Not Every Occasion is an Occasion to Advertise

Throughout the course of a year, there are plenty of opportunities for brands to link with current events or noteworthy commemorations, through messaging on social platforms. Anything from Mother’s Day, to the Golden Globe Awards, to mocking this year’s frigid winter can be considered fair game. In fact, no doubt one of the biggest events for brands to participate in is coming up on February 2nd – Super Bowl XLVIII. Eyes will be on you too, Oreo.

Inherently, most attempts by brands to connect with an event are advertisements. With proper thought and planning, most notably a smart creative team, such endeavours can work beautifully.

However, marketers and agencies need to realize that certain events or commemorations are so poignant, so important in our history, that they are best left untouched by brands. Or, at the very least, handled in a much different and more dignified manner than they are (for the most part) today.

The latest example occurred earlier this week, with the Martin Luther King Day holiday in the United States. Martin Luther King Junior was one of the most important figures in the history of the country, providing hope and leadership in the advancement of African-American civil rights – in the most dignified manner possible.

Yet what happened this past Monday? Many brands posted MLK Day-related content on their social accounts, with a number of brands tying in promotional messages.

Say what?

I’d like to think that most marketers and agencies have good intentions, but I must admit at times I have my doubts. MLK Day, the anniversary of 9/11, natural disasters and conflicts that we now bare closer witness to through social media – it’s becoming all too common for brands to fumble their way through posting content in relation to them.

In most cases, there is nothing to be gained for a brand in linking to such noteworthy events. In fact, brands place themselves at risk of (justifiable) backlash for their insensitivities.

I repeat: inherently, most attempts by brands to connect with an event are advertisements

Now, that being said, there is another approach worth considering. In fact, it’s actually quite a simple one.

Do something that matters.

Companies could make a donation to a charity that is somehow related to the event or commemoration, or better yet, encourage employees to volunteer in the community. Yes, contributing to a charity can be communicated through social media, but that’s not the point.

Not every occasion is an occasion to advertise.

Key Considerations for Launching a Social Media Strategy

More and more companies are embracing digital and social media as an opportunity to engage and deepen relationships with customers, augmenting or even replacing traditional marketing strategies. A recent example, rather move forward with a traditional Super Bowl TV spot, Pepsi launched the Pepsi Refresh Project. Through the $20 million crowdsourcing initiative, which will no doubt be a marketing case study, people are enticed to submit and vote on ideas that will have a positive impact on society. The best ideas will receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 each.

Pepsi is just one many companies endeavoring to be more innovative in an increasingly fragmented media landscape. Such innovation is now a necessity, as brands strive to break through and achieve relevancy in the mindset of modern consumers. However, before going full on in digital and social media, there are some very important questions companies must ask themselves.

1. Is the strategy aligned with the brand and overall marketing plan?

 

An interactive social media strategy should be created and executed in proper alignment with the overall brand strategy. Keeping in mind that social media is based on two-way dialogue, companies must ensure that the brand identity is upheld and in each and every interaction. Like any medium, desired messaging must be consistent with other components of the marketing plan.  Social media should not be a standalone strategy, where possible companies should consider integrating it with other mediums.  For example, a print ad could drive people to a Facebook fan page, with a proper incentive that consumers find to be of value.

2. How will the social media efforts be measured?

 

As with any marketing strategy, metrics are important. While it is always valuable to determine ROI on a given campaign, social media measurement should be considered a bit differently. Effective social media engagement strategies rely on word-of-mouth.  As such, companies need to monitor the conversation that is occurring. What is being discussed? What is their share of the conversation, for a particular market segment? How often is their product and/or service being recommended?

The 4Ps have evolved into the 4Cs – content, connections, community and conversations.

Here is an overview of online buzz generated from this year’s Super Bowl commercials, courtesy of Mashable.

3. Are the necessary resources available to execute?

 

Companies need to consider whether they have the knowledge and skills necessary to properly execute a social media strategy, either internally or with partner agencies. Social media is much, much more than possessing an understanding of Facebook and Twitter – companies that rely on that as a basis for “expertise” are only setting themselves up for failure.  As a side note, in May 2009 a search of Twitter profiles revealed that there are 4,487 self-proclaimed social media experts. As of December 2009, there were 15,740. This represents a three and a half fold increase, within just six months! Yikes! Drawing a parallel, I’ve been skiing most of my life, so I suppose I should be trying out for the World Cup circuit right now, shouldn’t I?

Of course, there are many top social media pros who stand out from the crowd, I am fortunate to know some of them. In building resources to execute social media program, an understanding of both social media and marketing fundamentals is important.

What are your thoughts? What should companies consider when developing a social media strategy?