Really? Another Carmaker Social Fail: Volvo

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What is happening with these carmakers? Some totally get it and have really established themselves in Social Media.  But some are making the most damaging marketing mistakes I’ve ever seen carmakers do.  First it was Chrysler terminating the “offender” when he accidentally tweeted from Chrysler’s account instead of his own.  He tweeted, “I find it ironic that Detroit is the #motorcity when no one here can fucking drive.”  24 hours later, Chrysler canned their agency, New Media Strategies for the employee’s social faux-pas.  Listen boys, you got some great publicity out of that one but your credibility on Social Media did a huge belly-flop.  Now all people remember is that you scurried for the rat hole trying to cover-up a Tweet that was not only true, but pretty funny.

You could’ve handled it like The Red Cross did a few weeks ago.  The same thing happened – someone accidentally tweeted from their personal account:  “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer…when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.”  Red Cross took the error in stride.  They tweeted, “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”

Impressed by the Red Cross’ calm and humane response, other tweeters–especially @dogfishbeer’s fans–launched a fundraising and blood donation drive. Its hashtag: #gettngslizzerd.  It’s turned into a marketing bonanza for The Red Cross and DogFish Beer.  Red Cross couldn’t be happier with the outcome. “While we’re a 130 year old humanitarian organization, we’re also made of up human beings,” the agency wrote in a blog post. “Thanks for not only getting that but for turning our faux pas into something good.”

Which outcome would you rather have?

Now we have Volvo, the red-headed stepchild of Ford who’s been struggling the last few years.  They’ve completely obliterated the buying public’s perception of “Volvo = Safety”.  Ford finally found a buyer for Volvo, China’s Geely, and then took ions of time getting that done, further damaging the Swedish car’s brand.

Reading a post this Monday by Social Car News‘ Richard Read, we learn that Volvo is threatening a trademark infringement lawsuit against a Volvo fan site called Really Volvo? You already have trouble attracting new customers with all that’s happened.  Why-o-why would you alienate the people who love and support you? This is brand suicide. Maybe this is the “New Volvo”.

Does Volvo really believe they can control the conversation about itself? Clearly, with Social Media, that is impossible.  A better use of Volvo’s time would be to support and invite it’s members to share their stories on all Social Media channels. Customers communicate their experience better than any marketing effort. Volvo could embrace and engage the community there and together they could re-establish the New Volvo.

I managed a Volvo store once and I can tell you, these cars are fantastic.  Unfortunately, that fact is overshadowed by bad management of the brand.  When you like your attorneys more than your fans, you suffer the consequences.  People like me write about it and then no claim you make in your advertising can counter it.  It doesn’t matter what your ads say because on Social networks, car buyers have friends who are telling them otherwise.

Do you have a point of view about managing Social Media snafus?



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  • Scott Golembiewski

    Thats what happens when you do nothing with social media, you basically open it up for anyone to take care of an unmet need. I think they should be happy with it, and show appreciation for the work that went into it.

    Those are the most valuable customers right there. They are brand evangelists, and good practice would be to acknowledge and communicate wherever they are, whether its a volvo site, a bmw site, or any site that they happen to be talking about you.

    The last thing a brand should do is try and stop anyone from talking, positive or negative doesn’t matter. Just be aware of it, engage in it, and show sincere gratitude for it.

  • Tracy Shaffer

    Kathi I couldn’t agree with you more. What people, and in that I include Corporations, need to wake up and realize is that control of message has been obliterated by the open public forum. It is a misunderstanding of the brave new world of social media to believe that the global watering hole can be silenced or censored; this cat’s not going back in the bag. I was recently called out for a tweet that linked to a blog post in a series of blogs on a specific event. The group I was championing felt I’d attached a negative headline to a positive blogpost. I had to educate the staffers who handle their social media about moving people to click on a link and offered them the analytics on how much more traffic was driven to that link. If Volvo and others want to continue the message that they are the best/safest car on the road, they must now create that perception by asking us what we think. Thanks for sharing your keen insight.