Chevrolet Ditches the Traditional for an Unprecedented Campaign to Attract Millennial Buyers – Dora Nowicki

GM reached out to today’s youngest buyer group, Gen Y to defy odds against fierce competition and negative stereotypes of subcompact cars, with the Chevrolet Sonic.

Against fierce competition, and negative stereotypes of subcompact cars, the Chevrolet Sonic has defied odds since we launched it back in 2011. We accomplished this by reaching out to today’s youngest buyer group, Gen Y; men and women between the ages of 18 and 34 years old.

Today, marketers are trying every tactic to understand this massive cohort, much like we did for Sonic and are continuing to do for Cruze and our mini car, Spark.

It’s because of Sonic that I was asked to join a panel at an Automotive Press Association (APA) luncheon to shed light on how Chevrolet successfully reaches out to millennials through various advertising, marketing and promotional activities.

AutoTrader also presented a study that explored how Millennials think and behave across the entire automotive shopping decision journey (awareness, trigger event, consideration, evaluation and purchase) that validated a lot of the research we did into this growing generation.

But we knew younger buyers wanted more … more technology to keep them connected and safe. We highlighted the available Chevrolet MyLink Radio with its 7-inch touchscreen. MyLink gives drivers access to their phone, their friends and the rest of the world at the touch of their fingertips with with a trio of innovative smart phone apps: Pandora, Sticher, BringGo navigation, Siri Eyes Free and TuneIn – a segment exclusive.

And to reach this audience, our advertising campaign was built around the emotion of experiencing something for the “first time.” We launched Sonic’s “Let’s Do This” campaign in September 2011 to demonstrate how Sonic best fit a younger lifestyle by showing how, just like them; it’s a “car for firsts.”

Our early efforts in the digital space gave us the freedom to attempt some of our own “firsts” and establish a solid presence for a new Sonic nameplate. The “firsts” that Sonic experienced were highly visible, larger-than-life “stunts” the car performed, including sky diving, bungee jumping, 3-D interactive claw game, graffiti art, and kick flipping with an MTV reality-show star.

The first traditional TV advertisement aired during Super Bowl in February 2012 with “Anthem” – a spot including footage from the stunts. As a result, the commercial’s track “We Are Young”, by Fun., hit number one on Billboard for six weeks following the airing of the spot.

We can now claim the campaign proved successful.

  • It won a Gold Effie Award, the pre-eminent award in the industry for any form of marketing communication that contributes to a brand’s success.
  • Sonic has the highest mix of buyers under 25-years-old within the Chevrolet portfolio and continues to have the lowest average transaction price in its segment.
  • Sonic is second in total and retail volume within the segment.
  • Most importantly, Sonic won the JD Power APEAL award two years in a row, which examines what consumers like about their new vehicles after 90 days of ownership. It’s immediate customer feedback.

While we know that new car affordability, the overhang of student loan debt and higher operating costs are delaying some young people from buying cars, we know this isn’t permanent. As a brand, we recognize the importance of partnering with next-gen buyers and engaging with them before, during and after purchase. We will continue to do so across our entire small car line-up.

DoraNowickiDora Nowicki is responsible for the merchandising of the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic to both dealers and customers ensuring sales growth and increased market share. This includes positioning, messaging, pricing, promotion, communication, packaging and retail/wholesale training. She’s been with Chevrolet for 36 years, and prior to launching Sonic, she successfully introduced the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox.

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