Backpedalling Done Right
Submitted by Christine Wood on Sun, 10/16/2011 - 15:33
GM had a recent lapse in marketing judgment.
As part of their “Reality Sucks” campaign, they ran this rather distasteful ad attacking cyclists in a large media buy across US campuses.
The ad shows an attractive woman riding shotgun in a new sedan. They pull up to a stop light next to a cyclist. The cyclist covers his face to hide his cycling cyclist shame. Reality Sucks. Buy a Chevvy. Get it?
Not super witty, but GM never was known for its subtlety.
The back story
While the campaign itself is a year old, the blog bikeportland.org picked a couple days ago and the ad has since been reposted and flogged throughout the blogosphere and twitterverse. Here's what some other's are saying about it. And some others. To say people are angry would be putting it mildly. People are livid. And some-- such as the League of American Bicyclists-- are seeing this as a call to war with the corporate giant.
So why all the outrage? Yes, cyclists can be an edgy bunch. Get to close to them as you make your pass, they will yell and make obscene gestures. Big GM just made an obnoxious moneouver. Yes, but there is much more to it than that...
Angry Cyclists + An Angry Epoch
The reason this ad - which is part of a campaign that has been running for a year now - is exploding right now may have alot to do with the extreme tensions running through the country right now with corporate culture in America. The ongoing #OccupyWallSteet movement is quickly evolving into an #OccupyEverything movement, as large protests and sit ins have spread to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, as well as Madrid, London, Sydney, and dozens of other major cities.
Diffusing the Bomb
GM made a mistake, but what is interesting here is that they were quick to fix it and managed their PR crisis very well. They cancelled the ad, admitted their mistake, and offered a sincere apology, as they were repeatedly blasted on Twitter and Facebook.
They took the criticism on the chin. They had the option to shut down their facebook wall and hide (as some 70% of companies do when it comes to online negative feedback). But they left the gates open. They didn't dodge the onslaught of negative comments; GM apologized over and over and over again.
And their strategy of being humble and human paid off. Soon, GM advocates and loyal fans came to the rescue.
GM made a mistake. They ran an ad at a wrong time. Their social media and community management team acknowledged each and every negative comment, quickly and authentically. It's difficult for corporate brands to admit errors in judgement. Yet, GM did just that. For that reason alone, they deserve our kudos.