Chevy Sonic Campaign Proves Entertaining... And That's About It
As a member of a certain demographic subset - grunty dudes who enjoy popular entertainments in which stuff done gets all exploded up like KABOOM! - I constantly find myself under marketing siege by automakers. Usually, they highlight a particular model's contours and vroom- vroom-iness by airing it out on a sun-dappled stretch of deserted turf. Sometimes, they just repeat "bluetooth" over and over. In either instance, the message is the same: In this car, you'll be a solid 27.5 percent cooler and/or more able to transport all your gear for a rad Outward Bound expedition.
So when Chevy announced plans to go the X-Games route for the marketing of its re-something- or-other'd Sonic, I was intrigued. The campaign, "Let's Do This," promised stunts and videos and other gimmicks usually relegated to the skate-park ghetto of YouTube. But hey, it wasn't the same-old same-old. How Millennial-bait-y could it possibly be?
Totally Millennial-bait-y to the X-treme, dude, that's how Millennial-bait-y. Since Chevy can't sell a car of the Sonic's ilk on its features or its curves - it offers few luxury frills and is shaped like a shoebox - it has decided to concentrate on its demolition-derby appeal. Thus instead of showcasing the Sonic hugging curves to the strains of a "Kickstart My Heart" sound-alike, "Let's Do This" drops it out of a cargo plane. Instead of fetishizing its nonexistent leather seats and rich burl walnut dashboard, the campaign attaches a rubber band to its backside and makes it walk the plank.
It's all quite entertaining, in the best how'd-they-pull-that-off? way (happily, Chevy supplies back story via a wealth of behind-the-scenes video). It's also no more likely to motivate a Sonic purchase than clips that actually depict a non-"modifed" [sic] version of the car doing what it's supposed to do - namely, safely and comfortably transporting individuals from one locus to the next. I understand the thinking - "we can't sell this thing on its merits, so let's position it as the hoverboard of cars" - but I can't imagine any 20- or 30-something would be duped by such a transparent image overhaul. And I know, like, four people in that age range.
Elsewhere on the "Let's Do This" page, Chevy exudes the usual big-brand social-media desperation, inviting adventurous young'uns to participate in a host of challenges - dress up as a superhero, stuff their trunk full of junk (literally, not metaphorically) and engage in magnificent feats of cornering and owling - and share proof of their successful completion. Like the skydiving and kickflip videos, it comes off as entertaining but idiotic and ultimately pointless. Once more, with feeling: Any time such phenomena get the corporate stamp of approval, they're immediately drained of any trace of coolness or creativity.
The campaign's coolest element is yet another you-can't-top-this OK Go video, in which the band records a song while piloting a Sonic through a piano- and guitar-laden track on the outskirts of town. But it doesn't enhance the Sonic's appeal so much as it further burnishes OK Go's image as the preeminent modern makers of music videos. Plus the clip isn't as mind-blowing as the band's adventures on treadmills or in concert with show dogs; they've set the bar impossibly high.
In the end, Chevy's Sonic push likely won't spur sales or position the car as a legit competitor to hipster coolmobiles like the Mini Cooper, but at least it provides a solid 25 minutes of entertainment. All ineffective online campaigns should give rise to such mirth. So thanks for that.