The fears that so many marketers have expressed about consumer-generated content has finally been realized. What happens when we are no longer brand guardians but brand hosts? When we allow consumers to generate ads, movies, and other media in support of - or against - our brands?
GM's Chevy brand had a taste of what can happen when a recent entry to its latest Apprentice promotion depicted the new 2007 Tahoe as a gas-guzzling beast that will destroy the environment. And it made it live, on the site, for all the world to see:
Be sure to take it all in now because...
Tomorrow this asshole's SUV will change the world
Global warming isn't a pretty SUV ad
It's a frightening reality
Tahoe—An American Revolution
Yikes. Chevy hit on a good idea when they tried to up the ante on their last wildly successful Apprentice promotion by combining it with the latest trend, CGM. But I imagine this is not what the Chevy Ad Director had hoped for by way of social persuasion and collaboration.
I'm interested to see how Chevy handles this one: whether they'll pull the CGM ad down or allow it to run indefinitely. The campaign has received a ton of press from the start (from Jaffe Juice, Micropersuasion, and Autoblog among others), and this latest turn of events is only going to add to the buzz. In fact, the viral nature of this event may get images of the 2007 Chevy Tahoe in front of more people than it would have been exposed to on a normal day.
Chevy would be smart to use this one to its advantage: don't pull the ad down, but run an accompanying piece that acknowledges the concern. Create a video that says, "You're right. Saving the environment is critical, and we know it's an important issue to many people. Including our customers. That's why GM is at the forefront of developing alternative fuels with its E85 program..." You get the idea.
If you're going to play the CGM game, you need to embrace all the players. Even the negative ones can provide valuable insights into your target audience, and help you fine-tune your approach to overcoming barriers. That's the power that this two-way dialogue creates.
UPDATE: Chevy deemed the campaign a success, despite the negative buzz, when it announced these results on April 4th: Users have submitted more than 21,000 ads and have emailed ads over 40,000 times; the site has generated 2.4 million pageviews; and the average visit to the site lasts more than 9 minutes.