November 12, 2014

4 Lessons The Church Can Learn From “The Chevy Guy”


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Last week, Rikk Wilde, a zone manager from Chevy presented the World Series MVP award to Madison Bumgarner. The presentation was definitely far from a TED Talk. Rikk was so nervous that it was uncomfortable for viewers to watch. His stuttering and stammering was a major distraction. At one point, his hands were shaking as he read from note cards. Just when I thought that it couldn’t get any worse, he made the comment that would soon be shared around the world. While talking about the Chevy truck he said, “It combines winning, um, leading….you know, technology and stuff.”

This was a disaster from a marketing standpoint. I can’t imagine the financial investment Chevy made for this type of exposure. Instead of leaving a positive mark on their product, a negative message was now going viral on the Internet. Fortunately, Chevy’s social media team completely turned the situation around for Chevy’s benefit by spinning “technology and stuff” and “Chevy Guy” into a marketing tagline for social media. At the end of the day, the phenomina has contributed over $5.2 million in free advertising and the Chevy website stats have exploded.

There are four lessons the church can learn from the “Chevy Guy” situation.

  1. They saw it through. The Chevy team remained focused on their strategy until the very end instead of moving on to the next project. I don’t think an intern just randomly noticed what was happening online. Chevy had a team that was watching every detail unfold. They were prepared and engaged until the very end. Many churches are stuck because they don’t see things to completion. Before one event ends, they hastily scurry to the next opportunity. Instead of fully developing great ideas, they settle for doing just enough to get by. Churches who are unstuck take time to evaluate what went right or wrong.
  2. They responded immediately. The Chevy team acted quickly instead of taking forever to develop a strategy. When your brand is plummeting, you don’t really have time to call another meeting. The team felt empowered and they quickly made decisions that turned a bad situation into a huge win. They went with the flow and used hashtags and the terminology to their advantage. Within 24 hours Chevy produced newspaper ads and TV commercials that said, “you know you want a truck and stuff.” Churches get stuck when they are bogged down with approval processes and poor systems that bottleneck action. Team members should be empowered to do what is necessary to further the vision. I think this not only applies to decisions that need to be made but also for giving the right to say no (or at least voice an opinion) when a decision is about to be made that is going to be a detriment to the bigger, long-term vision.
  3. They chose to go with authenticity and relatability. The Chevy team capitalized on Wilde’s authenticity and relatability. I think this part was already strategically planned out before he took the stage. Obviously, Chevy could have afforded to hire a dynamic communicator who would have said the exact message that needed to be communicated. They knew their target audience was the everyday working man. As people began criticizing Chevy on social media, something interesting began to happen. People started defending “The Chevy Guy.” Comments sprung up like, “You would be nervous too.” “He is just a normal guy.” etc. The “Chevy Guy” clearly related with normal, everyday people. I think churches get stuck when they fail to utilize authenticity and relateabilty. I totally understand putting people in the spotlight who are polished and professional, however churches shouldn’t forget that there are huge advantages of connecting with the people in the crowd.
  4. They brought it back to their mission. The Chevy team stayed laser focused on their mission. They knew at the end of the day the end goal was to sell more trucks. Notice they focused on “Chevy Guy.” The “technology and stuff” posts sounded funny but they all linked back to the company’s website. Each post had purpose, intentionality and opportunity for customers to take action. This is why it’s so important for churches to have a clear strategic plan. It helps them know when they are getting off course. Churches get stuck when they develop a “react” mindset instead of a “proactive” approach to ministry.

As I look back, I have to wonder…was this all done on purpose? What if the “Chevy Guy” knew exactly what he was doing the whole time? What if he meant to say, “Technology and Stuff?” Would it be too far fetched that a creative team the size of Chevy could have envisioned it all from the onset? What if people from their own team started the viral activity? I guess we will never know.

photo credit Fox Sports

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