On the heels of the introduction of the new 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray, this missive paints a picture of what the world could be like upon the introduction of its next sibling – anywhere from 7 to 15 years in the future. A lot will happen between now and then. Proposed below are a few ideas, concepts, and some radical shifts that prescient and innovative auto manufacturers would be smart to consider.
I’d first like to start out by thanking the 3,749,876 people who contributed to the design of the new Chevrolet Corvette C8 Stingray. Without their voices, resolute loyalty, innovative ideas, willingness to collaborate, and vision to join us as co- brand-owners, not only would the car not ever have been produced, the Chevrolet brand would likely have disappeared.
When we introduced the 2014 C7 way back in 2013 — wow, it seems so long ago — we did more than we ever thought possible to deliver what people wanted, yet retain the soul of the Corvette as a sports car enthusiast’s icon. This C8 you see in our “imaginarium” to my left — pretty cool, right? The car’s not even here on this stage, but looks so real. And yes, in reality, it defies the imagination. Every element — from drivetrain to its carbon chassis, to the engine bushings, to seat stitch patterns — was designed, sourced, and crafted through input from this group of nearly four million people around the world. I can remember talking with our agency partners back in 2013 about how much the world has changed. Who would have predicted that consumer opinion and desire would so directly influence car design, production, and how it’s bought, shared, and re-sold. I can only wonder what my kids will think of the C10 or C13.
But the car itself represents much more than innovative design and technology. It represents a full-scale, radical shift of our entire company and the business models we’ve relied on for nearly 125 years.
I’d like to take this opportunity to review with you all, leaders in the communications industry, the most significant events that transpired to enable us to win this most prestigious of honors, the Human Brand of the Decade Award.
It started with a commitment to understanding and responding to what people are saying and doing at the most personal level possible. Hey, all of you marketers out there — remember when we were “chasing” omni-channel? Trying to catch people where they meet in digital environments? Well, hindsight is 20/20, of course. But we began to see that the social conversation channels of their day — Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and remember Google +? They started the transformation of our business — we actually started having real, meaningful conversations with actual human beings.
Over time, we stopped “chasing” omni-channel because we actually learned how to talk WITH people vs. just talking AT them. Omni-channel came to US, to Chevrolet, and after a time, we didn’t have to chase people down in their personal lives, or intercept them, or flood them with wasted, irrelevant marketing. The people we needed to talk to us actually sought us out — why? Because they realized that we finally knew who they were, cared about them at a personal level, met them on their terms, and responded to their wants and needs.
So it started with conversations. Millions of them. Every month. From Corvette fans to Porsche owners who never knew they’d ever consider a corvette. 2015 was the watershed. A tsunami of human expression hit Chevrolet’s owned and earned media landscape — it was a tipping point no one predicted, but became astonishingly real when Facebook merged with YouTube. Even more so when Pinterest bought Twitter. We knew we’d have to act faster than we ever had, and were smart enough to see that the first major steps would be to build a person-to-person relationship-building infrastructure that would enable us to deal with ”unstructured” data. We had to capture, process, understand, optimize, and act on every meaningful conversation that came across our bow, regardless of where it came from. No way we could have done this manually or with a single software tool. We built a social infrastructure to deal with all of this.
Next, we married all of this “unstructured” data with the massive repositories of “structured” information we aggregated from everywhere we could find — from DMV records to partner retail POS data, to real-time driving telematics feeds, to census information…you name it, we collected it. Why? Because right about that time, the systems became “smart” — our data scientists (we call them “turbo-quants”) created the ability to predict and anticipate interest, intent, behaviors, and physical problems before they emerge across our competitive landscape. We blended the sentient world, and all of the data now available to us, with the social world, where people freely provided insight into how our brand — a massive global enterprise — could become pals, just like your closest friends know what you like and don’t like.
We became, finally, a social business — not overnight, of course. It took a lot of hard work to embed a social relationship mindset across a globally distributed network of dozens of individual business groups. We started with the technology infrastructure to manage social connections and unstructured data streams in 2013. Becoming a social brand actually facilitated the biggest transformation of all — it changed the entire business model for the company. The moment I knew this was real was actually just a few years ago when we made our one millionth Bitcoin sale!
Just two years ago, we turned GM into, basically, a “collective” hybrid, where the Chevrolet brand is literally co-owned by its customers. Buyers choose their payment thresholds — say $500 per month, or $40,000 — and they get so much more than just the vehicle they drive daily. For that “purchase level,” they’re actually buying Chevrolet the company, not just the new C8. They get stock in GM, and can choose from other things like tickets to events we sponsor, other models to drive for limited time-shares when they choose (depending on their investment level), or trade and loan cars among and between themselves. Best of all, the new model made people feel comfortable with Chevrolet. They realized there was real value to them in providing opinions and feedback, and we’ve made it easier and easier — friendlier really — to do so. We feed all of this in real-time to sales, service, design, and production teams. This enabled us to virtually eliminate the middleman, the traditional dealer network. People are now co-designing every car we build, how they’re sold to consumers, and how they’re shared within the collaborative owner / loaner network. It’s happening in real-time, every day. It’s mind-bending to see how the traditional lines of business — the internal divisions within Chevrolet and GM that formed over the past 150 years — have now been deconstructed and reformulated around people. We’re now aligned by customer tiers — who’s asking for what kind of car or service model or sharing plan. It’s truly amazing.
So, we come back to the glorious new C8. I can already see the conversation stream on my iWatch. Look, LeBron James’s son just tweeted the hologram to his two million followers, and we already have more than 10,000 people around the world lined up for sell-through, just from the time I’ve started talking here with you all. The car will clearly be a hit, and we are extremely thankful for the support of our loyal Corvette ambassadors around the globe.
But I hope you also take away from our time together today that the story is much bigger than the actual car. It’s about the melding of two worlds that simply didn’t ever believe that coming together would produce more value to both than simply the sum of the parts.
To end, I’ll leave you with our simple mantra: People will embrace a brand when the brand becomes human!
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©2015, The Tomorrow Project, LLC