I've written at length about marketers using polarizing or controversial spokesmen, platforms or sponsorships for their branding efforts. Bottom line is that if you want your brand to appeal to a targeted niche who identify with the polarizing issue, then certainly the strategy makes sense. But if not, if you run the risk of alienating a significant portion of your customer base - then don't do it.
Enter Chevy Trucks and John Cougar Mellencamp. Chevy has been using Mellencamp's "Our Country" sound track to promote it's truck line for quite a while now. I used to be a fan of John's, but his politics of late make him difficult to appreciate. Looks like I'm not the only one. Mellencamp brought presidential candidate John Edwards on stage last night at his concert, and the audience proceeded to boo Edwards off the stage. Seems like the fans did not appreciate his brand of politics - some even demanding a refund.
What's fascinating about Chevy choosing Mellencamp is that the Chevy folks feel that Mellencamp's brand of politics are patriotic and do appeal to America's truck buying demographics. Help me here - Mellencamp has long been a visible John Edwards supporter, and I'm guessing that the intersection of Chevy truck owners and Edwards supporters is pretty small - so why use Mellencamp?
Here's a note to all CEO's. If your CMO, agency or consultant tells you to use a polarizing figure or cause in your branding efforts, and the majority of your current customers and targeted prospects do not identify with this figure or cause - fire 'em. Fire the CMO, the agency and consultant. So what should Chevy do with Mellencamp? From what I can see Chevy trucks aren't exactly selling like hotcakes.
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