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Situational Advertising

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | July 8, 2014
Situational Advertising
Superbowl Oreo Commercial
Create brand awareness by responding to the world around you.


It was the biggest football game of the year, (a game that can't be named here without paying a fee), one team (lets call them team purple) returned a kick 109 yards for a touchdown.  Then the lights went out.  While most of us were sitting around the television with friends eating, drinking and making sarcastic blackout comments (my personal favorites were- Ellie Goulding should have played the halftime show!Did Bane just take over the Superbowl? and Maybe it was a bad idea to hook "the clapper" up to the Superdome lighting system…), but creative marketers were connecting to potential clients through humor to promote their brands.


For those of us that don't have $4.2 million to spend on a thirty second advertisement, we have to get a little creative in our approach.  And, although compelling story telling created some fantastic traditional advertisements (the Dodge "Paul Harvey" ad andBudweiser Clydesdale ad both received high marks), effective companies can move fast to take advantage of situations for the purposes of creating brand awareness and traffic.  Two national brands (Oreo and Tide) and one local brand (Water's True Value) did an exceptional job of identifying an opportunity and exploiting it to obtain positive brand recognition.  As with anything in business, chance favors the prepared mind, so here are some tips you might remember when channeling your inner marketing opportunist:


1.  You must build a significant social media audience to have aSuperbowl Tide Adsignificant impact.- Building a social media following is work.  You must provide consistent content when people are actually utilizing the media to build an audience.  A burst of eight Facebook posts that say the exact same thing within five minutes of each other won't cut it.  If you have a brilliant tweet in the forest, and no one is there to follow it, it won't have an impact.


2.  Reference the event AND your product/service.-There were thousands of humorous comments floating around the web during the blackout, but very few had anything to do with a brand.  A great local example of situational advertising was Waters True Value's Facebook Post "Looks like the Super Bowl committee should have stopped by Waters Rental for a generator."  After 162 "likes" and a dozen "shares", this humorous comment helped Water's expand their audience.  Humor is part of Water's social media profile (click here for their Facebook Page for more examples).  Oreo's "you can still dunk in the dark" and Tide's "we can't get your black out, but we can get your stains out" were great examples of taking a universal situation and converting it to a branding opportunity.


3.  A picture is worth a thousand words.- Humorous pictures with words attached (meme's in social media vernacular) are shared more easily and can create brand recognition across media platforms.  Having the technical proficiency to alter a photo to emphasize a brand can help significantly improve recognition.  Don't believe us?  Here's a local example: at the Dirty Kanza Finish Line Party, people rang cow bells as bikers approached downtown.  Immediately after the Dirty Kanza, we altered a picture of Christopher Walken from his famous "More Cow Bell" Saturday Night Live sketch with the words "More Cow Bell- the Dirty Kanza has it".  The picture was shared on-line with riders everywhere, and helped solidify the Finish Line Party in people's minds.


4.  Yeah, but how is that going to work locally?- What?  Do you think weird things that people talk about never happen in Emporia?   StanleySuperbowl Waters Post  Jewelry running their picture with the quote "Be a deer and run down to Stanley's for me" with their products and a deer in the background got some positive recognition out of a disaster (cleaning that mess up couldn't have been fun).  Strange things happen on a local, regional and national level that opportunists can take advantage of.


5.  Be empathetic.- The line between funny and "over the line" is dependant on the individual consuming the media.  For every humorous branding quote on Sunday night there were probably ten offensive Hurricane Katrina references.  Simply put, think THEN tweet.


6.  A single board doesn't build a house.- Sometimes we get a little too caught up in "immediate rewards" within our advertising plans.  Building a social media audience builds access that can build your clientele over time.  If you expect one fun comment to bring 100 people to your door, you are probably going to be disappointed. 


7.  Create value with your time.- Social media is a tool that can be utilized within the normal operations of most businesses.  However, unless you are a social media marketing agent, it probably shouldn't be something you spend a ton of time on.  Social media is spontaneous and requires consistent content, but it isn't an English Comp term paper.  Achieve your branding goals, but have fun with your message.  Remember, social media is one tool within a more comprehensive marketing plan.  Spontaneity is great to take advantage of instant opportunities, but social media works best when supplementing traditional advertising (not replacing it). 


How do we know that situational branding works?  Well, you areMain Street Logoreading this article, about a recent event, which reinforces the educational resource brand we promote through Emporia Main Street, right Casey?  The technical medium may have changed, but puns, jingles and other memory conveyances can help establish who you are and what you do in the mind of consumers.  It won't sell the product for you, and you must provide a litany of other services to achieve long term success, but it helps consumers know you.  And, knowing is half the battle.

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.