Too Soon? Leveraging Current Events In Digital Marketing
A friend's friend runs an acting studio focused on the Meisner technique. The morning after James Gandolfini’s death, the actor friend shared an article on Facebook where Gandolfini discussed his study of the Meisner technique. Rather than following the style of Sanford Meisner, screaming "Hate this!" at the computer screen while punching it, my pal unfriended that narcissist.
Is Your Brand "Socially" Awkward?
The Marketing Hall of Shame is littered with brands that hit sour notes with the public by seeming to use tragedy or strife to promote their brand through social media. In October 2012, American Apparel offended most of the East Coast with its "Hurricane Sandy Sale" e-mail blast. Earlier this month, Kenneth Cole used the looming concern over potential military action in Syria as an opportunity to plug its footwear; the company evidently didn’t learn its lesson from 2011, when it attributed the political revolution in Egypt to its new spring line, or from April 2013, latching on to the inflammatory topic of gun control with a half-hearted homonym on the right to bear arms vs. the right to bare feet.
There may be instances where these press-generating tactics make sense in light of the greater marketing goal (personally, I don't see the "fit" with Kenneth Cole). "The media has become so splintered that even the best positive press only reaches a small fraction of the general population. Controversy and callous comments, on the other hand, often extend further, but they usually damage and can even ruin brands along the way,” Kraig Smith, principal of PReturn, notes. “Kenneth Cole seems to have chosen to tie its brand to the events of the day at any cost.".
Pause And Review
This issue doesn't exist solely in social media; it's a potential concern in both SEM and display retargeting campaigns as well Advertisers who run retargeting campaigns have little control over when they will show on consumers' screens, with ad copy triggered by a search or other targeting data, so preventing a PR hiccup is all about playing good offense.
Always know exactly what is in your campaign and be prepared to pause it if and when a large-scale event happens. Review the copy the consumer will see, as well as the search that will trigger it. For an insurance company, "flood repair" may seem like a great term to attract new customers -- unless a major flood has resulted in prolonged or excessive damage, as is the dreadful situation this week in Boulder, Colo. Advertising on such searches may appear callous for a time.
Consider Changing The Content Of The Ads
If possible, tailor ad content to help your audience deal with the situation. In the case of the insurance advertiser, changing the content to focus on a hotline for filing claims, rather than an ad soliciting new business, can help shift company image from exploitative to responsive and helpful. This is a time when localizing your campaigns can be especially useful.
If a portion of your spend can be allocated toward brand building, and you can redefine your success metrics, consider serving informative content about charities taking donations or organizations helping victims. Your swift response in times of crisis can make a large difference to a current or potential customer and enable deeper connections.
Back-Up Your Back-Up
It's good practice to assign an experienced marketer to keep up with current events and to carry an alternate marketing plan, including keyword lists and display creative. Having a substitute campaign ready will enable a faster, more thoughtful response when it's vitally necessary. If you are the primary gatekeeper on your campaigns, it's best practice to train someone else to respond in times of crisis or when you, yourself might be having one. Everyone takes vacations, gets sick, or misses some work; empower your second-in-command to take charge.
Be A Do-Gooder
Brands will benefit from having a human and genuine response, especially if delivered in a timely manner. Today's consumers have heightened expectations, since social media has advanced the dissemination of critical information. Failure to meet this new standard could get you unfriended on a national level; moreover, you may miss an opportunity to do some real good.