Did real-time marketing die after the ‘Super Bowl Oreo’ last year?

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The tweet (and cookie) that changed marketing history. At least for now.

With the Super Bowl commanding national attention this Sunday, I can’t help but remember the “Oreo” moment last year. As you may recall, when the lights at the Superdome when out for half an hour, Oreo’s parent company (Mondelez), and its agencies (360i and Media Vest) sent out a Tweet that got a lot of attention. (There it is on the right.)

It was retweeted over 12,000 times… made into a favorite nearly 4,000 times… and Oreo’s Facebook page raked in more than 19,000 likes.

The concept of “real-time marketing” was suddenly thrust into the spotlight. That is, marketing done on the fly that speaks to a particular customer, at a particular time, in a particular context. It’s the ultimate in targeted marketing. Not a new concept, mind you. But, it had never been done like this before.

Talk about a fantasy come true for a brand. The marketing and consumer world was buzzing for days. The water cooler and conference room talks went beyond the game and the great commercials. Marketers and consumers talked about Oreos. Everyone seemed amazed that Oreo responded so quickly—with a finished ad layout and clever headline, no less. Rumors flew that the creative team must have had access to the brand’s photo and brand library, a means to produce it, along with approval from the brand team and more to make that Tweet happen.

But more important, it was a brilliant and funny little creative moment at just the right time. There was no game going on, the lights were out, and people naturally turned to social media. And it cost many millions less to produce than a pricey Super Bowl spot.

But then, just like every other digitally charged trend in the past decade, everyone thought this was a game changer. It was the future of marketing! Brands would move from planning and strategy to conversation, in real time. They’d respond to cultural moments, significant events and milestones as they unfolded. Be on the lookout for many more Oreo moments to come…

Ever since, many brands have tried to recreate the Oreo Super Bowl success. Some have done incredibly well, some haven’t. A few examples…

  • Starbucks responded to the government shutdown in October by offering free coffee to anyone who bought someone else a coffee. The idea was to promote the notion of compromise. The coffeemaker landed a ton of positive publicity, even with making the usually taboo political statement. It also just happened to help coffee sales.
  • Conversely, AT&T’s September 11 tweet totally backfired. It sent an image of a nondescript smartphone with a picture of the Twin Towers’ memorial light beams. The caption: “Never forget.” The response was so horrendous, it had to pull the tweet in less than an hour. An apology followed from the CEO.

Real-time marketing requires three things: unbridled creativity, a heavy-duty marketing substructure and some sort of cultural trigger. First, you have to have a marketing apparatus set up and ready to go, at any moment—including access to sharp and witty creatives; brand managers with near-deity approval status in their organizations; the IT infrastructure and files to put things together and deploy them immediately; and a sharp understanding of our culture and what it will like. Lots of big brands have this type of structure already.

But then, with all of that underpinning in place, you have to let it roll… be playful… fun… observant… interesting… provocative. All while keeping your brand true to itself.

It’s that kind of thinking and backing that helped a little cookie change marketing history.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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3 Comments
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    27 March, 2014 at 3:52 pm
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    28 March, 2014 at 6:36 am

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