I like watching major events with social media close at hand. It provides a much more immersive experience than watching alone, or with a couple of other people. It’s great to see what other people are saying, to see what’s going on behind the scenes, and most importantly (and fun!), to participate in the conversation.
As we know, shared experiences are a powerful method of making a connection. Personal connections based on shared values or experiences are a great way to make friends. Brands know this. They want to be your friend. Instead of “buy my product”, brands know they do much better saying, “hey we think that was cool too!”
Building trust is key to building a brand.
Naturally, since social media brings many people together over major events like the Grammys, brands want to be there too, sharing the experience and making a connection. They show up in droves, some making an impression, some making enemies.
Anyone who watched the Grammys last night while keeping twitter open knows well what the “meme” of the night was. The biggest social media story wasn’t the Beatles semi-reunion, it wasn’t the mass wedding, it wasn’t Taylor Swift’s whiplash, nor Lorde’s “movements”. All those moments got traction, but the big story of the night was Pharrell’s hat. Inspiring non-stop conversation throughout the show, and at least a half dozen parody twitter accounts, Pharrell’s unique headwear was the darling of Twitter all night long. So much so that when Pharrell changed chapeaus for a performance, Huffington Post Style was moved to tweet:
When events such as the Grammys happen, or the Superbowl, Oscars, SAG Awards or even the Tonys, social media teams assemble in “war rooms”. They monitor the TV feed, the news media, and social media, waiting for that perfect opportunity. Oreo is famous for doing this during last year’s Super Bowl, when there was a short power interruption at the stadium.
It was groundbreaking use of social media, at the time. It made headlines, and blew the proverbial doors off livetweeting. Today such a tweet would be viewed as self-serving and “corporate”. Now everyone tweets like that, and the real groundbreakers are the ones who make a more personal connection. The successful teams share rather than shout.
Let’s look at a couple of examples from last night.
One credit card company, which shall remain nameless, put forward a big effort, appending the #GRAMMYs hashtag to its usual mindless marketing tweets, in the vain hope of hijacking a few readers.
Delta Airlines had a team in place, graphic designers and all, to respond to big moments. They missed the boat on most of them, and instead posted carefully crafted Delta ads such as this:
180 RTs on that particular tweet, plus a few offended Beatles fans. Not a good effort.
Gain laundry detergent was closer to the mark with this one:
Over 8000 RTs, but still, photoshopping the story-of-the-moment onto your product isn’t a best-effort situation. It felt insincere and contrived. Especially since they paid for it to be a “promoted” tweet, which put it on a lot of extra timelines. Trying to interact with the parody account rather than Pharrell himself was also a weak choice.
The one that really caught my attention, and the attention of marketers worldwide, was a simple off-the-cuff tweet from a fast food chain. Someone noticed that Pharrell’s hat resembled the stylized hat in the Arby’s logo. Arby’s was quick to respond, with a sincere and simple tweet:
Slam dunk. It made a connection, with 75k RTs and 41k favs so far. Arby’s, with one simple tweet, beat the teams of graphic designers. Even Pharrell himself responded:
Pharrell Williams (@Pharrell) January 27, 2014
Even marketing giant Pepsi conceded:
Pepsi™ (@pepsi) January 27, 2014
Hyundai USA (@Hyundai) January 27, 2014
Sometimes, simple is best. Once you start concentrating on making a friend instead of selling something, you’ll sell way more somethings.
UPDATE: I happened across the Twitter profile of Josh Martin, Social Media Manager at Arby’s. Seems he was the Arby’s tweeter in question, and is taking some well earned bows over here.