Chevy Campaign for New Silverado Marks Return to Emotional Advertising for Trucks


Back in the good old days of the American vehicle market, the Detroit Three makers would sell 1.5 million pickup trucks a year. They’re only on a pace to return to about two-thirds of that level this year, their best in a long while—but it sure feels like old times the way buyers are returning to the cabs of trucks. In June, makers sold 26 percent more large pickups than a year earlier.

Chevy’s campaign for launching a new version of its Silverado is right in keeping with that back-to-the-future mentality. Its new “Strong” campaign that launches in Texas—followed by a national rollout on July 15—tugs at heartstrings and recalls some of the best truck advertising that Chevrolet has done over the decades, such as its long-running “Like a Rock” positioning.

“What we’re trying to do is emotionalize a category that has gotten pretty rational,” Tim Mahoney, Chevy’s CMO, told “It’s as much a brand campaign as a Silverado campaign.”[more]

Or, as Chris Perry, head of Chevy advertising, put it to Advertising Age, the goal for the campaign—Chevy’s largest in years—is to take “back the soulfulness of the category… That segment is one of the most steeped in values and imagery.” Yet those values are largely missing from truck ads now, and “we want to reflect those customer values.”

The Silverado TV ad focuses on mostly real Silverado owners and was shot and produced in Texas, featuring locales including San Antonio and the state’s Big Bend National Park. There’s also a music video featuring Grammy-nominated Will Hope singing an original song that he penned for the campaign.

Chevy isn’t missing a beat anywhere, with plans for customer activities at NASCAR races, music venues and sporting events, including a nationwide leap for the advertising campaign on the coattails of the Major League Baseball All Star Game and 2013 Chevrolet Home Run Derby.

The Chevy execs’ assessment of the state of truck marketing is instructive. Certainly Ford has taken a more rational route lately with its F-150, the nation’s best-selling vehicle, by heavily promoting the availability of a fuel-efficient yet powerful-enough EcoBoost six-cylinder engine that now attracts about half the buyers for the nameplate. On the other hand, Ram certainly appealed to emotions with its evocative Super Bowl ad in February that was an ode to the American farmer.

The significantly overhauled Silverado and GMC Sierra are appearing in a market now that has really heated up over the last several months. Pickup trucks have become strong sellers again both because of the housing recovery and the needs of the oil patch in North Dakota and elsewhere, as US energy production becomes a powerful economic engine again.

And that’s another argument for an emotional rather than rational campaign for the new Silverado. American consumers already are finding plenty of rational reasons to go buy a new pickup truck these days. They just need a little brand wooing to decide which one.