Finding Daily “Dunk in the Dark” Moments to Drive Supernormal Growth, and Why Most Brands Are Failing to Achieve That

Peter Caswell |
 07/23/15 |
4 min read

Oreo Dunk in DarkDuring the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII, a power outage halted play for 34 minutes. Oreo tweeted: “Power out? No problem,” along with a photo featuring the now-famous tagline, “You can still dunk in the dark.”

Oreo’s marketing reflexes were something magical on that day. Surely, they couldn’t have predicted a power outage, yet it took them less than a half-hour to deliver one of the most memorable advertisements in the past few years. To date, the tweet has garnered more than 6,000 ‘favorites’ and more than 15,000 re-tweets – and it’s possibly still the most unforgettable part of the “Blackout” Bowl. It was accurate and responsive to a moment in time.

Oreo wasn’t the only brand that attempted to capitalize on that moment. Calvin Klein and Tide both made similar attempts, though neither was as successful. Their responsiveness, though, is just as commendable. Last year, other brands have tried to replicate Oreo’s successful strategy. Arby’s, a NetBase customer, took advantage of Pharrell Williams’ choice of headwear at the 2014 Grammy Awards. Their short, simple tweet – “Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs” – garnered more than 77,000 re-tweets.

A good marketer is always on the lookout for opportunities to leverage events, news, or circumstances to generate a conversation about their brand. If they’re very lucky, they’ll get the chance to do so in front of a Super Bowl-sized audience. It’s likely, though, that most opportunities won’t be as big – but that doesn’t mean we can afford to overlook them. In business, as in any sport, the difference between winning and losing long term is a few percentage points better, all the time.

There are ample occasions on a daily basis through which marketers can subtly amplify positives, and dampen negatives during their campaigns and market/customer interactions. Social media has enormous value in this respect, particularly since conversations on this platform are happening in real-time, and some of today’s tools are able to highlight small opportunities on a continuous basis. In every campaign, there’s opportunity for marketers to leverage how others share the brand’s message. The basics are looking for positive and negative content continuously, and reacting rapidly and accurately to it.

Just recently, Malibu Rum took advantage of Discovery Channel’s popular “Shark Week” with a social post featuring a shark carved out of watermelon, accompanied by a tall Malibu Rum-infused cocktail. The tweet reads, “You don’t have to go in the water to enjoy a cocktail on the beach. It’s going to be a great week! #Shark #MalibuBSE.” The post wasn’t a viral hit, but it did generate an above-average number of re-tweets and favorites – a perfect example of the small but valuable edge social marketing can allow a brand in the span of just a day.

Alternatively, there may be those individuals who will come to the conversation with a negative statement, and there’s opportunity here too. Negative feedback can help marketers adjust their campaign strategy for better success moving forward. A quick application of social analytics can help you answer: Why is this campaign evoking a negative sentiment among some? Is there a way to address it? What have I learned here that can be applied to a future campaign? Am I spending too much or too little resolving this? If you can receive this feedback immediately and take action in a timely manner, well, that’s even better. And only near real time, accurate analytics allows that.

With this continuous opportunity to amplify positives and dampen negatives, why is there a rumbling that “you can’t get value out of social”? Going back to a sports analogy, putting in golf is less than 5% of the distance between holes – do golfers spend 5% of their time practicing putting? Seemingly not – it’s a large portion of their practice. Looking for those small negatives or positives in campaigns is the equivalent of putting. Yet many, if not most corporations make managing social a part time task of their teams. “5%’ers” as we call them, never catch those small opportunities, and are rarely able to dampen or amplify effectively. It’s like complaining that you never hit your putts, but you never pick up your putter except when you’re on the green.

Brands can become dominant in their respective markets with just a few extra percentage points of continuous, focused impact leading to competitive growth. But they need to remain responsive and have dedicated, talented resources applied to social. This type of growth is only gained by continuously creating and adapting your brand’s message, content and targeting based on accurate, real-time information on influencers and around influences in your target segments – every hour of every day. (You also need to be able to measure this effect to ensure you’re achieving the impact you need, but that’s another story).

Every day holds a chance to grow a campaign and to grow a brand. Not every marketing team will be fortunate enough to strike gold with a “Dunk in the Dark” moment on a massive scale, but there are plenty of daily “Dunk in the Dark” moments that can add impact to a campaign (or reduce negative impact on a campaign) and edge out competitors bit by bit. And in reality, this route might just be the most reliable and sustainable approach to business in the Social World.

The saying goes “slow and steady wins the race” – but perhaps in today’s world, we should rather say, “fast, dedicated and continuous wins the race.”

About the Author: Peter Caswell, CEO NetBase: Peter Caswell, a Silicon Valley veteran, brings to NetBase more than 25 years of experience driving operational excellence, financial discipline and exponential revenue growth throughout technology organizations. As CEO of Siperian, Peter was responsible for the overall strategic direction, growth and management of the company. He drove the business to operating profitability and grew revenue by seven times in three years before selling to Informatica for more than $130mm in January 2010. Previously Caswell served as the CEO at Enkata Technologies and Advent Software where he grew the business 42 percent per year for nine years and achieved more than $2.5B in market capitalization. He has held executive sales and marketing positions with MSA (a Dun & Bradstreet Software company) and Hogan Systems. Peter holds the equivalent of an MBA in Management Studies and a BA in Agriculture from the Seale Hayne College in the United Kingdom.

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