Category Digital, Opinions, PR

Reactive marketing – how the bandwagon became the new billboard


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The relationship between social media and content marketing has changed dramatically. In such a saturated marketplace, businesses and brands have to work much harder to spot opportunities to insert themselves into conversations and get noticed. Cutting through the noise and the clutter is becoming a creative battle.

Reactive marketing can be brilliant when it’s done effectively, tapping into the top trending news and reaching an audience by channeling their attention with strategically crafted content. If you’re prepared to get in pole position and are first to react with a great idea, you can hitch a ride with an audience when they are most engaged.

The relationship between brands and consumers is closer than ever before. Social media is an opportunity to engage directly with an audience, joining the conversation about the latest development in fashion, or in film, or in sports, or any other interest. There’s now an opportunity for brands to gain a presence in the newest hype-cycle, which lasts for only a few hours or days rather than weeks or months.

There are plenty of examples of brands using reactive marketing and advertising – some do it well and others… not so much. Those that can think quickly and create engaging content are reaping the rewards for their innovation and bravery. We’ve picked some of our favourite examples from recent years, all of which share a bold streak and, above all, stand out from the crowd.

Specsavers – The Oscars (2017)

We’ve all heard about it. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, gaffes in Oscars history, and Specsavers were quickest off the mark to take advantage. They tied their own strapline to the social media hysteria that was taking place.

They were able to have more impact from afar than if they had been sat in the front row with their own tuxedo or dress on. Twitter users were quick to congratulate Specsavers on their wit and what’s more, Specsavers engaged with those responses, converting distant audiences into engaged, potential customers. One user even commented “Thinking of changing to Specsavers after this tweet. Vision Express, what you got?”

Heineken – iPhone 6 and Bendgate (2015)

Apple has been fantastic at turning their product launches into a hype-powered social event. One thing they didn’t get quite right though, was the launch of the iPhone 6. Their new flagship model was released to the ire of fans who realised that their shiny new handset had a structural weak spot that caused it to bend with little pressure. #Bendgate took social media by storm and brands were lining up to get in on the act.

Heineken decided that Apple were fair game and went for the jugular by poking fun at the issue. They posted a banner of one of their bottle caps with a slight bend through the middle, saying “No worries – it happens to us all the time”, accompanied by a Twitter post that just read “Dear Apple…” Simple and effective, it caught the eye of many consumers and reinforced the brand in a conversation it otherwise had no place participating in.

Mini – Horse meat scandal (2013)

In 2013 the UK was rocked by the news that foods advertised as beef may instead have contained horse. It was a pretty shocking piece of news that was talked about for weeks. Enter Mini, who turned this into a slick piece of advertising.

It’s a fun play on words that gets the audience to think. It gets across the message of quality, drawing people’s attention to the horsepower beneath the bonnet, whilst establishing a disruptive brand and injecting a bit of personality into their advertising. Whilst not a tactic used on social media, it’s an example of advertising reacting quickly to capitalise in other media.

Snickers – Jeremy Clarkson’s BBC departure (2016)

This one might be our favourite. We can only begin to imagine the glee that crept over the faces of Snicker’s marketing team when it was revealed that the fracas that cost Jeremy Clarkson his BBC job had been over the catering, or a lack thereof. Their famous line “You’re not you when you’re hungry” fit so perfectly – they must not have been able to believe their luck!

They took reactive advertising one step further though. Snickers packaged up some of their product, stuck a crudely written address on the front for deliver to Clarkson at his BBC offices. Whether they actually ever sent it is almost irrelevant – it implied authenticity and made their digital joke a physical one, putting their own memorable slant on the whole scandal.

Reactive advertising is here to stay and you need to consider it in your content strategy before everyone else catches up. Above all, it tells us is that brands can no longer exist in isolation; they need to be aware of the world around them and the digital space they operate in if they want to get noticed.