The new Chevrolet Corvette marketing campaign has had a lot of positive vibes out in adland so I thought I would share it with you along with some thoughts.
The two-and-a-half minute video is designed to promote a Corvette experience: for an extra 5,800 USD you can help build the power-plant which is fitted into your new Corvette.
Here is in Europe a number of sports car companies used to allow to to visit the factory (it was part of the experience of buying a TVR for instance) and in the case of continental companies drive it back home. This way you could see the craftsmanship that went into your vehicle and meet some of the people responsible for it. In the same way that the lord of the manor may meet some of the landscape gardeners who were remodeling the maze or the alpine rockery.
Being able to participate in building the engine, struck me as something different. If you think about the ‘golden days of the 1960s and 70s’ real men were renaissance creatures regardless of their profession they could also throw themselves into DIY and major mechanical work on the car. It was supposed to be a major bonding opportunity between father and son, working on the car together like Yoda and Luke Skywalker.
My Dad has a garage full of tools that he accumulated over time, some of them handed on to him by friends or given to keep at the end of a job. I used to help him working on our car, though not much of it made sense to me. I haven’t inherited his practical gene, but it did give me a good worth ethic.
It was also a time of family breakdown as divorce and womens long-deserved independence finally came into its own.
It used to be that clocks and sewing machines were the only non-user serviceable items on a household; but as time moved on globalisation and technology meant that cars like most household appliances and consumer electronics needed an expert. Not just the handyman with a garage and a service pit around the corner, but the correct software to understand the different diagnostic outputs on the car.
Manufacturers have taken advantage of this development to shore up their total lifetime revenue funneling these customers into dealer service centres, requiring special fitting tools and clamping down on third-party parts in a similar way to HP’s chipped toner and inkjet cartridges.
Instead real men are now likely to be slightly buffoon-ish a la Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May in Top Gear.
So is the building the engine experience less about demonstrating the handmade craftsmanship of your sports car and more about selling you the mythical father-son bonding experience that the car’s owner may not have had as a child?
So I was thinking about this ‘auto-worker as father-figure’ concept when I thought about the soundtrack to the video. According the video titling the Corvette is all about the roar, yet there is no engine noises in the soundtrack at all. Don’t get me wrong I quite like the soundtrack, it’s the kind of sound you’d expect if the Chemical Brothers drafted in Keith LeBlanc, Skip McDonald and Doug Wimbish from Tack>>Head as collaborators to come up with an appropriate soundtrack. It would fit right in with the first Matrix film soundtrack – again planting this very firmly in generation-x territory.
But there is no engine noise, making the statement that its the roar seem dubious. Have a look at the Audi R8 microsite whilst it has brooding electronica pretending to be a Wagnerian mood music, the engine noise does feature in the video clips as you explore the site. The new Lexus LFA website makes no bones about the cars sound even allowing you to download it as a ring-tone (though I imagine that it would grate on the nerves after a bit).
So I don’t think that its about the Corvette ‘roar’ at all, instead I think its about a mythical father-figure | son experience – a blue-collar bromance: it is the Brokeback Mountain of car adverts.
It’s a smart offering and campaign which I imagine was probably based on some sort of clever consumer insights programme. And it breaks away from the usual ‘our car is an incrementally better phallic compensator than X, Y or Z’ personified by recent Nissan Z-series marketing efforts.