The verdict: How GMC used social to rethink a big reveal

Trade and auto shows were on the back burner, so the manufacturer rewrote its own playbook, down to the timeline.
hummer EV

Major vehicle reveals are usually reserved for big events like auto and trade shows – and despite all the uncertainty surrounding COVID, experts seem consistently certain that such events are a long ways away from making a big return.

So what was GMC Canada to do with the reveal of one of its most ambitious vehicles yet – the all-electric GMC Hummer EV? The vehicle was first teased during the Super Bowl, and while the manufacturer was expecting a full reveal to take place during the springtime, such plans could not play out.

“Between COVID and the vehicle being all-new and all-electrified, the timing was a bit longer for a reveal than it would have been normally,” says Michael MacPhee, brand director for Buick at GMC Canada. “We’d originally planned to do it in the April-May timeframe, but with people unable to travel early on in COVID, the online space became more important.”

He says the company had to “break down all pre-known and existing launch strategies” – which he says could be a more longer-term approach, not only because the timeframe for the end of the pandemic is unknown, but also because the online sphere allows for a wider variety of people to participate.

“I think one-to-many solutions in the online space are here to stay… What’s great about them is you don’t have to jump on a plane and go to a show. You can get the experience from your couch, on your phone or tablet.”

Working with its media agency of record Carat, as well as its creative partners at Leo Burnett, it opted for a live Twitter reveal. Carat Canada account director Liz Donovan breaks down the specific media tools it used.

The two main mechanisms were the Like to Remind feature, which Donovan says is useful because it gives the audience a chance to opt in. A teaser was boosted on the platform, and people who liked the post were reminded of the live event day-of. It also promoted the live event reminder tool.

On why it chose Twitter, Donovan says after the Super Bowl reveal, search and chatter were big online, especially on Twitter. “We saw that people were flocking to Twitter to discuss [the reveal]. With how quickly the discussion began, we knew Twitter would have to play a part in the way we brought it to market, and we wanted to make sure GMC was an active participant in the conversation.”

She says, overall, the media campaign supporting the launch event was very different, even down to the timeline. “Typically, the way we run our campaigns on the brand side, the vehicle has already been revealed, and it’s about driving awareness for people to consider. This one was leading up to the reveal.”

In addition to Twitter, it also utilized Twitch and YouTube to promote the live event. “It was really focused on making sure that when the reveal hit, that we had as many eyeballs on it as possible.”

While there won’t be sales data to pull from yet – according to the manufacturer website, initial availability is expected for Fall 2021 – the live stream and subsequent replays for the video hit five million views within 24 hours of the reveal. In addition, Canadian mentions of Hummer jumped by 550% on Twitter on launch day.