Interview: Executive Director of Global Chevrolet
Logos bear much of a company’s branding burden which is so important in the automotive industry. Some major manufacturers didn’t even use symbolic logos until the late 1980s, when suddenly it seemed mandatory. The other end of that spectrum holds stalwarts, such as Ford’s blue oval and Chevy’s bowtie, the latter having undergone many updates in its hundred-plus years of use.
After a near-decade of consistency, however, there was a recent break in the uniform ranks, then another and another. I’d noticed, when you look down a line of Chevrolet’s, the bowties are no longer gold-filled across the board and asked why.
Instead of a canned answer, Chevrolet offered a meeting with someone from management. I accepted. It turned out to be Ken Parkinson.
Parkinson’s position at GM is Executive Director of Global Chevrolet and, the morning of the interview, my disposition was somewhere between reverence and terror-stricken. I expected formality but, the truth is, he’s unassuming and quite relatable. Our conversation was delightful, lasting nearly twice as long as we’d scheduled. But his time is quite valuable, so I got on with it.
Years ago I’d worked in marketing and one of my biggest accomplishments in that field was to help establish a large battery company’s branding. Until that point, they had used dozens of logo variations, fonts and colors. The team I worked with shaped those elements into one image for the company and established standards to maintain it over time (variations and allowances for exceptions were built in).
Chevrolet too went through periods of logo discord whereby it seemed the only requirement was the incorporation of a bowtie. Premiering on the 2004 Malibu, however, Chevrolet introduced a revamped gold-filled iteration that would be employed uniformly across their entire line of vehicles — globally. For 2013, the icon was again tuned up, undergoing noticeable changes to proportions and perspective, to mark 100 years of bowties gracing Chevrolets.
To bring this back to my point, when variations of the bowties started showing up recently, I couldn’t help but wonder what it meant to Chevy’s now years-old branding practices. As well, was there a meaning behind the new iterations?
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