer.' A bride and groom at a wedding. 'I am the love they see in your eyes.' A child, dressed as Krishna, dances in a street during Holi. 'I am the child…' The commercial ends with the legendary 'bow-tie' logo of Chevrolet, with the line: 'I am Chevrolet.'

'I am Chevrolet' is, incidentally, a line that GM is using across the Asia-Pacific region. Of course, its usage in India is very different to those in other Asian markets, primarily because in most other markets in this region, many car brands are already being sold under the Chevrolet badge. India, as of now, has only one Chevrolet brand - the Subaru Forrester. "Chevrolet's offerings in most Asian markets is diverse - from SUVs to hatchbacks to sedans," says Vinay Dixit, vice-president, marketing sales & after-sales, GM. "In these markets, the 'I am Chevrolet' line is used in a very product-centric sense." What this means is that Chevrolet markets specific car brands to consumers based on specific personality attributes, with the idea of saying 'there's a Chevrolet for everyone'.

India, as mentioned earlier, has just one Chevrolet offering, which rules out the possibility of this route of advertising. Yet, both GM and Enterprise Nexus (which handles the account) saw distinct possibilities in the 'I am Chevrolet' thought, especially in the light of consumer research. "Our research in India showed that the residual perception of Chevrolet in consumers' minds was a throwback on Hindi movies which showed the likes of Shammi Kapoor and Saira Banu driving down Marine Drive," says Dixit. "Now this was not an image in line with what we had in mind for the brand. Chevrolet is a mainstream brand, and that is something we want to communicate clearly."

There was also the perception of 'American gas guzzlers' to contend with. "We realized that we had to project a warm, approachable and likeable image of Chevrolet - one of trust and dependability," Dixit continues. "And we saw that the 'I am Chevrolet' could serve us well, if we Indianised the message. We wanted people to associate Chevrolet with freshness. So we decided to underplay the 'American icon' bit and highlight the fact that Chevrolet in India is distinctly Indian."

For Enterprise, the challenges were in giving the brand a mainstream appeal and talking to pan-Indian audiences. Sundeep Kumar, director, Enterprise Nexus, reveals that the campaign's core idea borrows from Chevrolet's famous 'The Heartbeat of America' campaign in the States. "That campaign connected very well with the American mainstream consumer," he says. "We decided to look at it from the Indian context, by saying that Chevrolet understands the Indian consumer. Which is why we kept our communication very Indian."

Bhupal Ramnathkar, executive creative director, Enterprise Nexus, adds that the feel of the commercial is typically mainstream India, "as we wanted to capture the real flavour of India". He reveals that the agency's brief to filmmaker Ravi Udyawar was to capture India in a way foreigners capture the country. "The way we look at India is different from the way foreigners see India," Ramnathkar explains. "We do not notice a lot of things about this country because we see them every day. But for foreigners, these are the things typical of India. We wanted to capture that flavour." Incidentally, every shot in the commercial was preplanned and storyboarded. "Once Mohammed (Khan) had written the lines, we knew the visuals we wanted. The visuals had to be very earthy and true of India."

An interesting aspect of the campaign is that there is not a single shot of a Chevrolet car anywhere in it. Yes, Chevrolet didn't have any cars in this country when the first part of the campaign ran, but now it does. One shot of the Forrester (or some soon-to-be-launched model) could easily have been sneaked into the larger edit. It hasn't been, which is good. Nothing like a stilted sales pitch to sour any conversation that has trust and bonding as its theme.

"We consciously kept cars out of the ad," says Dixit. "We will talk about the product and product features when we do ads for products that we launch. Now, all we want to do is build on emotion, so that Chevrolet becomes a likeable and approachable brand." Kumar from Enterprise adds that in the time to come, this umbrella campaign will "leverage the emotional aspects by creating empathy for Chevrolet, while the model-specific communication of individual brands will address the rational side of the consumer by providing strong reasons-to-buy". © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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