Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Menz, Trukerz, and Heated Steering
The exciting conclusion of Saturday's evening at Koto's will be posted shortly. For now, I wanted to talk about an interesting ad strategy being pursued by the people hawking the Chevy (don't dare call it Chevrolet, not with a truck) Silverado.
There are (at least) three different ads, each starring former football great and classic man's-man Howie Long, and each specifically targets one of Silverado's three primary rivals: Ford's F-150, the Dodge Ram, and Toyota's Tundra. In the F-150 ad, Long, in his Silverado, stumbles across a guy rather gingerly getting out of his truck bed with the use of a step hanging off the tailgate. Long mocks this as a "man-step", all but implying that an adult male who uses such a step would be better off driving his little hybrid to ballet class than risk injuring himself getting in and out of pickup trucks. In another, a gentleman for whom the Ram is clearly too much truck, gently bumps into Long's pickup while trying to parallel park. Long, weirdly in good humor (when was the last time you chuckled while getting bumped by another driver?) walks up to the driver and tells him not to worry, no problem. Then he notices neatly manicured hands clutching the steering wheel. "Enjoy that heated steering wheel," he says with a chuckle. The best of the trio, and most strident in showing off its in-your-face testosterone level (that it targets the only Japanese-made truck in the series might or might not be a coincidence), is one with Toyota's Tundra in the sights. Long pulls up to the filling station next to a baby-faced chap in a flat-brimmed ball cap. Long compliments him on the truck. Baby-face says, clearly pushing his voice an octave or two below its normal range, "Yeah. It's a real truckers' truck. For real truckers. Like me." Long inquires about the real-truckers'-truck's gas mileage. Baby-face answers in a much higher tone, suggesting that his balls aren't properly inflated with sufficient man-hormone. Long, again, chuckles and mentions the Silverado's superior mileage. "Enjoy being a real trucker." [read "being" = "pretend being] This is the only spot in which an advantage Silverado has over its competition is mentioned.
What's classic about these ads is how little they mention about Silverado's own features. The tactic is clearly that if your own product doesn't have selling points of its own, make fun of the competitors' features. And if you can do so by playing to your targets' fears and insecurities, so much the better. Whether these ads work in terms of increasing Silverado's market share and GM's profits (assuming there is a GM six months from now) remains to be seen. It's also an interesting look into the psychology of truck buyers ... at least the buyers Chevy is looking to chase.