These days, messages move at the speed of light. During the presidential debates, memes and hashtags of the candidates’ comments become trending topics before they even have time to take a breath at the end of their sentence. A few hours later, those same statements have been analyzed, Twitter streams sorted through, and the morning news programs have built an entire segment around the topic. Twelve hours later, we’ve all moved onto the next story, as this has already become old news. Any regular viewer of ABC’s Shark Tank knows that the key to success for a featured entrepreneur is having a website and production system capable of handling the massive amounts of traffic they will receive during the one-hour airing of the program, regardless of whether they land a deal with the investors or not. The point is, for businesses that are able to move on a dime and capitalize on real-time conversations, there is a tremendous opportunity to be had. But if you miss that window, you’ll miss the opportunity.
Last week, news came out that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, America’s answer to royalty, had filed for divorce. News of the breakup hit every news station and Facebook and Twitter feed – Brad was soon to be eligible again! Within a couple days, Norwegian Airlines placed a print ad in the newspaper: Brad is single. Los Angeles. From/one way, incl. taxes £169*
No fanfare, no need for an explanation. The message was simple, the timing was perfect, and when you saw it, you got the point. In fact, I didn’t even see it in print. I saw it on a friend’s Facebook profile because someone else who saw it in print thought it was so amusing that she took a photo of it and shared it on social media. And the power of social media has now taken a PRINT AD viral on social media. Think of the millions of unpaid views this message has now seen. Brilliant.
So how do you do it if you’re not Norwegian Airlines? Can you position your business to take advantage of timely marketing opportunities? Absolutely, the key is to be ready and able to move on a dime.
Here are the three elements needed for success:
Infrastructure & Systems
If you’re going to be able to jump into a trending conversation, you can’t try to build the designs and the audience while you’re crafting the message – these need to be in place long before. To create the print ad in the example above, Norwegian Airlines likely already had a print contract in place with the newspaper, they had a well-defined brand in place complete with colors, logos and messaging ‘voice’. So for them, it was easy to whip up a new message for this topic and replace their current ad in the newspaper with this new creative. Since their copywriters already knew the ‘voice’ they should use, in this case direct, personable and amusing, it wasn’t a stretch to craft the message.
If you’re going to use your blog or social media channels to distribute your message, be sure to work on building up a strong audience. Have your graphic designer put together a few simple templates that can be customized for different types of messages, and make sure your writer knows the tone of voice that best represents your brand.
If you’re not paying attention to the trends as they occur, you’re going to miss the boat on these opportunities. There are a number of ways to stay on top of trending topics without overwhelming your schedule. First is to tune into major events and the types of programming that is most popular with your audience. There are some obvious events, such as the presidential debates and Superbowl, that the vast majority of people will watch, but there are others such as Game of Thrones (‘winter is coming’) that may appeal more specifically to your audience. If you run a local business, pay close attention to the events that are happening within your own community, and to things that affect everyone in your area, such as the weather. A great example from our own experience is a campaign we ran for a client that provided basement water damage mitigation and repair services. When it rained or snowed, or there was a warm-up in the spring where ice and snow melted rapidly, this client knew that homeowners were more likely to experience water issues in their basements. So during these weather events, we increased their presence in online advertising to get them in front of more people in the local area who may need their services. A coffee shop on a parade route could have a record-breaking sales day by offering a customer-only viewing area in front of their business, or by swapping out their coffee cups to the town’s colors for that day.
A great example from our own experience is a campaign we ran for a client that provided basement water damage mitigation and repair services. When it rained or snowed, or there was a warm-up in the spring where ice and snow melted rapidly, this client knew that homeowners were more likely to experience water issues in their basements. So during these weather events, we increased their presence in online advertising to get them in front of more people in the local area who may need their services. A coffee shop on a parade route could have a record-breaking sales day by offering a customer-only viewing area in front of their business, or by swapping out their coffee cups to the town’s colors for that day.
To see what people are talking about on a national or global level, look at Twitter’s trending topics – you’ll see a snapshot of the most popular conversations in real-time and you’ll see which hashtags are trending so you can jump into already-popular streams.
Lastly, you need to be willing to put yourself out on a limb. The Norwegian Airlines print ad above was funny in the moment, but as information is revealed about the cause of the divorce, they’re probably going to take some slack for making a joke out of it. Can you handle the potential criticism of putting your business into a popular conversation? In a recent article for the New Hampshire Business Review, I wrote about how Spotify uniquely jumped on a conversation that people were having with each other and on social media about moving to Canada if a certain political candidate won the presidency. Spotify jumped on the topic and crafted a brilliant TV commercial around it. It was funny and timely and, more likely than not, offended some people. In order to do this, they had to be ok with not pleasing everyone while knowing that their target audience saw it in a positive light. This may not be the right strategy for every business – I’m looking at you, lawyers and bankers – but when you can take yourself lightly and have a little bit of fun with a timely conversation, the results can be tremendous.
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