Whether you love, hate, or ignore Chevy’s long-running “Real People, Not Actors” campaign, it’s been an effective way for the company to address misconceptions about its product and brand under the guise of creative real talk. However, in the campaign’s latest spot, it took things up a notch by claiming its vehicles were more reliable than Honda, Toyota, Ford, and 23 other competitors. The claim was based on a 2018 Ipsos survey, but soon after the ad aired, cracks began to appear.
Turns out, according to Jalopnik, the brand manipulated survey findings to bolster its claim; enough so that both Honda and Ford publicly called Chevy’s claims into question. Ford’s North American communications director Mike Levine took to Twitter.
It’s understandable that the ‘real people’ in the commercial would be surprised with Chevrolet’s claim of being the most reliable car brand. Because it’s not the case. They have agreed to take these false and misleading ads down and we’d like to see that happen immediately.
— Mike Levine (@mrlevine) January 16, 2019
In a statement to Fast Company, Chevy said:
Chevrolet stands by the reliability claim and the ad remains in the brand’s toolbox, but we have decided to take it out of the regular rotation at this time to launch new Silverado creative. We have not altered our marketing campaign because of any concerns with the accuracy of our ad content.
Some incredibly convenient timing for that new Silverado campaign . . .
Whether you see Chevy’s ad claims as a creative interpretation of the truth or complete BS, it highlights a larger issue in marketing that we’re only going to see more and more. Brands can’t underestimate the public’s appetite for not only just the truth, but also the whole picture. If you’re going to make a claim, you need to back it up with rock-solid receipts. That goes for everything from product performance to company values.
It’s not even the only example this week. Forget all the manly-man pearl clutching over Gillette’s take on toxic masculinity, what that brand needs to be more concerned about is the fact that they somehow didn’t think the very audience that ad was aimed at wouldn’t mind or find out it was still a major advertiser with Tucker Carlson. Or for all the preaching about being more sensitive to women, that no one would notice its own pink versions sell at a female-only markup.
If @Gillette really want to make a change perhaps they could start by looking at their pink ‘Venus’ range for women that includes names like Passion and Embrace and costs more than the men’s ranges for the same thing. Thanks.
— Caroline Hirons (@CarolineHirons) January 15, 2019
As Brian Millar points out on Co.Design today, companies like Starbucks and Johnson & Johnson yell from the rooftops about their brand purpose, but expect their less-than purpose-driven tax policies to quietly sit in the corner.
If NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway is right that more companies and brands will be taking social and political stands in the next 12 to 24 months, then more companies and brands need to realize that that act is not a marketing exercise. Brand image today includes everything you do. Your ads, your tax policy, your CEO’s political donations, your supply chain, everything. And if you’re saying one thing, but a part of your business is doing another, game over. Ad budget wasted, message undermined. Make a claim, take a stand, but if you can’t be truly honest with yourself about it, you won’t have to wait long for the rest of the world to be.