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Social Media Showdown: Chevrolet versus Cheerios

Chevy won; why?

Two words - brand relevance.

The 2008 book on social media, Groundswell, provided a framework for brands to show how “to turn the force of customer connections to your own advantage.” The social landscape in 2016 is radically different, however, the principles and best practices hold steady.

From this week’s examples, brands are still very publicly stumbling in social, especially Chapter 6’s Talking with the Groundswell! The General Motors and General Mills’ examples demonstrate that first and foremost, a brand has to be relevant to the conversation, after all, social media is having a conversation with the audience, not like traditional marketing, which is talking at the audience.

The Chevrolet brand participated in the event in a manner where the brand was relevant. The creative wasn’t about the brand, it was about the emotion and sentiment. Nowhere in the add is Chevrolet, General Motors, or even Corvette mentioned. For that matter, Prince isn’t even mentioned – the copy is all about the 1982 song, Little Red Corvette, and the loss of the artist. In this case, the use of the event was relevant to the brand and the creative expressed the sentiment appropriately.

In contrast, what does the breakfast cereal Cheerios have to do with the artist Prince? Not only is there no relevance, the creative was smarmy and included a piece of Cheerios to dot the i in “Rest in Peace.” Ewwww. The brand was clearly trying to “event jack” and used the #prince hashtag in the copy. Top-to-bottom, no brand relevance between Cheerios and Prince whatsoever.

For brands to participate in events, it’s best to only participate where the brand has clear relevance and the execution is not commercial in any way. It’s OK for a brand to express a sentiment, because brands are powered by people, and people turn to social to express their emotions and feel the collective sentiment, especially in such a sad event. Perhaps a better participation for a brand without direct relevance would have been for the company to donate to one of Prince’s many causes, aligning the philanthropic efforts of the artist and the company.

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