Prince's Death Prompts Tribute From Chevy, Others

For better or worse, brands have felt compelled to react to the death of music superstar Prince. 

Chevrolet’s tribute depicted the iconic back end of a crimson 1963 Chevrolet Corvette against a black background with the epitaph: "Baby that was much too fast, 1958-2016," a nod to the lyrics "Baby you're much too fast" from Prince's 1982 hit single "Little Red Corvette.” 

The image, created by Commonwealth//McCann, was first tweeted and posted on Facebook on Thursday a few hours after Prince’s death. The General Motors division bought full-page ads Friday in six newspapers: The New York Times,USA Today, Los Angeles Times, the (Minnesota) Star Tribune, the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News.



No further placements are planned, says Craig Daitch, Chevrolet senior manager for social media.

Chevy has received support for the creation, including more than 13,000 "likes" on Twitter and more than 12,000 retweets.

“Chevrolet nameplates have been brought to life in music for decades by so many talented artists,” the automaker said in a statement. “Today, we felt it was fitting to pay tribute to a true music icon that will forever be connected to one of our most celebrated models.”

Ad critic Barbara Lippert said she liked the Corvette ad, calling it “simple and true.”

“It refers to one of Prince’s best songs, with Corvette right in the title, so there's an undeniable connection that's sweet, natural and relevant -- even co-dependent,” Lippert tells Marketing Daily. “I liked the simple line and use of the dates of his birth and death. And no purple.”

In addition to Chevy, many other brands quickly reacted to Prince’s death, and in some cases had second thoughts about their effort. Cheerios and Hamburger Helper are two that pulled down their tweet images after quick criticism. The Cheerios effort was Rest in Peace on a purple background with the dot of the “i” replaced with a Cheerio. The Hamburger Helper tweet featured a picture of Prince with the copy “Prince was the don of Minneapolis. Respect to the home team. A glove can only take so much sadness.” The “glove” references the brand’s mascot.

MTV turned its page bugs purple on several of its stations and played Prince videos and programming. Maker’s Mark whisky tweeted an image of a bottle with a purple — instead of its signature red — wax seal. Google turned its search engine page doodle purple, and a few slashes of rain.

Brands must walk “a fine line” not to overstep in reaction to a celebrity death, Lippert says. Some Minnesota companies such as 3M and Caribou Coffee turned their logos purple in a seemingly subtle tribute to the singer’s signature color and the title of one of his best known albums and movies, “Purple Rain.”

“Those Minnesota businesses would have been better off just letting their employees do their own personal Instagram tributes,” Lippert said. “The Cheerios ad was really forced and cheesy. Brands should not appropriate the death of an icon for ad purposes unless there was a palpable connection that the viewer gets immediately. Otherwise it comes off as lopped on, gratuitous and ghoulish.” 

4 comments about "Prince's Death Prompts Tribute From Chevy, Others".
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  1. Len Stein from Visibility Public Relations, April 25, 2016 at 8:53 a.m.

    Think the word 'tribute' is used with a huge grain of salt (and potential copyright infringement). How dare Chevy, for instance, show off a vintage Vette and include a speed oriented Prince lyric.  See

  2. Brent Lightfoot from iHeartMedia, April 25, 2016 at 10:30 a.m.

    @Len the word 'fast' is in clear referance to the lyric and any intelligent reader would not see some implied connection to the speed of the car.  '63 vett is not all that 'fast'.  

  3. Bill Ganon from Connect2Sell , April 25, 2016 at 12:56 p.m.

    Wow Len, try the decaf :-)
    Have to believe the vast, vast majority of eyeballs see the image+words+dates as a tribute to the man, not the car.

  4. Gene Keenan from TCF, April 25, 2016 at 7:11 p.m.

    The song uses a corvette and speed as a metaphor. The use of the word speed in this is apropos and very smart.

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