Brand Switch

Chevrolet Europe started life in January 2005. General Motors had acquired the Korean car maker Daewoo a couple of years prior to that – along with its product portfolio and executed a “brand switch” to Chevrolet Europe. The only other time this had happened before when – in the 1980s – Datsun became Nissan.

Overnight, Daewoo dealers became Chevrolet dealers, the cars were re-branded, all the marketing communications switched over – and much more besides.

The Digital Landscape in 2005

Basic. Inefficient. Ineffective. Scattered. All the individual Daewoo markets across Europe had engaged local suppliers to build websites. That meant that – across the region – we had no consistency of presence, messaging, positioning, branding or structure. And just imagine the waste? All those separate hosting contracts, all the duplication of effort? But that’s how the markets liked it. They were in control and no one from the central team bothered them or told them what to do.

In the months leading up to the brand switch, one major hurdle was achieved – getting all the websites onto one platform. This allowed the re-branding to happen on time.

That’s the point at which Tamara was appointed website manager. There was no SEO, minimal PPC, no display, no UX focus, no content strategy, and unreliable metrics. The markets hated the move to centralisation as well, so there was more to do than just fix things. There was a huge job to do in terms of justifying the centralisation of projects and winning people round. And almost no money to do it with.

The brand faced a major challenge. Everyone’s heard of Chevrolet, but no one had noticed the little cars running around with the bow tie logo. We had no brand footprint in Europe and no money to address it.

Building A Team

Tamara’s first job was to create a team – with no head count. At the beginning, that meant hiring in external resources, which she did. A pair of Brits and both worked as embedded members of the team.

The team building extended to the agency, Ignition. Tamara knew that the best way of getting great results and cooperation from the agency team was to treat them as equals – and to foster a real team spirit of inclusion.

Learning Stuff

At the same time, Tamara – who up to then had really been an offline marketing expert – had to start learning digital. They both devoured books, went on training courses, read blogs, joined webinars, listened intently to agency experts and educated one another. At times, it felt like a vertical learning curve. But they pulled it off.

Over the years, the in-house team grew as the digital department and its capabilities grew too. By the time Chevrolet Europe closed its doors, Tamara was managing five direct reports, plus two external contractors.

What happened next? Over the years, we grew the digital scope for Chevrolet Europe and set new standards for General Motors globally at the same time.

Organising The Markets

With our limited resources, we knew we had to be really pragmatic. How else can you handle 38 markets and 27 languages?

We knew a one-size-fits-all approach was not workable. So we created a formula and used it to group markets on the basis of:

  • Sales (and therefore importance to the business)
  • In-house digital expertise and available resource
  • Local agency support

This formula then set the amount of centrally available budgets at the markets’ disposal and it also helped us to prioritise. We reviewed this every year and moved markets around as and when necessary.

SEO & PPC To Display

In 2006, we established a Pan-European SEO programme to ensure brand visibility in organic results. We won the markets over with a combination of training – what is SEO and why is it so important to you – and handholding. We drew the correlation between visibility and traffic and performance. We had a clear strategy, which we consistently enacted. This is the work that earned Tamara the General Motors Global Team Player Award and made Alice an official General Motors Subject Matter Expert in SEO.

PPC was added to Tamara’s remit in 2010 – and with it another person was added to the team. We worked hard to align the strategies of the two search channels, to try to stretch the budgets as far as possible. People were starting to notice what we were doing – hence the invitation to address the EMEA Adobe Summit in 2012.

We created and ran the display campaigns both centrally and locally. Regardless of who was running the campaigns there were guidelines and governance process in place to ensure that best practices were being employed in all markets.

Centrally we would monitor results to undercover campaign successes or failures. If a campaign worked particularly well in one market we would analyse the media buy and compare it to the markets’ that were not performing and generating leads. We would then test the media plan hypothesis in the underperforming markets.

We wanted to ensure that we weren’t making the same mistakes 38 times and maximise lead potential. The goal was to learn, validate, share, and govern.

Data Analytics

Tamara realised that – with such limited resources – it was absolutely critical to have the backing of data to justify spend, to use data to guide strategies and to win arguments. The existing provider delivered unreliable data and thus the move to Omniture in 2008.

Hiring a data analyst in 2010 was a major turning point for Chevrolet Europe’s reporting and analytics. Under our guidance, the data analyst was able to implement a data revolution, both at the HQ in Zurich and also with the markets. We were able – another global GM first – to apply attribution to our marketing channel reports, helping us understand the value of our activity, to prioritise and – especially – to hold our agencies to account. We put a stop to the post campaign analysis.

Website Redesigns

In all, we managed three, the last of which represented another GM first. It was the first web platform in the GM brand portfolio to go fully responsive.

We led the way out of necessity. We could see what was happening out there – by 2009 it was an unavoidable truth: mobile was taking off, but we didn’t have the resources to manage two separate platforms – and anyway, that was never going to be a long-term solution. We knew we had to go responsive.

But it wasn’t just a question of transferring content from one platform to another. We adopted a “mobile first” mentality and applied a layer of content rigour and discipline, based on user journey strategies to ensure correct usage of the websites and content.

The Results

It worked. Between 2010 and 2013, traffic to Chevrolet Europe websites increased by nearly 400%. And in that time, we also increased leads by 750%.