Please Don’t ‘Hijack the Conversation’

When brands ‘hijack the conversation’.

Hijacking the conversation. Culture-jacking. Real time marketing. Whatever you call it, it’s a social strategy too often abused by brands.

As a strategy it’s a first thought and generic. It’s usually poorly executed, where quality is sacrificed for speed. Most importantly, it almost always forgets to build brands.

As social media seems to regress in its creative sophistication, apparently now we’re just doing things for the sake of it.

Oreo is largely to blame. Their Dunk in the Dark post “won the Superbowl” in 2013 and has been thrown around content meetings ever since. Kristina Halvorson has a fantastic take down of the work, describing it as hitting “peak derp” in her excellently titled presentation Go Home Marketing, You’re Drunk.

I’m less critical but only for one specific reason – the work aligns to broader comms strategy. All case studies analysing the stunt (both positively and negatively) overlook how six months earlier Oreo ran their Daily Twist campaign – 100 days of ‘real time content’.

Their Superbowl activity wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. It was a considered and deliberate approach to build relevance for their brand. They planned for it, which yes means they have the right people and processes in place, but more importantly they identified the role it plays strategically.

Some brands do it even better. Specsavers have a brand platform built on it, which allowed them to capitalise on the mistake at the Oscars. Likewise Nando’s have been doing cheeky takes on culture in print for years.

Neither of these brands are fast for the sake of it – they understand the role it plays in growing or changing the perception of their brand.

While it’s fun to present strategies and setup processes for ‘planned spontaneity’, too many businesses overlook long term impact and relevance. A bit like those who post memes.

(I should mention, for a much better articulation on the problem with real time marketing, read Jon Burkhart’s chapter in Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief, which I saw while drafting this.)

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