2015 and the Rise of the Idiot Brand

Surely by now you have caught wind of #thedress. Is it gold? Is it black? The whole world and their colour-blind dog weighed in. It was truly viral.  It wasn’t just the online population that was engaged, brands, sensing a “real-time marketing opportunity” weighed in.

Call me a cynic but if 2014 was the year of real-time marketing, 2015 heralds the rise of the idiot brand. Let me explain: with real-time marketing, through social newsrooms and social analytics, brands are able to jump into the zeitgeist of popular conversation and capitalize on them, with entertaining commentary about whatever is driving conversation. Brands both globally (such as Oreo) and regionally (such as Cheetos/Lays and beIN SPORTS) have done this with success. Their posts are timely, in-tune and oftentimes funny. This is not always the case. It requires comic timing, wit and poise to get it right.

Brand managers have cottoned on to the real-time marketing phenomenon and have developed newsrooms, in order to have a voice when something big is happening. This is all well and good when there are customer needs to be addressed. However, when it comes to being involved in internet tom-foolery just because you CAN, doesn’t mean a brand SHOULD get involved. For a brand to draw attention to itself in the day’s news “just because” is not a strategy when there is no brand-centered rationale to this. It can make a brand sound as if it’s trying too hard, like an idiot at a party trying, badly, to crack jokes.

The trick to great real-time marketing is to organically draw on common interests between the brand and its audience. So, while Luis Suarez’ biting incident may make sense for a sports brand and, say a chewing gum brand, it likely won’t make sense for a laundry detergent brand, for instance. Brand custodians should to be mindful of this and keep their communications relevant to the brand DNA and audience interests.

In 2015, brands that effectively bring good storytelling with responsiveness and relevance to its audiences (and its own values) will succeed on a much more profound level than brands trying to jump on every news story. After all, great content marketing (of which real-time is a tactic) is a marathon, not a sprint.