Last week an internal memo leaked to the press that indicated Chevrolet might be banning the use of the popular nickname “Chevy”. The public reaction was swift and sharp. To paraphrase, most of the media’s response was, “WTF? What are you thinking, Chevrolet? Have you lost your friggin’ minds?”
Only a few days later, Chevrolet decided that Chevy wasn’t so bad after all. In what was some of fastest backpedaling I’ve seen in a long time, Chevrolet suddenly saw the light and professed its love for the Chevy nickname.
We imagine that some up-and-coming brand manager at GM was trying to make their mark with a revolutionary change to the brand. He probably quoted some focus group research that supported the theory that Chevy downgrades the Chevrolet brand. That Chevy is low-end, and GM needed to ban its use to better elevate a flagging brand. (Um, isn’t that what the Cadillac brand is for?)
Regardless of what some focus groups or brand strategy research might suggest, the historical competitive trends prove that adopting brand nicknames is a guaranteed win-win. From time immemorial, nicknames for famous brands have been embraced and exploited. (Coke, Bud, Mickey D’s, heck, even Napoleon embraced his nickname “Roly Poly” — okay, I’m just making that one up!)
The point is large brands should love and embrace brand nicknames, not hate and recoil from them. Nicknames are often terms of endearment, and the same is true for brands. Customers start using nicknames for brands that they love and trust. It’s a great way of softening an otherwise megalithic and unfriendly corporate product brand. Most brands capitalize on their customer-given nicknames to help build customer loyalty through a friendlier moniker. What’s more, when customers feel they’ve had a role in creating a name or nickname, they feel more connected to the brand and brand name.
As I mentioned, many famous brands have adopted their company and product nicknames, both officially and unofficially. These include Disney (The Walt Disney Company), Coke (Coca-Cola), Pepsi (Pepsi-Cola), Mini (MINI Cooper), FedEx (Federal Express), Mickey D’s (McDonald’s sweet tea), Bud (Budweiser), Stoli (Stolichnaya), and Nick (Nickelodeon).