MARKETING: Chevy, MTV, and Youth Vehicle Concepts

by Winston "Stone" Ford

I was prepped with a heavy dose of skepticism when I stepped into the Manhattan Motor Club last week. I was invited by Chevrolet to preview their latest youth concepts through a partnership with none other than MTV. 40 year olds trying to market to the younger generation? Yeah, I’ve seen that before. However, I left the event pretty convinced that Chevy might be getting it right this time around.

And honestly, their work is cut out for them. When I was growing up, we had cable TV, a smattering of internet (remember AOL chat rooms??) and the radio. Now, the youth of America are presented with a multitude of entertainment options from video games, to YouTube, to social networks, so their attention span is much less than before. Trying to pin down this generation of social media addicted and fickle millennials is tricky. Many brands end up looking like the the old dude at the club–completely out of touch and trying way too hard to be cool.

How did the brand try and combat “old guy” syndrome? The first thing that Chevy did was listen. “We looked at the mistakes by other brands,” says Marketing Manager John McFarland. The brand partnered with MTV Scratch, Viacom’s new brand marketing initiative to get a feel of the generation and the results. Scratch surveyed 9000 millennials across the country and the results are not encouraging. The generation is 6 times less likely to have a drivers licence, and only 37% say that they enjoy driving.

The team at Chevy’s Hollywood design studio took this data and created two new concepts based off what the kids wanted in the car, and the list is somewhat surprising–two doors, 40 mpg, a $22,000 price point and no electric or hybrid vehicles. The crowdsourced results resulted in two concepts–the Chevrolet Code 130R and Tru 140S. My eye was partial to the red Code 130R, which looked like the cross between a Mazda RX-8 and a Camaro. The general consensus in the room went toward the white “Tru 140S,” to the delight of it’s designer Nick David, whom I spoke with privately.

In addition the concepts on display, the company touted its technology. In their 2013 models Chevy is implementing what it calls MyLink. The first thing I noticed about the unit is that there is no physical media option. Music is played through your smartphone and apps such as Pandora. Say goodbye to the CD player. It’s had a great run. It was only a matter of time.

But the “killer app” of this system was the Gogolink GPS app availability. Essentially the car’s navigation system is an extension of your mobile phone. Instead of a nav system in the car, the MyLink app would be bought through the App Store or Android Market and will power the car’s nav through a USB hookup. Honestly, this is brilliant. Not only does it combine structure and convenience of an app to the car environment but it reduces the cost of a nav system from $2,000 to $50.

The verdict? I’m really impressed in the way Chevy handled this event. Not only were the brand representatives open and honest about the challenges they face, but they were very receptive to feedback from the greater community. As someone who deals with brands on a daily basis, I can tell you that this humility will most certainly work in Chevy’s favor.