Agile marketing demands in-the-moment content that’s timely, relevant and resonant.   Even though most brands now aspire to recreate Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” Super Bowl success, they can appear as nothing more than “Duds in the Spotlight” should they miss the mark.  Resonating in this day and age is aided by the virality of humor, and, like it or not, the best humor involves pushing the boundaries.  Using NetBase for social listening can help safeguard that risk by identifying rich ideas for agile content development and monitoring the social ripple of that content’s performance to guide future decisions.

Dunk in the Dark 2: Rockin’ a Hat with Panache

In order to resonate, brands need an organic tie-in that aligns with their personality & identifiers.  Arby’s, a client of NetBase, hit the jackpot by spotting a clear brand trend which occurred during The Grammy’s this past Sunday, January 26, 2014.  After recognizing that their brand was receiving mentions within the social space because of an uncanny resemblance between the hat on their brand logo with the hat on Pharrell Williams’ head, Arby’s social media manager, Josh Martin, chose to get in on the joke with a clever tweet of his own.  Not only was the tweet timely, relevant, and resonant, it was funny.  Not just the funny ha-ha that gets 83,659 re-tweets (over 5 times the amount that Oreo received!), but funny like a clown which earns the extra eyeballs you get when Pharrell Williams tweets back a witty reply to your brand for all of his 2.7 million followers to see. With just one tweet, Arby’s did a hats off, 360⁰ Dunk in the Dark on everyone.  The single tweet earned them over 6,000 new Twitter followers.  Not a bad day’s work from the comfort of your home versus being holed up, Social Seal Team 6 style, in a fancy war room like Oreo was with their agency.

NetBase was able to spot the Arby’s trend on Twitter in near real-time. And, during the next big event, Josh won’t have to monitor Twitter while he’s enjoying his weekend. NetBase has developed “triggered alerts” to notify users when unusual spike in brand mentions occurs by way of an eloquent algorithm.  Notice in the charts below that other individuals first called attention to Pharrell’s hat looking like the one in the Arby’s logo, but it was Josh Martin’s timely & savvy tweet that took it to a whole new level.


Dud in the Spotlight:  Pick on Somebody Your Own Size

Picking on a celebrity, however, is not always a guaranteed way to earn you the right amount of attention you want.  The Onion’s Twitter misfire during last year’s Oscars is not mentioned with the same frequency as Oreo’s past success, but it acts as a foil in the age of nimble content creation that teaches a valuable lesson on the risks associated with speed.  Satirical comedy’s effectiveness depends on the timeliness and relevance of the subject matter.  When you’re running a satirical newspaper, you know that nobody likes to hear the same joke twice.  Your jokes, delivered in your own unique brand voice, must have national appeal if they’re to be received well across markets.  Fast forward to the today’s digital age, and that means you must come up with content that’s not only timely & relevant down to the second, but realize there’s a distinct possibility that your content can find its way in front of the wrong audience who does not understand your sense of humor or brand.  That said, when the community manager posted that bullying tweet on behalf of The Onion, it was timely, it was relevant, and it resonated, but it resonated negatively and mostly outside The Onion’s traditional audience.  Hence, the public lambasted The Onion and their CEO issued a public apology which was uncharacteristic of The Onion.

Take a look below at how NetBase automatically recognized the negative impact of the “offensive” tweet that was posted by The Onion on February 24, 2013.  By the next day, there were over 38,000 mentions and the brand’s net sentiment plummeted to -42.  Almost 70% of the conversations that contained sentiment were Negative about The Onion that week.  This might have influenced the decision to issue an apology on The Onion’s Facebook page around noon the next day, or perhaps it was the fact that so many people chose to “unfollow” The Onion and ask for the community manager’s head to roll.


The Onion’s brand of humor is progressive and unapologetic, and bound to piss some people off, but traditionally, it was never unfiltered.  In 2008, This American Life did an episode called “Tough Room” which highlighted how much scrutiny and deliberation The Onion’s editorial staff poured into each week’s paper.  At the start of each week, over 600 headlines were presented by the writers.  Over the course of two days, they’d debate the quality of each potential headline until they whittled the number down to the 16 smartest that would appear in that week’s paper.  On December 12, 2013, after 25 years of print circulation, The Onion delivered the final print edition of their fake newspaper.  They now concentrate exclusively on growing their content within the digital and video space.  This means there’s even more of a focus on agile, content creation and delivery.

I’d imagine that The Onion’s editorial staff no longer uses the same exact model it used to develop newspaper headlines for their digital & video headlines.  Perhaps the same rigor is still applied but it’s more iteratively spread throughout the course of the week as modern realities demand an evolved content development model.  One thing they might also do now is employ the same rigor to their social media account’s content as they do to headlines.  Of course that doesn’t mean becoming a politically correct brand or handcuffing their community managers, but perhaps there’s a tweet approval process in place now to get a second pair of eyes on the content before it hits the Twitter-sphere.  The speed of social might not allow for humor to be as smart and well-thought out as it once was, but one can use social to make sure the content is not causing any major debacles.

The Future: Walk the Tight-Wire toward a Balanced Approach

With Super Bowl XLVIII and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi right around the corner, brands will no doubt try to insert themselves into these conversations.  The only question is whether or not they will appear to fit forcefully or naturally.  Agile content development can earn you big gains as evidenced by Oreo & Arby’s clever and on-the-ball thinking, but it can also wreak havoc should the brand message hit off the mark and land in front of the wrong audience.  I’m sure we’ll all see several desperate attempts that make us cringe during the upcoming Super Bowl and Winter Olympics, but there will of course be the ones that get us up to applaud when it’s done right.  Owning a social listening platform like NetBase makes it possible to identify the right trends occurring in the moment that one should either leverage or avoid.  Brands can then organically insert meaningful content within relevant conversations and continually monitor the social performance generated by the content to ensure it’s well received by the masses.

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