American Patriotism and Corporate Identity in Automobile Advertising

«What’s Good for General Motors Is Good for the Country and Vice Versa?»

by Markus Weik (Author)
©2019 Thesis 362 Pages


The triumphal march of the automobile and its connection with American culture have often been acknowledged in scholarship. By contrast, the culture-specific, value-oriented advertising strategies of the most important US carmaker General Motors (GM) in its home market have received less attention, especially in American Studies. This study focuses on the connection between GM products and America and the fundamental values represented by politics, business, and society. The author examines which textual and visual strategies GM uses in its image advertising to establish and maintain its patriotic American image. He argues that GM’s advertising campaigns follow a patriotic leitmotif and are consistently in line with American core values, often generating new patriotic ideas.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • 1 Introduction
  • 1.1 Current State of Research
  • 1.2 Theory and Chapter Outline
  • 2 Theory and Methodology
  • 2.1 Culture and the Culture Onion Concept
  • 2.2 Conceptualizing Values
  • 2.3 American Values
  • 2.3.1 General Assumptions
  • 2.3.2 American Values in Scholarship
  • Intercultural Communication – Gary Althen
  • Cross-Cultural Studies – Geert Hofstede
  • Marketing and Consumer Research – Hawkins et al.
  • Sociology – Milton Rokeach
  • 2.3.3 American Core Values
  • Individualism
  • Competitiveness
  • Equality of Opportunity
  • Achievement/Social Recognition
  • Time Orientation
  • Change/Progress
  • Exception to the Rule: Green Consciousness
  • The Achilles’ Heel of American Core Value Lists: Patriotism
  • American Core Values: Conclusion
  • 2.4 Framing
  • 2.4.1 Goffman’s Framing Theory
  • 2.4.2 Frames are Images
  • 2.5 Integrated Corporate Communications and Advertising
  • 2.5.1 How to Create Images through Advertising
  • 2.5.2 How Culture Influences Corporate Images
  • 2.5.3 Advertising in the USA
  • TV: New Advertising Outlet for the Masses
  • 2.5.4 Current State of the Advertising Industry in the USA
  • 2.5.5 Current Advertising Challenges for Car Manufacturers
  • 2.5.6 Patriotic Advertising Campaigns: “Buy American”
  • Contemporary “Buy American” Trends and Campaigns
  • Criticism of “Buy American”
  • 2.6 Methodology
  • 2.6.1 Theoretical Base for Analysis
  • 2.6.2 Selection of Ads
  • 3 Victory Is Our Business: The 1940s
  • 3.1 Pre-War Advertising: Chevrolet for 1940 – Eye It, Try It, Buy It
  • 3.2 War Time Advertising: A Dedication to Victory
  • 3.2.1 Conserve Your Car
  • Chevrolet’s Car Conservation Plan
  • Oldsmobile’s “Wartime Service Package”
  • 3.2.2 War Bonds Defeat Germany
  • The Minute Man Fights for Victory
  • How War Bonds Buy Victory
  • 3.2.3 People’s War: A Letter from the Front
  • 3.2.4 Pontiac Lets Freedom Ring
  • Pont-Liberty Bell-iac
  • 3.2.5 Blueprinted and Tried Victory
  • 3.2.6 America’s Fifth Freedom
  • 3.2.7 Discussion
  • 3.3 Institutional Ads Proclaim “Production, Production, Production”
  • 3.4 Post-War Production Race
  • 3.5 Chapter Conclusion
  • 4 The 1950s: Getting the USA to See a Chevrolet – The Dinah Shore Chevy Show
  • 4.1 “A Great New Star” (1953)
  • 4.1.1 Shore and Chevrolet Lead in Fashion and Design
  • 4.1.2 “Keeping up with the Joneses”
  • 4.1.3 More People Named Jones Own a Chevy
  • 4.1.4 America’s Number One Nameplate
  • 4.2 The Tune of a Generation: “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet”
  • 4.3 Same Time, Same Station: Defining the American Dream and National Identity
  • 4.3.1 Building Public Trust: Transforming the Living Room into a Virtual TV Showroom
  • 4.3.2 Dinah Shore: Face and Perceived Image of Chevrolet
  • 4.3.3 Defining the American Family: Dinah Shore as Cultural Fortifier
  • 4.4 Wanderlust, Freedom, and Adventure: Other Renderings of “See the U.S.A.”
  • 4.5 Discussion
  • 4.6 Chapter Conclusion
  • 5 The 1960s: The Medium is the Message
  • 5.1 High Noon in Chevrolet City: Bewitching Bonanza
  • 5.2 Chevrolet Primetime Credits
  • 5.2.1 Chevrolet’s Branding of Bonanza
  • 5.2.2 Bewitched Opening Credits
  • 5.3 “Chevy’s Bonanza Sale”
  • 5.4 Americans Win: Deport Your Imports
  • 5.5 Chapter Conclusion
  • 6 Out of Sync: The 1970s
  • 6.1 O.J. Simpson vs. Chevy Nova
  • 6.2 A Better Way to See the U.S.A.
  • 6.3 Good Ol’ USA: Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet (1975)
  • 6.3.1 Defining the American Way of Life
  • 6.3.2 As American as Apple Pie: The Tagline
  • 6.3.3 American Values Are Not to be Questioned
  • 6.3.4 Linking Values and Commodities
  • 6.3.5 Refuge from Turbulent Times
  • 6.3.6 Discussion
  • 6.4 Bicentennial Chevrolets: “Spirit of America”
  • 6.5 A Fresh New Slice of Apple Pie (1979)
  • 6.6 Chapter Conclusion
  • 7 1980s – No Business as Usual: Reagonomics, Roger Smith, and Reorganization
  • 7.1 “The Heartbeat of America”: National TV Commercial #1
  • 7.1.1 The Heart Metaphor
  • Chevrolet is “The Heartbeat of America”
  • Chevrolet’s Heartbeat is America
  • Heartless Foreign Competition
  • 7.1.2 Reinvigorating Patriotism
  • National Pride and Technological Supremacy
  • Ambassadors of Goodwill: The Harlem Globetrotters
  • Declaring War to the Japanese
  • 7.1.3 Celebrating a Colorless America
  • Posterboy Ethnicity
  • 7.1.4 Changing Gender Roles
  • 7.1.5 Sporting the 1980s
  • 7.2 Changing Times, Unchanging Values: National TV Commercial #2
  • 7.2.1 American Pride
  • 7.2.2 Simple Honest Values
  • 7.3 Regional TV Ads Starring Michael Jordan
  • 7.3.1 Chicago’s New Landmark
  • 7.4 Camaro RS Coupe Print Ad (1989)
  • 7.5 Discussion
  • 7.5.1 Contradicting the Heartbeat Metaphor
  • 7.6 Chapter Conclusion
  • 8 The 1990s: Globalization and the Return to Simplicity
  • 8.1 Chevrolet Goes Trucking: “Like a Rock” (1991)
  • 8.1.1 The Land of Rugged Individualists
  • 8.1.2 Everyday Heroes: The Symbol of Rural America
  • 8.1.3 Discussion
  • 8.1.4 Conclusion
  • 8.2 “Genuine Chevrolet” (1994)
  • 8.2.1 “Genuine Chevrolet” – More Than a Mere Slogan?
  • 8.2.2 Chevrolet Memories
  • 8.2.3 What Happened to the Nuclear Family?
  • 8.2.4 Old Motif – New Approach
  • 8.2.5 Discussion
  • 8.2.6 Conclusion
  • 8.3 Saturn’s Homecoming (1994)
  • 8.3.1 Welcome Home, Saturnites: Homecoming In and Around the Car Plant
  • 8.3.2 Blue-Collar Culture for White-Collar Folks
  • 8.3.3 The Family Metaphor: Saturn’s Familial Culture
  • Family as Counter Movement: Pastoral Masquerade and Coming Home on Disillusion Road
  • 8.3.4 Questioning the Norm: Non-Fancy Quality Cars Are Okay for Americans
  • 8.3.5 Discussion
  • 8.3.6 Conclusion
  • 8.4 Down the Memory Lane: “American Snapshots” (1999)
  • 8.4.1 Playing with Collective Memory: Chevrolet’s American Century
  • 8.4.2 Altering American Values
  • 8.4.3 Discussion
  • 8.4.4 Conclusion
  • 8.5 Chapter Conclusion
  • 9 The 2000s: Global Interactions and Defining Moments of Truth
  • 9.1 What’s Good for the Country Is Good for GM: “Keep America Rolling”
  • 9.1.1 The “General” Up Front: Framing the American Dream
  • 9.1.2 GM’s Solution Is Simple: Patriotic Shopping to Keep the Dream Alive
  • 9.1.3 Double Meaning of the Title “Keep America Rolling”
  • 9.1.4 Discussion
  • 9.1.5 Conclusion
  • 9.2 Chevrolet Proclaims “An American Revolution”
  • 9.2.1 Does Controversy Sell Trucks? – “Anthem: Our Country. Our Truck.”
  • 9.2.2 America and Chevrolet as Victims
  • 9.2.3 US vs. Them: The Atomic Bomb Controversy
  • 9.2.4 What Is the Revolution?
  • The Revolution Is Not American but Global
  • Dodge Was Leading “An American Revolution” First
  • 9.2.5 Controversial Singer John Mellencamp
  • 9.2.6 Discussion
  • 9.2.7 Silverado Print Campaign: A Truck for Real Men
  • Print Ad #1: Our Country Our Truck
  • Print Ad #2: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Horsepower
  • 9.2.8 Conclusion
  • 9.3 Cadillac: “Life. Liberty. And the Pursuit.”
  • 9.3.1 Analysis of the Tagline
  • 9.3.2 Print Ad: 2007 Cadillac Escalade
  • 9.3.3 Cadillac as a Status Symbol and Synonym for the American Dream: Tiki Barber Ads
  • Urban Frame
  • My Cadillac Story: “Life after Football”
  • 9.3.4 Discussion
  • 9.3.5 Conclusion
  • 9.4 Rethinking Values: Saturn’s “Rethink American”
  • 9.4.1 Challenging the Status Quo
  • 9.4.2 Drive the Change: The New Saturn Line-Up
  • 9.4.3 Discussion
  • 9.4.4 Conclusion
  • 9.5 Chapter Conclusion
  • 10 Conclusion and Outlook
  • 10.1 The Evolution of the Patriotic Appeal
  • 10.2 Fulfilling the Patriotic Duty
  • 10.3 The America GM Imagines
  • 10.4 The Value of Family
  • 10.5 The Travel Metaphor
  • 10.6 Automobile Consumption and Citizenship
  • 10.7 Diversity – Which Diversity?
  • 10.8 The Frontier Experience
  • 10.9 Exception to the Rule
  • 10.10 The Patriotic Phase Is No Intermezzo
  • 10.11 Further Aspects for Additional Research
  • 10.12 Outlook: The New GM
  • 10.13 Global Strategy, Global Iconic Brand, and Global Advertising
  • List of Figures
  • Bibliography

1 Introduction

“Congratulations! That song I wrote you was so patriotic, they decided to make it into a Chevy commercial,” says Royce Lumpkin, manager of White Trash Records, to the female country group Dixie Chicks while walking into his decaying recording studio where the band was producing a new album. He hands the women their revised lyrics and tells them: “I changed a few lines.” Lumpkin has crossed out the first word of the opening sentence of the song which now reads “Chevy’s back and we’re feeling patri-otter!” instead of “My daddy’s back/America’s back and we’re feeling patri-otter!” Obviously, the band is not very excited about this development, as singer Emily Robison counters: “I don’t know. You’re asking us to sell out our song for what?” Royce replies “Cash money!” The band members’ facial expression changes immediately and they get excited, singing in chorus: “Uh, we love money.”

This scene stems from the popular animated TV series The Simpsons1 (see Fig. 1). Created by cartoonist Matt Groening, The Simpsons “continuously satirizes virtually every element of our culture” by subtly breaking down and discussing culture, values, and the American way of life, making it “culturally rich” (Waltonen and DuVernay 2010: 241–42, 256). The scene depicted is, on the one hand, a full-fledged parody of the Dixie Chicks controversy from 2003, reflecting on the contemporary discourse on the issue of patriotism in American society in the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.2 On ←15 | 16→the other hand, the scene also mocks Chevrolet’s patriotic advertisements [ads], particularly ridiculing the 2006 campaign “Our Country”3 and the commercial’s tune written by country singer John Mellencamp.

The ads of this campaign were not the familiar flag-waving car commercials, but they mixed patriotic images and heroes with shameful episodes from America’s past for the very first time, making them a milestone for advertising in the US. By exploiting images of Rosa Parks, the Katrina disaster, and 9/11, for instance, in order to sell the Silverado pickup truck, the spot became a “love it or leave it” thing, meaning that one either liked it for the novelty of incorporating negative aspects of American culture in advertising or rejected it for pointing to exactly these aspects. Seth Stevenson argues that this polarization was strengthened by the presence of Mellencamp, who used to make semi-political statements ←16 | 17→about the dark side of the American Dream and who argued in an open letter in 2003 that the war in Iraq was “ ‘solidifying our image as the globe’s leading bully’ ” (2006, “Can Rosa Parks Sell Pickup Trucks?”). In “Papa Don’t Leech,” The Simpsons pokes fun at this particular Chevrolet commercial, thereby contributing to the cultural relevance of the brand which had become an American icon.

If themes such as Americana and patriotism are so strongly associated with the Chevrolet [Chevy] brand, as indicated in The Simpsons episode, then there must be reasons for this perception. Patriotism and American values are not a new trend in Chevrolet advertising but have been prominently employed as a strategy in advertising for years, and even decades. The question arises when exactly General Motors [GM] started to associate these themes with their brand and whether this phenomenon is solely restricted to the Chevrolet division inside the GM group or if other divisions have also used similar campaigns to promote their cars. Thus, the purpose of this study is to explore how GM and its subsidiaries have framed the corporate identity in domestic ads in order to convey the ‘American brand’ image to the public. The objective is to analyze which values conceived as typically American are advertised by GM to promote its corporate image and the claim that American national interests and those of GM are identical. I argue that in its self-created representations GM has continuously used a patriotic framing along the lines of Charles Wilson’s misquoted statement “What’s good for General Motors is good for America and vice versa,”4 linking itself and its products to the well-being of the country.

1.1 Current State of Research

Since the mid-20th century, the relationship between culture, society, and advertising has been the subject of numerous publications. In The Mechanical Bride ←17 | 18→(1951), Marshall McLuhan analyzes American ads of the 1940s and concludes that advertising is a totalitarian force, which manipulates humans through constant information overstimulation. His work is widely regarded as the starting point for scores of studies dealing with the central question of how advertising affects individuals and society. His equating of advertising with manipulation dominated the discourse until the mid-1980s.

In Gender Advertisements (1979), Erving Goffman conducted one of the classic studies of gender role portrayals in advertising. His findings indicate that media perpetuate male dominance and usually depict women as mothers or as sexual objects.5

In his extensive study of advertising from 1920–1940 entitled Advertising the American Dream (1985), Roland Marchand disagrees with the notion of an overwhelming impact of advertising on the recipient. He rejects the so-called “hypodermic needle theory,” which underlines the power of the media to manipulate the minds of the audience as it stresses that an intended message is directly received and entirely imbibed by the receiver. Yet he acknowledges that frequently repeated media images possess the power “to establish broad frames of references, define the boundaries of public discussion, and determine relevant factors in a situation” (Marchand 1986: XX).

Since the 1990s, advertising is no longer regarded as pure manipulation but as a social text which mirrors and creates culture (Sivulka 1998: XIII). Furthermore, advertising is considered an omnipresent and observable manifestation of a collectively shared frame of reference (Marchand 1986: XX). In accordance with its sales objective advertising dramatizes and interprets ideals, values, and desires and thus shapes – even influences – what we think, feel, and want (Temath 2011: 17). Based on these assumptions, it is presupposed that advertising is particularly suited as a cultural research object because it must pick up contemporary and widely accepted values and attitudes to effectively communicate its messages with its target audience in its cultural context. Works focused on automobile advertising often comprise descriptive historical overviews of selected decades of the 20th century (cf. Roberts 1976, Stevenson 1995/2008, Einstein 2010), but detailed image analyses are hard to find. In addition, American studies has been criticized for its lopsided tendency to examine American culture on its own and for not paying much attention to cross-cultural comparison (Campbell and Kean 2008: 3). As a result of this criticism, a number of studies comparing foreign car ←18 | 19→advertising with American auto advertising were published in the past decades (e.g. Tansey, Hyman and Zinkhan 1990, Temath 2011). Yet American auto ads have hardly been the subject of qualitative and interpretative analyses. Another reason for this lack of interest seems to be the assumption that in the light of a postmodern differentiation of society a broad consensus and generally binding symbolic world can no longer be assumed (Temath 2011: 17). In contrast, this study will show that generally binding values are especially conveyed in product-unspecific brand and corporate advertising.

Usually, the trade press is first in writing on new ads. The most prominent trade journals from the advertising sector are Advertising Age and Adweek. With regard to automobile advertising, the automotive trade media, such as Automotive News, Car and Driver, or Motor Trend and Road and Track, also cover new automotive ads. In their advertising and car sections respectively, national newspapers like The New York Times and USA TODAY regularly pick up automobile advertising themes. Furthermore, regional papers from the very center of the automobile industry in Detroit, The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, also report on new car ads. Often, the articles on newly launched auto ads superficially touch on the ad theme and rather include strategic considerations of the car companies and advertising agencies in the form of quotes to explain why these ads were created and what they aim at. Only very few articles set the new ads in relation to prior ad campaigns. One noteworthy article appeared in the special edition of Automotive News on the Centennial of General Motors in 2009. In “Chevy takes value, volume message, and wraps it in flag,” Nick Lico tracks Chevrolet’s most significant ad campaigns and argues that since the conclusion of World War II [WW II] one of the cornerstones of Chevrolet’s advertising has been the recurring message of American pride (2008: 148).

Only a small number of studies relevant to my topic have been produced to date. Two theses were written in Germany. In her dissertation Kulturelle Parameter in der Werbung (2011), Bettina Temath compares German and American automobile advertisements from two selected periods, 1980/81 and 2005/06. In her quantitative content analysis and semiotic qualitative analysis of more than 700 ads from consumer magazines, she examines culture-specific and cross-cultural forms of advertising and shows which commonalities and differences exist in the comparison of these periods. She analyzes, among others, the cultural parameters of innovation and progress, safety, technology, automobile freedom, individuality, and patriotism. According to Temath, there exists an approximation in form and content and that there are universal advertising styles which mainly communicate visually and emotionally. She ←19 | 20→concludes that culture specifics are not dissolving but continue to exist in a more subtle form.

Temath’s approach is limited, though, as she does not develop a list of American and German core values and hence neglects culture specifics. Also, her analysis does not include TV commercials, which are usually loaded with more meaning than print ads and which are framed with more core values. Because of her rather quantitative comparison of time periods, Temath, to a certain degree, disregards the interconnectedness which exists between the cultural parameters in the ads.

More related to this study at hand is Christiane Wiedenroth’s first state examination thesis “Making the Nation a Neighborhood: Chevrolet an American Icon” (2001). In a qualitative analysis of Chevrolet ads in the period 1922 to 1995, she expands on the changes in the US and shows how the ads reflected the American way of life. She also finds evidence that Chevrolet’s advertising did not only reflect societal developments but that it was also aimed at actively changing society and its values at the same time. She presents the ways in which Chevrolet advanced to an American icon over the decades.

My study ties in with these two approaches. The value of patriotism, however, plays only a marginal role in Temath’s and Wiedenroth’s works. As I regard patriotism as the most essential value in GM’s advertising, I will analyze how this core value affects the general public perception of the automaker. The entirety of GM’s advertising is too complex to be examined completely. Therefore, my study will predominantly focus on the image and brand advertising campaigns of GM between 1939 and 2009 in the USA. I will analyze GM’s advertising and comprehensively examine the conveyed social contexts as the automobile is an essential component of everyday life. Moreover, cars are intertwined with complex societal narratives and levels of meaning, which are both reproduced as well as actively produced in advertising.

For this purpose, an interdisciplinary and methodologically integrative approach is the means of choice. Particularly, this study takes into account methods and research findings of American studies, cultural studies, sociology, and communications studies as well as advertising studies and cross-cultural studies. Through this approach, the analysis hopes to gain more depth than Temath’s comparison of two short time periods and allows for more comprehensive conclusions regarding long-standing value trends than Wiedenroth’s work. Thus, my study is meant to provide a better understanding of American culture in general and American car culture, in particular. In addition, it will give insight into economic and corporate culture, a field which has been mostly neglected in American studies.

←20 | 21→

1.2 Theory and Chapter Outline

The following chapter outlines the theories applied in this study. The cultural analysis of American car advertisements requires a clarification of the underlying concept of culture. In addition, it calls for the derivation of a culture model which conceptualizes both the construction of meaning and the existing cultural symbols. In his culture onion concept, Geert Hofstede divides culture into four layers (from outside to inside): symbols, heroes, rituals, and values. As it is assumed that values form the core of a culture, the value concept is explicated and core values of the American value system are introduced. In the Rokeach Value Survey (RVS),6 social psychologist Milton Rokeach has identified the most important and relevant American values. Thus, his study is of interest for this thesis since it offers a suitable approach for the categorization of American values. Based on Hofstede’s culture onion concept, Rokeach’s RVS and two further comprehensive value lists by Gary Althen (intercultural communication) as well as Hawkins et al. (marketing/ consumer behavior), a representative joint canon of American core values will be developed and serve as a foundation for my analysis of ads.

Erving Goffman and scholars from other academic fields maintain that our whole life is framed by selective perceptions, i.e. decisions and actions of people are influenced by media-originated images which can be regarded a central part of culture. Congruently, the chapter also deals with the multiple roots of the framing-theory and explains what roles PR and advertising play in the creation of images and how they influence public perception.

In addition, the chapter defines advertising, gives a brief historical overview of the advertising industry, its significance for the US economy, and its current challenges, especially in the automobile industry, and deals with patriotic marketing. Although patriotism is a widely used theme in advertising, particularly with regard to the “Buy American” movements, there is yet no definition of patriotic advertising. Accordingly, a clarification of the concept and a definition are provided. Afterwards, contemporary “Buy American” trends and campaigns are discussed and commented on. The theoretical part concludes with methodological considerations regarding the implementation of the cultural examination. Furthermore, the selection of advertisements, the period of analysis, and the analytical instruments are clarified and justified.

←21 | 22→

My previous thoughts result in the following framework for the analysis: Chapter 3 starts by scrutinizing the 1940s – a decade which I regard as the starting point for GM’s patriotic undercurrent. The chapter expounds the repercussions of WW II on the GM Corporation and its advertising. It shows how the company kept its brands visible in a time of curtailed auto travel and wartime production as well as how ad messages were adapted to the ever-changing situations and developments of war, always selling patriotism and victory to the American public. Moreover, the chapter points out how the company secured customer loyalty for the postwar years in which it would resume both the leadership position in the market and the leadership theme in its advertising held prior to the war.

By analyzing the example of the Dinah Shore Chevy TV commercial “A Great New Star” and The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, Chapter 4 illustrates the prosperous 1950s and paints a picture on how the nation is seen by GM. The question must be posed whether Chevrolet7 advertising tried to convey patriotism and traditional family values, i.e. the picture of the American nuclear family with the working father, the homemaker mother and their two children, and whether traditional gender roles are reinforced, although the number of working women was permanently increasing. Moreover, the travel leitmotif of “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet” will be examined and the patriotic, identity-forming function explained. It will be shown how this development was further strengthened by suburbanization as well as the growing dependence on automobility.

The tumultuous decade of the 1960s is examined in Chapter 5. It explores how Chevrolet leveraged the changes taking place on network TV, and how it influenced network programming in turn. It fathoms Chevrolet’s linkage to the western series Bonanza and the sitcom Bewitched which both dominated the network ratings of the decade. These shows promoted American family values and offered the public an escape from the instability of the decade. The chapter also highlights how advertising reflected change and contravened the sociocultural developments in the 1960s. It concludes with a thematical selection of print ads which show how Chevrolet counteracted the increasing foreign competition in their ads.

←22 | 23→

The 1970s were a decade of strong patriotic sentiment, which was triggered by the oil crisis and the growing foreign competition in the auto industry. Chapter 6 reflects on how society was seeking escape from the problems and unrest of the era and shows how advertising was adjusted to reflect the demand for 1950s nostalgia and values in order to convey stability to the public. Furthermore, it exemplifies how Chevrolet found new advertising paths and themes while automotive novelties were lacking. The chapter demonstrates how Chevrolet made use of the nationally emerging broadcast sport of NFL football and its sports hero O.J. Simpson. Moreover, it explains how the Bicentennial was utilized in the company’s advertising strategy. Afterwards, it elucidates how Chevrolet, with nationalist pride, responded to the Japanese competition by defining itself as an indispensable ‘All-American’ icon in the ad slogan “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet.”

Chapter 7 is concerned with the 1980s when ads tried to strengthen Chevrolet as America’s best-selling brand and tied the automaker’s image to traditional conservative American cultural values such as family, hard work and continuity. “The Heartbeat of America”-commercials emphasize how the brand is woven into the American fabric and an integral part of American culture and daily life. Furthermore, they invite the audience, in a nationalist tone, to identify with country and culture.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (February)
US-Culture American Values Patriotism Automotive Industry Automobile Advertising Marketing
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 356 pp., 29 fig. col., 11 fig. b/w

Biographical notes

Markus Weik (Author)

Markus Weik studied American Studies, English Literature and Culture, and Physical Education at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the University of Kansas in Lawrence (USA). He earned his Master’s degree and PhD in Mainz and is currently working as a media spokesperson at a large German corporation.


Title: American Patriotism and Corporate Identity in Automobile Advertising