How “little” things can ruin a Brand… Chevrolet Volt

When deciding the annual man weekend trip, I received an invite to the Brickyard in Indianapolis. If you know me, my idea of a man weekend is typically out in the wilderness. But I thought this would be a new experience.

We arrived in Indianapolis the day before the race and we decided to walk around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As we got into the track, we took a tour and went to the vendor exhibits. The exhibit space was a lollapalooza of brands. Millions had been spent to engage loyal NASCAR fans.

We decided to look for one of our client’s exhibit spaces. Mike Johnson is the team manager for Stevenson Motorsports, we work with him specifically on Pole Position Raceway St. Louis and with Cheryl Johnson’s real estate firm Johnson Realty. We took some pictures of the Stevenson car in the Chevrolet exhibit.

Being a marketing junkie, I went and visited the Chevrolet “customer engagement” area; the area had computer terminals so I registered. I checked three boxes and the PR team gave me a free T-Shirt. About a minute later I received an email from Chevrolet thanking me for my interest in Chevy automobiles. Nice and quick follow up.

Then I saw the Chevy Volt that has become a political lightening storm. Being the curious type I decided to pay the car a visit. I asked the person at the exhibit what she thought of the car and she said, “Not much, I think it is really a dumb idea”. Then I said well that is brutally honest. So through further conversation I asked her if she worked for GM and she said she worked for a PR firm in New York (She named the firm). I suddenly cringed thinking what this client is paying to have this person promote a unique product that she doesn’t believe in. Obviously they have an employee that is not fully engaged.

In the end, the thing I took away from the exhibit was the comments about the Volt. In a different light it was a really nice car. But as she explained all the benefits and tax incentives available. Not one stuck in my head, I just kept thinking this person doesn’t believe in the product. Often times employee disengagement is not that obvious. So think how only a partially disengaged employee may impact your brand.

On a different note, Chevrolet did send a follow up direct mail piece to my house and had a local dealership email a couple times.  This was a nice follow up piece and is something that any brand can take advantage of whether large or small. The only thing it didn’t address was the lack of engagement by the person working the Volt display. Below is the piece I received: volt

Just remember your people are the things that can make or break your brand. So keep that in mind when staffing shows or with any touch point with customers. It doesn’t matter if you spend millions on marketing or thousands.