How Chrysler Got It F*cking Wrong

by Matt Sullivan on March 11, 2011

Note: In light of the recent tragedy in Japan, consider donating and supporting the Red Cross’ efforts to help victims of the earthquake/tsunami.

Chrysler Got It Wrong

It’s interesting how a social media slip-up by a company can suddenly become big news with the most recent faux pas being the commentary on Detroit drivers via the Chrysler Twitter account.

If you don’t know the story, read it here but the basics are that ChryslerAutos tweeted:

I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive.

In my mind, I picture that Tweet being seen by some Chrysler executive, resulting in a series of overreactions, followed by meetings about who is responsible, security audits of account access, strategy formation about spin & damage control, finally resulting in a response Tweet:

Our apologies – our account was compromised earlier today. We are taking steps to resolve it.

This was later followed up by an “official” press release about how Chrysler does not tolerate inappropriate behavior, language, or horseplay. (I added that last part. Chrysler obviously doesn’t have a sense of humor.)

Also, the blame was laid squarely on Chrysler’s “Social Media Agency” and the “responsible individual” was fired.

Wow, Chrysler. Way to be the fun police.

American Red Cross #gettingslizzard

When I see how this has played out, and how badly Chrysler has overreacted to it, I naturally compare it to the the recent Red Cross Twitter incident where an employee accidentally Tweeted out on the Red Cross account that they were #gettingslizzard.

The Red Cross acknowledged the mistake, applied a little humor and it actually became a big story about the awesomeness of the Red Cross, resulting in a windfall of donations.

Again, here’s how Chrysler chose to handle it:

  1. Chrysler hired an outside social media agency to manage their social media marketing.
  2. An employee for the agency accidentally got his accounts crossed and Tweeted his road rage using the ChryslerAutos account.
  3. Chrysler executives overreacted, thinking that they were going to lose millions of dollars over the word “fucking”.
  4. The agency employee was fired.
  5. Chrysler executives returned to smoking cigars lit via $100 bills

The part that sucks most for Chrysler is that they had recently built up a lot of brand equity via their “Imported from Detroit” ad during the Super Bowl featuring Eminem. I remember my Twitter feed blowing up with praise for the spot. The old dog Chrysler had successfully bridged the gap between traditional advertising and social media marketing. Now, they’re showing their true colors as an old school car manufacturer.

People make mistakes and social media can sometimes be the channel through which that mistake quickly becomes public. Should companies make a habit of dropping f-bombs? Probably not, but I do like to see a little personality from the brands I follow because as every sales manager will tell you: “people buy from people”.

What are your thoughts? Use as much colorful language as you want.

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