By now you’ve seen Chevy Sales Executive Rikk Wilde’s cringe-worthy presentation of the World Series MVP Award to the SF Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, as reporter Erin Andrews and Commissioner Bud Selig both looked to be trying to flag down a cab.
Not surprisingly, this clip immediately lit up the Twitterverse and generated a remarkable amount of media attention (and references to Chris Farley, with whom Mr. Wilde was frequently compared).
But perhaps unexpectedly, rather than distancing itself, GM took advantage of it with a wink and a smile, embracing Mr. Wilde’s performance and his instant classic utterance “Technology and Stuff”. Within a few days of the event, there was a full-page ad in USA Today playfully referencing the World Series MVP ceremony.
So of course, The Armchair MBA has decided to spoil the moment by trying to extract object lessons from this episode.
And there are clear lessons from L’affaire Wilde that today’s marketers need to keep in mind:
1) Expect the unexpected. Speed is key, so be ready.
- Today’s media saturation and 24/7 coverage means that an opportunity could present itself at any time
- Marketers need to be vigilant and have a response team on call
- Senior management needs to give marketing teams autonomy to act quickly
- Notable case in point: the Kraft Oreos PR team immediately took advantage of the 2013 Super Bowl blackout, while Poland Spring missed Marco Rubio’s Watergate 2.0
2) Serendipity can be your friend – be open to improvisation to marketing plans.
- Even the best plans need to be able to stretch sometimes to take advantage of marketplace events
- The Chevy Colorado pickup had just (Oct. 3) been named in a large airbag recall, which was limiting sales
- The publicity surrounding Mr. Wilde’s presentation drew new attention to the Colorado, and the recall went from front burner to a secondary issue, at least temporarily
3) Consumers like authenticity and the little guy. And they hate to be manipulated.
- Wilde’s memorable performance, while not pretty, was also clearly not slick corporate-speak, and therefore broke through the clutter, arguably much better than if a senior executive, or GM CEO Mary Barra herself, had presented the award
- We will use ‘little guy’ in the figurative sense. Mr. Wilde, by virtue of his stammering, sweating performance, reminded us that we’re all human, and if faced with a global TV audience, might be a little nervous ourselves. So in an unplanned way, this helped connect the audience to the product.
- This was 100% authentic. If it turned out that it was at all scripted, it would have backfired on GM in a huge way
- (As a side point, apparently Mr. Wilde was selected to give the award mostly because he was a long-time Royals fan and his management thought it would be a thrill for him — even though he was obviously not a media trained spokesperson. Good for you, Chevy!)
4) Consumers like humility and a sense of humor
- “Technology and Stuff” was a perfect way for GM to gently poke fun at itself
- In contrast, denying or attempting to spin would have been futile
5) Branding is very powerful for people too
- Unless you, as new parents, know with 100% certainty that your precious child is headed for a career path involving heavy metal bands or the adult film industry, for heaven’s sake, do NOT name him Rikk Wilde.
A quick response by Chevrolet. But I’m not sure the episode enhances the Chevy brand; it unfortunately fits some of the negative brand equity. I wonder why they decided he should present the award in the first place.
I think Mr. Wilde was known to be a long-time Royals fan and Chevy brass gave him the honor of presenting, which is sort of charming and old-school, if risky.
– In my opinion, considering a) the Colorado was in need of positive counterweight to the airbag recall and b) the ‘Technology and Stuff’ thing was taking on an online life of its own, Chevy could either duck and cover, or just go with it.
In any event, it definitely drove some extra unpaid awareness, and ‘technology’ is probably somehow now subconsciously associated with that brand. Not what the ad guys would draw up, but I would have probably done the same thing — with a short shelf life, to be sure.