Industry Insights

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons: GM Social Media Success

Posted by April Giarla on Jul 4, 2016 6:00:00 AM

As an initiative to promote their 2015 Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck, GM organized a giveaway for one their trucks after the 2014 World Series Baseball Championship to San Francisco Giant's MVP Madison Bumgarner. 

Rikk Wilde, a Chevy Regional Manager, was chosen to announce the giveway in front of millions of US viewers. Nervous and struggling to read from a notecard in his hand, Wilde awkwardly boasted that the Colorado offers "class-winning and -leading, um, you know, technology and stuff." 

At first, the awkward proclamation appeared to be a big media gaff. 

Within an hour, "#ChevyGuy," "#TechnologyAndStuff" and "Rikk Wilde" were among the top 10 national trending topics on Twitter. Someone even created a parody account, @RikkWilde, which gained more than 400 followers overnight.

Twitter users were split on whether Chevy Guy more resembled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford or the late comedian Chris Farley. Some expressed sympathy toward Wilde, while a few comments were inevitably mean-spirited.

At around 1:30 a.m., Chevy noticed an opportunity and got in on the conversation with this post from its @ChevyTrucks account: "Truck yeah the 2015 #ChevyColorado has awesome #TechnologyAndStuff! You know you want a truck."

They continued to embrace the potentially negative attention more by adding "#TechnologyAndStuff" to the Colorado page on its website. GM also tweeted that its OnStar telematics service "brings #TechnologyAndStuff to the @ChevyTrucks #Colorado and more than 30 other @GM models."

Chevy followed by modifying TV commercials to include the new slogan #TechnologyandStuff as well as taking out national full-page ads in USA Today and The New York Times, in the two daily papers in Detroit, and in dailies in San Francisco and Kansas City, the World Series markets.

Mr. Edwards said traffic to Chevy's Colorado site jumped sevenfold in the days following the Game 7 giveaway. The Colorado stole  70% of the "social share of voice," or the percentage of conversations about trucks that people were having online.

As a result, in a period of 5 days following the gaff, the improvised #TechnologyAndStuff campaign generated $5 million in free media exposure for GM. 

Joining the conversation worked because it showed that Chevy didn't take itself too seriously, said Chevrolet U.S. marketing chief Paul Edwards. And "it was a product truth."

GM used Below the Line communications to their advantage in this particular case. BTL communications include any non-commission paid media opportunity (PR, Online & Social Media etc.). 

Some valuable lessons can be learned here:

  • Sometimes taking a potentially negative incident and turning it into a positive light can reap positive benefits for a brand
  • Brands must realize and understand the power that social media conversations currently hold, in both the BtoB and BtoC world.
  • Audiences are increasingly fragmented, thus raising the need for targeted communications tactics
  • When you know where to find your target group, BTL can be very cost effective
  • BTL gives you multiple options for a ‘different’ and targeted approach that can ‘break through the clutter’
  • BTL allows you to reach specific groups in more personal and meaningful ways, thus contributing to strengthening relationship building with customers

Reacting quickly, showing that a brand is approachable and has a sense of humor, engaging in a personal conversation with a fragmented audience and exposing the true benefits of their product is what turned this media lemon into profits for GM. 


Adapted from this AdAge article:

Topics: B2C

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