Jun 1, 2005

Chevrolet's Subtle Crusade

Over my lunch the other day of Nasi Kandar I was discussing with a local friend the purchase of a new car. My friend had told me that they were interested in purchasing one of the newer model Chevrolets that is now available here in the market but that they were being advised against the purchase by a few others in the kampong who had found that Chevrolet's logo, which resembles a crucifix or a cross, to be offensive to Muslims.

Finding myself genuinely intrigued by this supposed paradox, I set out to conduct a non scientific survey by asking people here in Southeast Asia, both Muslim and non-Muslim, whether they thought that Chevrolet's logo resembled a bowtie or a cross. Each and every person I asked said that the logo resembled either a crucifix or a cross and not a bowtie.

Regardless of one's personal religious convictions or which side of the politcal spectrum you find yourself on, American companies need to have their finger continuously on the pulse throughout the world and recognize not only, that we have already fully entered into an era of globalization in which cultures are rapidly changing, but that we now find ourselves facing situations throughout the world where the easy and fast propagation of information can be detrimental to a company's success if your finger is not always on that pulse.

Having a logo or trademark that possibly up to one third of the world's population finds neither neutral or culturally sensitive is hardly a hallmark for a company that wants to sell their automobiles throughout the world.

Surely when William C. Durant unveiled his bowtie trademark in 1913 he would not have been able to possibly conceive the forthcoming incongruous nature that his implied cachet of success would have in a world facing globalization 92 years later. Being the world traveller that Mr. Durant was, it would seem most credulous that he might never have settled on the original bowtie trademark if he had the vision to forsee the future.

Mr. Richard Wagoner, as the CEO of General Motors, you are faced with many tough challenges ahead. Exxon faced some of those same challenges in 1972 that you face today. I hope that when you read this that you consider it as an open letter to both you and the company.

Both Mr. Richard Wagoner Jr. and the directors of General Motors need to come to the realization that if they are serious about competing in a global market economy, that Chevrolet and their parent company General Motors both need to have a unifying logo and a worldwide branding effort that can take up the challenge.

First and foremost, both Chevrolet and General Motors need to have a logo and trademark that is culturally sensitive to all the major countries in the world in which they wish to compete.

Secondly, that logo or trademark needs to provide for maximum name recognition in all the cultures of the world, a name that goes beyond the particulars of culture to tap something deep within the human nature.

Lets not call it the heartbeat of America, lets call it the heartbeat of the world!

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