Thursday, March 18, 2010
Chevrolet goes digital at Texas tech-fest
Chevrolet has affixed QR codes on the hoods of cars that, when photographed with a camera phone, will launch microsites with features info.
Chevrolet is making a big splash at the South by Southwest Interactive conference now taking place in Austin, Texas, and it's just the beginning of the GM brand's planned 30 percent commitment to digital this year.
"This is not a nine-day one-off," said Christopher Barger, General Motor Co.'s director of social media. "Everything we're doing here needs to have applications we can build on beyond Austin."
This program is one of the first major social-media and technology campaigns from a Detroit Three automaker other than Ford Motor Co. since the industry took a nosedive in 2008.
But Barger said Chevy's social-media, augmented reality and mobile programs at the conference are not intended to steal the digital-savvy spotlight from Ford. Instead, they're test pilots for Chevrolet, which Barger said plans to commit about 30 percent of its marketing money to digital this year.
Chevrolet is launching an extensive digital campaign at the music, film and interactive festival, including a tie-in with Austin-based Gowalla, where users check in from their phones around the city to get messages and offers from the GM brand. For example, those flying into Austin can check in at the airport for a free ride downtown in a Chevrolet Equinox.
"The reason we're doing this here is so really smart tech people can make suggestions," Barger said of the swarms of digital agency and technology people that descend on Austin every March. "This is a place for us to learn. How do we apply this to the rest of the marketing we'll be doing moving forward?"
Chevrolet has also affixed QR codes on the hoods of cars that, when photographed with a camera phone, will launch microsites with features info. Chevy has also released the iReveal app to view three-dimensional, augmented reality models of cars on the streets of Austin. While none of these programs -- save free rides from the airport -- sound revolutionary, the moves mark a start for an automaker that has fallen behind Ford on digital innovation.
Barger said that while GM has kept its eye on Ford like any company does with a competitor, it's not looking to emulate what Ford has done in social or digital media.
"If really all you're doing when building a strategy is looking to what others have done, you're not going to be successful," he said of GM's plans for digital vis-a-vis Ford. "You need to draw attention to your own brand and find something unique to you."
Chevy has also handed out eight cars for teams to road trip to Austin from all corners of the country, while completing missions determined by Twitter followers along the way and tracking their progress through OnStar and Facebook, though the idea to put people in a car and have them document their experience through social media bears some resemblance to Ford's Fiesta Movement.