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When Brands Should Speak and When They Should Be Quiet

DBS Interactive

The 2017 Eclipse is over. The event was both a natural phenomenon and a cultural phenomenon in the U.S. Millions of Americans planned their days around watching the once-in-a-generation event.

Unsurprisingly, brands joined in on the fun. Just like with every major cultural event (the Super Bowl, Star Wars premiers, etc.), companies produced a lot of related brand content. For many companies this year, it worked. Many brands drove significant engagement and brand awareness with their eclipse-themed content. Many brands tried and failed.

So when is it proper for your brand to join in on the conversation? There’s no easy answer, but it usually comes down to a few different areas:

  • Your brand
  • Your voice
  • Your industry
  • Your customers
  • Your marketing mix

Here’s a few tips to keep in mind when deciding on if you should join in on the next pop-culture phenomenon…or just keep quiet.

When to Join In: Your Industry or Aligns With The Event

During the eclipse, two types of brands thrived. Organizations who work in science have a natural brand fit for joining in the conversation and have the expertise to create effective, meaningful content that informs and delights. NASA, by far, took full advantage of the event with months of content leading up to the eclipse, an all-day livestream (that was even syndicated nationally by C-SPAN), and thousands of professional photos.

On the other hand, some brands just got lucky by having a name-fit. Moon Pie, Eclipse Gum, and even the Phoenix Suns were able to create clever content that felt timely and appropriate.

When to Join In: You Have Planned a Physical Event Surrounding the Event

If you’re hosting, sponsoring, or participating in a physical event, marketing around current events can be effective. Photos, videos, and live-streams from the event make for great content. Because you’re participating in-person, participating in the conversation feels authentic.

AirBnB held a contest where two fans could be some of the first people to see this year’s eclipse. That gave them a strong launching point from where they could share branded content throughout the day.

When to Join In: You Regularly Chime In on Pop Culture as a Brand

If your brand voice is quirky, fun, and relevant, you may not need any other reasoning. Some brands are highly active on social media, and constantly contributing to trending topics in pop culture. These brands aren’t going out of their way to talk about special events, so it feels normal to users. You’ve built brand equity around quick reactions, so it doesn’t hurt to use it!

When to Join In: You’ve Planned Ahead

Your brand may not have a natural “in” to marketing around current events, but that doesn’t mean you’re entirely out-of-luck. If you’ve got the time and resources to create some of the most creative, relevant branded content, it can still be a win.

Chiquita’s “The Banana Sun Cometh” campaign got a lot of traction online. Bananas and eclipses aren’t a natural fit, but an extremely creative campaign backed by planned distribution made this quirky campaign work.

When Not to Join In: You’re in a Totally Unrelated Industry

Sometimes it’s just too much of a stretch. Some brands join in the conversation only because everyone else is. That’s a weak strategy. These companies run a risk of devaluing their brand by looking desperate or silly.

Little Debbie Snack Cakes tried to join in the Eclipse conversation, but ended up looking silly.

When Not to Join In: Social Media is Not a Primary Marketing Channel for You

Most pop-culture conversations take place on social media. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter lend themselves to a more conversational brand voice and a more welcome stage for quick responses to different cultural events. If the majority of your marketing takes place offline (TV, trade shows, sales) or in non-social channels (email, PPC, etc.), creating timely content will not be as effective. This kind of content does not work as well on non-social marketing channels.

When Not to Join In: You’re a B2B Company

Excluding organizations who have a natural brand fit with the current conversation, most B2B companies will be better off staying quiet during pop-culture events. Most of these current events tend to be oriented straight to consumers instead of businesses. Keeping a consistent brand message means you should always be articulating your value proposition through marketing. Switching up your brand to target end consumers can have an adverse impact on your brand.

What Works for Everyone: Office Life Pictures

No matter the company, there is one type of current event content that will almost always work. Behind-the-scenes photos of office life are consistently effective ways at humanizing your brand (and boosting employee morale). Most companies have a non-primary marketing channel where this kind of content works. B2C companies can often share these photos on LinkedIn because they aren’t marketing directly to their customers there. On the other hand, B2B companies often have Instagram accounts that are more to share office culture than speak to their customers. In both of those cases, sharing photos of your office celebrating, partying, or joining in on the current-event fun can be effective.

We came, we saw, we eclipsed. #eclipse2017 (opens in new window)

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