Equinox Populi: 5 Questions With Chevrolet VP Paul Edwards

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2018 Chevrolet Equinox

The Equinox compact SUV is Chevrolet’s highest-selling retail nameplate once again this year, just behind the monster results of the Silverado pickup series. So it’s crucial for the GM-owned Chevy to get it right when it comes to launching a new version of a vehicle that has sold more than two million units.

That’s why one of the spots in its new Equinox campaign, “Everybody Everywhere,” highlights the 2018 model’s versatility across a range of settings and challenges.

“It delivers on a variety of things, everything that compact SUV shoppers demand: design, capability, technology and safety,” Paul Edwards, vice president of Chevrolet marketing for GM, told brandchannel. “It needs to perform well in all those different categories.”

Another new ad extends Chevy’s two-year-old “Real People, Not Actors” authenticity-building campaign, this time taking the vehicles and the “moderator” far outside of the warehouse-like space where Chevrolet has been showing actual customers—not actors—participating in what they think are focus groups.

This time, a hotel valet pulls up in a new Equinox—and when the rightful driver is late, he takes the liberty of inviting onlookers to take a spin in the vehicle. Naturally, they’re impressed with the 2018 Equinox, from its “S” curve exterior design to its “down-and-away” instrument panel to its big new touchscreen.

“It feels like a luxury SUV,” one “real person” says in the valet ad. The spot also depicts a Ford Escape and Honda CRX rolling up for their owners. But as his own vehicle comes up behind him, one person in the Equinox driver’s seat says, “Do we have to take it?”

brandchannel spoke with Edwards about how marketing Equinox connects to marketing Chevy.

bc: The brand has evolved from “Like a Rock” to “Find New Roads” to “Real People, Not Actors” — what’s the through line for the brand?

Paul Edward - Chevrolet Paul Edwards (right): We launched “Find New Roads” in February 2013. “Like a Rock” was the longest-running theme for Chevrolet, about 15 years. But the reality is it’s been more than 30 years since we were in the marketplace with one cohesive campaign. We’re building on “Find New Roads” and now are two years into “Real People, Not Actors,” a specific U.S. campaign aimed at breaking apart the gap between today’s perceptions of Chevrolet and the reality.

It’s been a phenomenal success, exposing the real Chevrolet of today through provocative experiments and leveraging real people. No one is more believable or more emotive about today’s Chevrolet than real people. It’s powerful in closing the perception gap.

bc: How has “Real People” been effective for so long—and won’t you run out of “real people” to surprise with Chevy’s features?

Edwards: The effectiveness has gradually increased over the last 25 months. We’ve kept it fresh. We’re always trying to find a fresh new way to engage consumers within the work itself and to extend it across everything that Chevrolet has to say in the marketplace: brand, retail and across all our different segments.

It does the quality job equally as well as to launch a nameplate like Equinox. We’re seeing our highest breakthrough measures and our highest impact on opinion measures of all time because there’s a familiarity with it in the marketplace.

But today’s perceptions still lag reality. As much impact as we’ve made, there’s still a long way to go. There are a lot more people to bring to the brand.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox ad

bc: Is it hard to innovate in the SUV category when virtually every brand keeps flooding into the segment with new models and features?

Edwards: That’s the No. 1 segment and there’s a lot of very healthy competitors. We do it in two different ways. One is the total package of Equinox. [In] “Everybody Everwhere,” we wow people with the total package. In another one we compare ourselves to the gold standards in the segment, Toyota and Honda. Those owners are blown away. A lot of people in the [buying] cycle are familiar with our competitive brands and are used to that level of technology, refinement and design, and when they get in a Chevrolet they’re blown away by how we beat those competitors, hands down. They’re blown away.

bc: This campaign brings a character from the early “Real People, Not Actors” ads, but this time around the actor plays a completely different kind of character, the valet. No one identified him or recognized him?

Edwards: It’s amazing. We’ve done more than 200 focus groups over the span of the 25 months and we haven’t had one occurrence where the participants walked in and recognized him. We even had a dealer meeting where he sat among the dealers and wondered if he’d be recognized, and he blended right in.

He’s been a straight moderator in some, more of a background role in other executions, evoking those reacitons from consumers, asking the right questions and providing the right provocations. He’s part of the recipe that helps real people come to life. His name is Potsch Boyd, and we’ve used him in a variety of different ways.

bc: With U.S. sales slowing and consumers largely rejecting sedans for SUVs, what metrics show Chevrolet countering those trends?

Edwards: Well, over the last two years we’ve gained nearly a full point of retail market share, and sales of 120,000 incremental units. We went from 10.3 percent in 2015 to 11.2 in 2016. Another measure we look at is “excellent” opinions for the brand, and we’ve had a 30-percent increase in that from the baseline before we started the “Real People” campaign. And in our conquest business, it’s grown about 20 percent—our share of the conquest opportunity each month.


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