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How Chevrolet reversed a social crisis

News, 18 March 2015

AUSTIN, TX: Chevrolet, the auto marque, demonstrated how a mix of preparation and strategic flexibility can help marketers overcome the challenges of a nascent social media crisis during a session at South By Southwest (SXSW).

Jamie Barbour, the brand's manager/digital and social advertising, discussed this topic as part of the Interactive Festival at the annual event held in Austin, Texas.

And she zeroed in on the fallout from the 2014 World Series, where a Chevy representative stumbled over his words while presenting Madison Bumgarner with the Most Valuable Player award and the keys to a new vehicle. (For more on this subject, including key brand metrics, read Warc's exclusive report: How Chevrolet turned a social-media crisis into a triumph – and stuff.)

With the cameras rolling and millions of baseball fans watching, Rikk Wilde, a zone manager in Kansas City, stated that the 2015 Colorado truck incorporated a winning combination of "technology and stuff".

Twitter soon erupted with parodies and unflattering posts, representing a significant problem for the brand late on a midweek night.

Fortunately, however, Chevy had an infrastructure in place should any such scenarios emerge during the finale of the Major League Baseball season.

"Anytime we are part of a big event – or even if there is a big event that Chevrolet is not actually a part of – we have these little teams that we put together and they're monitoring the conversation in case things like this happen," Barbour said.

Working with FleishmanHillard, its social agency, Chevy was able to formulate a strategy and upload its own tweet in response approximately two hours after the online storm began.

By analysing the hashtags that were trending about the incident, it picked the most light-hearted conversation to join. Then, the brand made a judgement call to actively embrace the burgeoning "technology and stuff" meme.

And through entering the fray at the right time, and then phasing out this messaging before the joke got stale, Chevrolet effectively reshaped the online chatter.

But while this initiative clearly involved thinking on the fly, such spontaneity is only achievable if it is accompanied by the necessary long-term preparation.

"That's one thing to remember: when you work in social media, there is no weekend" Barbour said.

"You are constantly working 24/7, and though it might not seem that way, you always have to make yourself available, because moments like these do happen."

Data sourced from Warc