GM appeals to American patriotism to sell new Silverado

DETROIT, July 2 Tue Jul 2, 2013 12:00am EDT

DETROIT, July 2 (Reuters) - Chevrolet's marketing campaign for its redesigned Silverado pickup truck is the U.S. automaker's latest attempt to appeal to American patriotism, in a vehicle segment where its offering has been the oldest on the block.

General Motors Co's ad campaign, dubbed "Strong," will launch on Thursday in Texas - the largest pickup market in the country - and nationally during Major League Baseball's All-Star game on July 16 and the home run derby the day before.

Using a song by Grammy-nominated singer Will Hoge, the company is linking its trucks to such values as independence and commitment to family. The campaign calls to mind the "Like a Rock" ads that included music by American rock star Bob Seger that Chevy used to sell the Silverado from the early 1990s to 2004.

"We have a great opportunity now with this new truck," Chris Perry, vice president of Chevy marketing in the United States, told reporters. "We've been competing with the oldest truck in the market place."

The 2014 Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups, last redesigned in 2006, are the most important vehicle introductions for the Detroit automaker since its bankruptcy and $450 billion U.S. taxpayer-funded bailout in 2009.

While declining to reveal how much GM is spending on the marketing for the new Silverado's launch, Perry called it the biggest for GM in at least five or six years and more than the company spent when it last redesigned the truck. Last year, GM spent almost $351 million to market the Silverado in the U.S. market, up 29 percent from 2011, according to Kantar Media, a unit of ad giant WPP Plc.

The initial ad is backed by song "Strong" - performed by Hoge - which includes images of actual Silverado owners using their trucks on farms, lumber yards and other work sites, as well as at family events like a son's baseball game. "Ain't nuthin' gonna knock him off the road he's rollin' on," Hoge sings of the truck's owners, many shown with craggy, weathered faces.

Perry said the initial spot, shot by Academy award-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson, is meant to hit emotional themes that GM and its rivals at Ford Motor Co and Chrysler Group LLC have not in recent years. He said GM sees an opportunity to take back the "soulfulness" of the pickup category.

With the tagline, "Strong for all the roads ahead," it also is meant to play off Chevy's new global ad tagline, "Find New Roads," he said. That global campaign, launched in January, is GM's first attempt at a global message for the brand.

The new Silverado campaign will start with the emotional message, but also include several spots that emphasize the truck's features, including fuel efficiency and towing capacity, Perry said. That will make Chevy dealers happy.

"What their plan is and what mine would be is saying they're absolutely going to focus on the superiority of this drive train," said Don Kerstetter, owner of Classic Chevrolet Sugar Land outside Houston. Texas accounts for one of every six trucks sold in the United States.

The initial spot, which will also debut as a digital download and music video, was produced by Chevy's global ad agency Interpublic Group's Commonwealth, while Leo Burnett of Publicis handled all the other marketing, Perry said. The campaign will include social media and events where customers can see and touch the new truck, including NASCAR races, baseball games, concerts and gun shows.

The Silverado and Sierra are key to GM's ongoing battle with Ford, whose F-150 truck is the auto industry's top-selling vehicle. GM's rollout will continue through this year and into next as it introduces different models of the big trucks and companion full-size SUVs.

GM's current big trucks and related SUVs, which generate more than $12,000 per vehicle in profit, account for about 60 percent of the company's global profit, according to analysts. Citi has estimated the new models could bring the automaker more than $1 billion in additional operating earnings in 2013 and 2014. (Additional reporting by Joseph Lichterman in Detroit; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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