Chrysler said it's not renewing its contract with its social media agency, New Media Strategies, following hubbub about the controversial tweet that an employee sent via the Chrysler handle: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the Motor City yet no one here knows how to f—ing drive.”
Initially, the agency fired the employee, and Chrysler manager of electronic communication Ed Garsten responded via the company blog. He explained that the tweet, f-bomb aside, went against the position of the new marketing campaign which promotes the city, as it associates the challenges of Detroit with those of the brand.
So why were we so sensitive? That commercial featuring the Chrysler 200, Eminem and the City of Detroit wasn't just an act of salesmanship. This company is committed to promoting Detroit and its hard-working people. The reaction to that commercial, the catchphrase “imported from Detroit,” and the overall positive messages it sent has been volcanic.
Indeed, as an automaker that went through the roughest of times just two years ago, we appreciate the challenges Detroit faces in reclaiming its place as a vibrant, world-class city.
In that post, he also wanted to make it clear that the agency, not Chrysler, fired the employee:
"First, Chrysler did not fire this person since this wasn't one of our employees. The agency did. It was their decision. We didn't demand it."
After that kind of statement, and just in general, it probably wouldn't fare well for Chrysler's image to dump an agency based on just one employee screw-up. So why did the brand then axe the agency? According to a Forbes blog, this was the last straw in a series of screw-ups.
Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne and his marketing chief, Francois Olivier, were already furious with New Media Strategies' boss Pete Snyder for spilling the beans about the top-secret Eminem ad when he appeared on the CBS Early Show three days before the Super Bowl.
Twitter can be extremely dangerous for a brand - we all saw what happened with 140 insensitive characters from Kenneth Cole - but the real risk of decay, for a client or consumer relationship, goes beyond one potentially damaging statement. It's associated with deeper mishaps related to long-term relationships and brand equity.