R-e-s-p-e-c-t: Find out what it means to your business
Even though 42% of users spend more time looking at ads relevant to the surrounding context, trending topics offer a risk/reward balance and need to be approached cautiously.

Tapping into the right trend at a critical time can do wonders for your reach and exposure – take a look at Oreo, who’s ‘Dunk in the Dark’ tweet, to coincide with a temporary blackout during the 2013 Super Bowl, saw 10,000 retweets in less than an hour. Twitter’s own data, meanwhile, confirms that 42% of users spend more time looking at ads relevant to the surrounding context.

It’s clear that tapping into a rising trend can be a great means of extra promotion. But, at the same time, it can also go wrong, and may even end up losing you business as a result.

Woolworths found this out the hard way when their 2015 ANZAC Day campaign – “Fresh in our Memories” tried to link their brand message with a trending topic. The campaign was criticised as insensitive and opportunistic, with many questioning how such a big brand could get it so wrong.

But as noted, the pressure’s on, you need to tap into a trending topic quickly, and while Woolworths would have had time to prepare, the lesson remains. Trending topics offer a risk/reward balance and need to be approached cautiously.

Here are three key questions to ask to help maximise your business exposure with trending discussions.

1. Why is your brand commenting?

The first key consideration you need to assess is why is your brand commenting at all on this event?

If you’re purely looking to tap into an event but you have no brand-relevant angle, or point, then it may not be the discussion for you.

Tapping into events can definitely be valuable, but you don’t have to trend-jack every single incident – and that goes double for tragic events.

American brand Cinnabon gave us a perfect example of this last year, when they used the death of Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher as a branding opportunity. This was not well-received by their audience.

Whenever you’re considering an event tie-in, you also need to have a business relevant angle. You can go the totally non-linked path and try for a left-of-centre, comedic approach (as Oreo did in the above example), but there’s a level of risk involved in that also.

The best trends are those where your business angle is evident.

2. Should you be using your branding on the message?

This, again, relates mostly to tragic events – Woolworths’ message was seen as opportunistic because they (unintentionally) seemed to be using the sacrifice of our past soldiers as a way to build on their brand message.

If you want to pay tribute to someone or make a serious statement, that can be powerful, particularly if there’s a clear brand connection. But it may be better to remove your branding or brand messaging from your post, to make it clear that you’re sharing a sincere sentiment, not looking for a marketing avenue around it.

3. Would this be better suited to your personal profile?

Here’s the real question – is this message coming from a personal place, or in a business-relative context?

Sometimes, particularly in the case of tragic events, you feel so strongly about it that you want to chime in, but it may be better to do so from your personal account, to pay tribute in your own way.

Doing so via a business account comes with a whole range of other connotations and implications, which can reflect poorly if not handled in the right way.

Divisive or sensitive subjects are always questionable grounds for such tie-ins – it’s worth taking a moment to consider what your business wants to say, and through what medium that could be best conveyed, if necessary.

As noted, tapping into trends can be valuable, but you need to be careful which trends you choose, and what message that might send. Taking an extra moment to consider – or seek another opinion – could save your brand considerable embarrassment and potential audience backlash.

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