Chevrolet Encourages Positive Thinking With IBM Watson’s Help


Chevrolet Positivity Pump

September 13th is the International Day of Positive Thinking. (Who knew?) Inspired to help inspire others to think positively, Chevrolet used it as a hook to unveil the Chevrolet Global Positivity System, a mobile and desktop website developed in partnership with the IBM Watson artificial intelligence platform to evaluate users’ social media persona—and even suggest ways to feel more optimistic.

The goal is to reinforce the brand’s glass-half-full “Find New Roads” tagline and positioning, so a related ad campaign, “Fueling Possibilities,” shows how Twitter and Facebook accounts can be assessed to determine positivity and social impact.

To promote the campaign, Chevy took over gas stations in three cities—New Orleans, Cape Town and Buenos Aires—and surprised customers with free gas from a “positivity pump” (shades of Coca-Cola’s global Happiness soda machines that dispensed cheer) in return for taking the app for a spin. Talk about pumping up consumers—but will it also pump up sales?

Based on an analysis using Watson’s natural language processing of their words and emojis on Twitter and Facebook, those customers at the pump scored free gas equivalent to their positivity; in effect, “taking online positivity as payment.”

According to a press release, “Chevy’s Global Positivity System is able to build a detailed personality snapshot for users that is based on multiple criteria, including a social media analysis to evaluate sentiment and a personality characteristic evaluation to help guide users toward activities for their next adventure.”

Chevrolet Positivity

The results are scored based on Watson Sentiment Analysis capability that interprets the positivity of users’ Facebook and Twitter posts and identifies users’ most positive and least positive posts, most frequently used positive words and Emojis. It’s also driving participants (and other curious folks) to Chevy’s Find New Roads microsite where users can see their positivity score based on a scale of 0 to 200.

VentureBeat reports how the positivity-tracker assessed celebrities’  social footprints. After parsing “33,000 words from Pope Francis’ tweets, the pontiff was described as unconventional, unconcerned with tradition, and confident.”  As for the Queen of “Think Positive”? “With more than 15,000 words, Oprah was described as helpful, analytical, emotionally aware, and guided by both tradition and independence.”

“The objective of the Fueling Possibilities campaign is to create awareness in global markets for our brand and what we stand for,” GM spokesman Craig Daitch commented.  “Chevrolet is at different stages of brand awareness around the globe and a global campaign such as Fueling Possibilities helps us create consistency as to who we are as Chevrolet.”

Chevrolet positivity score

Arstechnica wasn’t quite so positive about the campaign creating a positive uptick on sales. “All in all, the Fueling Possibilities campaign places very little emphasis on the merits of Chevy’s cars. It’s a play for brand recognition, capturing users’ eyeballs by coaxing them into taking a souped-up version of those personality tests we used to take in pre-teen magazines when we were bored 10-year-olds on summer vacation.”

Chevrolet global CMO Tim Mahoney, no surprise, is bullish on the positive possibilities and said in the release, “A positive, never-give-up attitude has been a driving force for the Chevrolet brand for more than a century and has motivated us as a team to turn the impossible into the possible. We encourage people around the world to reflect on their own outlook by using the Global Positivity System and to consider the possibilities in their own lives.”

VentureBeat somewhat cynically sees the campaign as merely feeding an ever-hungry media/PR beast that requires out of the box thinking to highlight a brand’s soul. “Watson can impress and inspire, as it has real methodology and science behind it. But it’s also a marketing machine — part of the reason people criticize artificial intelligence as being less a technological breakthrough and more about sales and hype.”

Watson, we assume, would give that assessment a low score—and no free gas at the pump.