Marketplace Scratch Pad

It’s a mystery

Paddy Hirsch Aug 7, 2009

What does it mean? What’s 8 11? Is that a date? Is that supposed to be 23 or 230? Is that an electrical socket or a smiley face? Or both?

It’s General Motors’ new advertisement, but no-one seems to know what it means. There’s chatter that it’s supposed to be a promotion of the new Chevy Volt electric vehicle, but GM is keeping very quiet. Ad Age worked the phones and got nowhere. Here’s some more possibilities:

Another contender is a just-announced Buick cross-over SUV plug-in hybrid. According to auto blog GM-volt.com, the vehicle will be launched in 2011 “and is expected to be the first commercially available plug-in hybrid SUV produced by a major automaker.”
Other guesses floated on the web included a prototype for a 230-mpg car (seen in this CNN video clip from last year), something to do with Apple, or the conversion of the entire U.S. electrical grid from 120 volts to 230.
Despite the curiosity in some quarters, though, the mystery and frustration haven’t exactly spread like wildfire. There is a whatis230.com site, a Flickr photostream, a blog, a YouTube channel and a Facebook group — none of which seem to be gaining the sort of traction that would make such a viral effort a true pop-culture phenomenon. (Though it does seem to be flirting with a backlash.)

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