Q&A: GM's Bierley Touts Power Of Social Media


Craig Bierley oversees the marketing organizations for two disparate General Motors brands -- one premium cars, the other trucks and SUVs. Having something like a bicameral mind is probably mandatory for that job. Luckily, when it comes to how to approach consumers, there are some big similarities between GMC and Buick -- especially now, when people are as likely to talk to each other as they are to listen to brands talk to them.

Bierley, who became director of advertising and promotions for Buick and GMC in March, says both brands need social media to motor people into showrooms. He says social media forums get people talking to each other about the products, help the two brands do research on who their prospects are and in which markets to focus regional efforts, and build brand affinity.

Regardless of what he's doing with his media mix, creative and overall strategy, it seems to be working. Buick is the fastest-growing brand in the U.S. market, with sales up for 12 consecutive months. GMC, also with 12 months of consecutive sales increases, saw a 48% increase in retail sales last month as well, driven by the Acadia and Terrain crossovers and Sierra full-sized pickup.



Marketing Daily talks with both sides of Bierley's mind in a two-part Q&A.

Q: First, what is GMC doing around the Super Bowl next year? I know you recently launched "Never Say Never Moment of the Week" [at, a program with NFL and ESPN people who vote on the best moment or play of the week for a chance at a trip for two to Super Bowl XLV in North Texas]. Is GMC going to do in-game advertising?

A: While GM is the NFL partner, the lead brand for that is GMC. We aren't advertising in the game broadcast but we get Official Vehicle status. GMC Sierra [full-sized pickup] is the hero vehicle. We will activate on the ground at the Super Bowl. We will have vehicles on site, and consumer engagement through a series of events.

Q: Why the focus on the pickup?

A: The game is at North Texas. It's a great market for us to be in down there and lead with pickups; a huge percentage of the U.S. pickup truck market is there.

Q: You have been doing a lot in social media both for the GMC and Buick brands [with programs like, a video site for advertising and testimonial content around the Terrain CUV; and social media-driven events like BarkWorldExpo a gathering of members of the online pet community in Atlanta in August where GMC did a "Bark and Ride" test-drive program for attendees]. What's the power of social media for GMC?

A: It is this idea of providing validation or affirmation, or using it as part of the consumer research process. If you are considering buying a GMC Acadia but don't have friends who own one, you are likely to be just as comfortable on an online forum simply asking if anyone has an Acadia and what they think of it. So I see peer-to-peer clearly becoming prevalent; and it's something we would like to cultivate and develop. For instance, we would like to enable consumer testimonials on our Facebook site.

Q: When it comes to getting the word out through social media, is the critical element the content, and counting on buzz to carry it around?

A: Really it's 50% content and 50% distribution: It's not enough to just make compelling content, it's equally important to figure out how you get it to consumers. Sometimes it distributes itself.

For example, we created a series of videos for GMC with six college kids in Texas around the NBA Finals last spring. We commissioned them to do 10 unbelievably difficult basketball shots -- that's their shtick. So they went on the "CBS Morning Show" when they debuted the video because they had a relationship there. Then the video wound up on the front page of sites like Yahoo and The Drudge Report; it was everywhere.

I remember I was at a cocktail party for parents of my kid's swim team that evening and heard people talking about it. Then, as we rolled out more videos, we worked with [social media seeding platform] Sharethrough and paid them to distribute the content. In this case, you make great content that distributes itself and then use agencies to seed it.

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