Chevrolet's Fleck Talks Northeast Strategy

by , Jun 18, 2013, 9:23 AM
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Bill Fleck, Chevy's Northeast regional marketing manager, has a lot of work to keep him up at night -- the region is GM's second-largest, has a mess of dealerships, and it has its challenges, although these are considerably fewer than what the brand faces on the other coast (drive around L.A., and you'll see what I mean in five minutes). What the East Coast has in Chevrolet's favor is the fact that it's the top SUV and crossover region in the U.S. Marketing Daily caught up with Fleck at one of the events he's engrossed in, an experiential marketing tie-in with NASCAR at Pocono Raceway. Experiential, he noted, is a keystone for regional strategy.

Q: What does the Northeast region look like?  

A: Chevrolet has about 500 Chevy dealers in the Northeast from Maine to D.C., west to Pittsburgh and north to Buffalo. That's about 20% of Chevrolet's business in the U.S.  

Q: What are the main challenges here for Chevrolet?

A: In this region, we have the highest skew to cars and crossovers. While [pickup] Silverado is a significant part of the business, it's not nearly comparable to the rest of the country. Our biggest challenge is that the Northeast is very foreign-car friendly. There's the perception -- really a carryover from '80s -- that foreign manufacturers build better cars. It's still a widely held perception in the Northeast. Unfortunately, the wheelhouse of Asian brands is compact, and mid-compact sedans so we are competing with that. We are getting the word out that we have the most fuel-efficient cars and crossovers.

Q: How are you doing that? 

A: Media is most expensive in the Northeast versus any other part of the country, which is one reason I've gone into digital very heavily. We are, for example, targeting conquest customers as they are making purchase decisions online, infiltrating our message where someone might be shopping foreign vehicles. 

Q: Who on the agency side is working with the region? Do you have dedicated work for the Northeast? 

A: We are using [Chevrolet's agency group] Commonwealth. For the most part, we don't develop our own creative -- we execute it. I call my counterparts in Detroit on what tier two should look like, and all the regions work together on that too. So we end up with an array of creative for trucks, cars and crossover, and I'll pull from that what's appropriate for our market. 

Q: Experiential is critical for regional marketing. What are your platforms for that?

A: We do lots of experiential. Our agency for that is Jack Morton, which has an office in the Northeast. This lets us intercept people who perhaps wouldn't go to a Chevy dealership. We go to them. We have five street teams, one each in five major cities in Northeast. They go to street fairs or county festivals, motorsports, the New York State Fair, and New England State Fair [the Big E], for example. We also have a longstanding relationship with Hershey Park, sponsorship with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Phillies, Baltimore Orioles and Mets that allows us to set up displays outside of their venues. Three years ago, we started doing owner-appreciation events at Hershey Park. This week we are inviting 75,000 people -- 25,000 Chevy owners and guests -- there for three days.

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