Follow the lead of Maker's Mark, "Game of Thrones," and Boston Market and customize your message with current events.
In media planning we often talk about aligning campaigns with current events. If referencing the holidays, the Olympics, the Academy Awards will put some extra attention on your brand, then why not customize your message to this end? Many digital marketers do. But they don't always remember the golden rule.
Tying campaigns to timely social and cultural events works best when the advertiser can draw a dotted line from its product to the occasion at hand, and also when the event serves a purpose - increasing awareness, engagement, understanding, and the like. Take the upcoming U.S. elections. A beauty brand eager to promote its new nail polish line might invite consumers to vote on their favorite, but because nail polish isn't particularly relevant to a presidential race, the campaign would likely feel strained.
Here are some election-themed campaigns that don't, and why.
Maker's Mark "Cocktail Party"
Back in May, bourbon whiskey brand Maker's Mark released a YouTube video featuring famed political couple James Carville and Mary Matalin. The political commentator and GOP strategist didn't come together to discuss the Democratic and Republican parties. They came to tout the virtues of joining the "Cocktail Party."
Since the campaign first launched, Maker's Mark has added more than half a dozen new videos to its branded YouTube channel, promoted The Cocktail Party on its Facebook page and Twitter feed - using the hashtag #CocktailParty2012 - and has even begun selling "I Support the Cocktail Party 2012" yard signs for true party loyalists. But has the campaign hit its "mark"? Taking into consideration the bourbon brand's target audience and the demographic and psychographic makeup of its customers, the political angle is a perfect fit. Not only does Marker's Mark stand to benefit from ongoing press and interest throughout the presidential race, but it has managed to appeal to all sides with humor and a universal refrain: "So I guess now it's time to fill the cabinet?"
HBO's "Game of Thrones" Twitter Contest
Those who have watched the popular "Game of Thrones" television series on HBO know that the story is largely built on a fight for the right to rule the mythical country of Westeros. Recently, the marketing team behind the show used its official Twitter feed to ask 455,000 followers to cast their vote for the character they believe should take the crown. "Elections are coming. Fill in the blank & you may get a #gameofthrones poster," the tweet read. "In #WesterosElections, I'd vote for ____________."
Besides promoting not one but two hashtags and offering a brand-related prize, the tweet was clever in the way that it engaged the "Game of Thrones" user base. Every fan of the show is sure to have a favorite character, and this contest offers them the chance to share their views by interacting with the brand and with each other. The campaign has the chops to keep die-hard viewers loyal while also attracting new viewers who are intrigued by the passion the series engenders in its fans.
Because the storyline is highly political in its own right, consumers can easily make a connection to our real-life electoral race. Within hours of the initial tweet the #WesterosElections hashtag was trending in the U.S., and the contest continues to generate participation.
Boston Market "Left Wing vs. Right Wing"
Restaurant chain Boston Market is encouraging Americans to "get out and vote"…for their favorite Market Bowl meal. Launched earlier this month, the "2012 Bowl Poll" pitted turkey and chicken - the "Left Wing" and "Right Wing" candidates - against each other in a heated race to promote the release of this new menu item. Consumers were invited to vote online at marketbowlpoll.com in a campaign that included a microsite, videos, Facebook posts, and coupons for the new product.
As a strategy for launching a menu item, this political-themed approach is pretty sharp. Boston Market made a point of using its microsite to educate consumers about the product, but because the information was specific to each "candidate," its delivery didn't feel forced.
Perhaps real-life hopefuls should consider taking a cue from marketers.
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Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.
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