Making Lemons from Lemonade: How Chevy Took a Mistake at the World Series and Turned it into a Powerful Engagement Opportunity for the Brand

Image of Chevy Guy and Chevy Colorado
A visibly nervous Rikk Wilde presents a Chevy Colorado (vehicle on the right) to World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner

Marketing as one of the outward facing functions within an organization often finds itself executing strategies and tactics that will be viewed by significant portions of the population. When an advertisement (for instance) is being developed for placement within a magazine it’s not uncommon for it to go through multiple rounds of review with a focus on maximizing the advertisement’s value. One of the most obvious components of any review process of an advertisement involves identifying typographic errors and other unintended mistakes. Once a print ad has been approved and placed within one or more publications it is well on its way to being viewed by a substantial number of people. For the marketer responsible for this investment, there hopefully aren’t any mistakes within the contents of the ad that would make him/her or the brand look foolish.

On a personal level, embarrassing moments in front of colleagues and classmates can be difficult to stomach, but the audience is usually small and (if needed) an opportunity to redeem oneself is not too hard to find. When marketers make mistakes in their communications with the public the audience tends to be much larger and the impact tends to be more significant and difficult to counter. In the past this at least has largely been the case as marketing communications have been largely one way without tools and technologies in place to enable two way dialogues between brands and their consumers. In the present this is not the case with social media platforms for instance, affording many engaged brands greater opportunities to address mistakes and blunders on the part of the brand. In some cases, a fast moving and engaged marketing team can even turn a marketing blunder into a win-win for the brand and its audience. What happened to Chevy at the end of game seven of the 2014 Major League Baseball World Series is a great example of turning adversity into opportunity. An interesting article in Automotive News takes a great look at the incident and Chevy’s marketing team’s response to it.

For those who aren’t familiar with the hashtags “#ChevyGuy” or “#TechnologyAndStuff,” Rikk Wilde a Regional Zone Manager for Chevy gained the nickname “Chevy Guy” after giving a speech during the post-game ceremony of the World Series, that suffice to say contained a few embarrassing moments (a video of his speech can be seen at the end of this post). On behalf of Chevy, Rikk was given the responsibility of presenting Madison Bumgarner (the 2014 World Series MVP) with a 2014 Chevy Colorado. With over 23 million people viewing the final game of the World Series, Chevy’s spot within the post-game ceremony offered the brand an opportunity to put the Colorado in front of a large audience and highlight some of the vehicle’s more attractive product features. A visibly nervous Rikk Wilde when attempting to talk about some of the features of the Colorado could not seem to recall the information he needed and instead made the decision to push forward by noting that the vehicle had “leading, um, you know, technology and stuff.”

What may have initially appeared as a marketing fiasco for Chevy was responded to both humorously and sympathetically by the public. People crafted memes for the “Chevy Guy” and the video of Rikk’s presentation was posted again and again on YouTube garnering millions of views in the days that followed. Many fans created parodies of the video as well as other creative projects. In the hours following Rikk’s presentation Chevy’s marketing team used social media sites such as Twitter to engage the public. By the next day the company was working with its ad agency to fast track the production and distribution of three online video ads with the addition of “and stuff” in the voiceover component of each one. Chevy’s ability to poke fun at their own expense seems to have paid off for the brand with the Colorado commanding 70 percent of the conversations had by the public online about trucks in the days following Rikk Wilde’s speech, according to an article in AdAge.

While some comments that can be seen on sites such as YouTube are not particularly kind to Rikk Wilde or Chevy, a number of comments and conversations are very supportive of Rikk and empathetic to his experience. After all, who hasn’t been nervous when speaking in front of a large audience? When looking at the value of the events for Chevy it is worth considering that it’s not always easy for a brand to express its personality in authentic ways. In a constantly connected and fast paced world some savvy marketers within Chevy were able to quickly respond to what initially probably looked like a disaster and engage the public in a memorable and meaningful way.

From a marketing management perspective here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you believe that Chevy benefitted more from Rikk Wilde’s mistake and the company’s response to it than it would have had if Rikk executed his speech as intended? Why or why not?
  • As a marketing manager what are some ways not mentioned in this post that you might measure the impact of Chevy’s response to Rikk Wilde’s mistake? How would you communicate the value of Chevy’s marketing response to senior management within the organization?
  • Chevy made the decision after about a week to cease their efforts to incorporate elements related to the hashtags “#ChevyGuy” and “#TechnologyAndStuff” into their marketing efforts. Do you believe that the timing was appropriate? Why or why not?