I’m blaming Oreo.
When Super Bowl XLVIII kicks off on February 2nd, brands big and small are going to be watching the game like hawks (no pun intended) looking for any opportunity they can find to insert their own name and message into the social media conversation. That’s the essence of newsjacking, and everyone’s going to be trying it this year.
Why? Because of this tweet from Oreo during the power outage that happened during last year’s Super Bowl:
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
That single tweet earned Oreo a year-long honeymoon as everyone’s favorite social-savvy brand, and the kind of goodwill that can’t really be measured.
It’s extremely unlikely that there will be another major news event like a power outage this year, but an event as big as the Super Bowl will still provide plenty of newsjacking opportunities for brands.
Twitter, in particular, will be a carnival of brands trying to be this year’s Oreo. With that in mind, here are six rules for brands to follow, particularly when it comes to using Twitter to try to newsjack the Super Bowl.
1.) Think Fast…
The Super Bowl power outage last year happened at 8:37 pm ET and Oreo’s famous tweet, complete with its memorable image, was published just 11 minutes later. That’s fast. Audi was even faster, sending this tweet — a jab at its competitor, Mercedes-Benz, which has naming rights at the Superdome — just three minutes after the power outage:
Sending some LEDs to the @MBUSA Superdome right now…
— Audi (@Audi) February 4, 2013
Speed matters during an event like the Super Bowl. The power outage lasted 34 minutes, which gave lots of brands time to hop on the newsjacking bandwagon. Without an extended delay like that, brands will need to think and move more quickly this year. A clever tweet about the halftime show, for example, probably won’t succeed if it’s posted in the 4th quarter of the game.
2.) … But Don’t Forget To Think.
Thinking fast is a start, but in the process of being fast, brands can’t forget to think. The Marketing Land news archives are littered with stories about brands that screwed up on social media — Twitter, in particular — because they just weren’t thinking.
Remember Epicurious? The food-lover’s website wasn’t thinking when it tried to newsjack the Boston Marathon bombings last April with these two tweets:
Home Depot wasn’t even trying to newsjack a big event in November when it sent out this racially insensitive tweet without thinking:
Mistakes like these are even more likely to occur in the adrenaline rush of a global advertising fest like the Super Bowl. Be fast, but don’t forget to think through what you’re doing.
3.) Don’t Newsjack Somber Moments/Events
Newsjacking the power outage last year worked so well, in part, because the event didn’t have any seriously negative repercussions. If the power outage had started with a small explosion or fire or caused some kind of damage/injury in the Superdome, those tweets may not have been met with the same enthusiasm.
During this year’s game, players may get injured — perhaps seriously — and I’m afraid to think about what health-related brands are going to tweet in those moments.
Remember the recent lesson from SpaghettiOs when it tried to newsjack Pearl Harbor Day and faced a quick rebuff from offended citizens.
4.) Be Careful About Stretching Outside Your Comfort Zone
If you look back at some of the best tweets from last year’s Super Bowl, the brands successfully managed to connect their products/services to what was happening during the game. Oreo invited fans to dunk a cookie in the dark. Audi’s tweet referenced the LED lights that it had promoted in its own Super Bowl ad a year earlier.
Cars.com wasn’t nearly as successful with its tweet that tried to connect the power outage to its Super Bowl commercial.
Is the stadium power outage the most dramatic moment of the night or was it the http://t.co/RJUL4Nxr wolf? #NoDrama
— Cars.com (@carsdotcom) February 4, 2013
And if you want to see an awkward tweet, look at Healthcare.gov stretching to connect the power outage to getting emails about the federal health insurance marketplace.
Don’t be left in the dark like the #SB47 football players. Sign up for the latest Marketplace/health care info at http://t.co/AToKceda.
— HealthCare.gov (@HealthCareGov) February 4, 2013
As you can see, neither of those tweets scored much engagement in the form of favorites or retweets. Both brands came across as looking pretty desperate to get in on the conversation.
5.) Be Prepared. Have a Plan.
That Oreo tweet? The company said a year-and-a-half of planning made it possible.
Earlier this month, Denny’s caused a stir when it tweeted a “losers’ road map” to Auburn University fans shortly after their team lost college football’s championship game in southern California.
If it’s any consolation Auburn fans, there are 47 chances to win on the way home. #BCSChampionship #BCS pic.twitter.com/2HZbH3kpsY
— Denny’s (@DennysDiner) January 7, 2014
That graphic wasn’t just thrown together at the last minute; it’s obvious a lot of research and work went into that tweet, which has thousands of retweets and favorites. And you can bet Denny’s was prepared with a slightly different tweet and map if Florida State had lost the game — because they had a plan to get their brand into the conversation surrounding the BCS title game.
That Denny’s tweet wasn’t praised in all circles. Yahoo Sports said Denny’s was trolling Auburn fans, and some fans said that eating at Denny’s would only make Auburn fans feel worse. That leads us right into the last rule….
6.) Decide Your Risk Tolerance Level
When it comes to taking risks with newsjacking, no one seems to push the boundaries more than Kenneth Cole. The company found itself in hot water in 2011 when it tweeted about the Egypt uprising with a sales pitch for its spring collection. Then this past September, Kenneth Cole did it again with this tweet that was posted as the U.S. debated sending troops into Syria:
“Boots on the ground” or not, let’s not forget about sandals, pumps and loafers. #Footwear
— Kenneth Cole (@KennethCole) September 5, 2013
Some thought it was another mistake. Not the case. Kenneth Cole himself used Instagram video to explain that he was “well aware of the risks” of tweeting like this, but did it to encourage “awareness and discussion about critical issues.”
Your brand may not be as willing to take such a risk during the Super Bowl, but that’s a decision that needs to be made before the game begins.
As Oreo and other brands proved last year, there are great rewards to be had from successfully newsjacking live events like the Super Bowl. But plenty of other brands have proven there are serious negative consequences when it’s done wrong.
Brands need to have a plan and know their tolerance for taking risks. They need to be careful about trying to newsjack somber or negative moments, and about stretching too far with messages that don’t connect the brand to the moment. And they have to think fast — with an equal emphasis on both thinking and being fast.
We’ll be watching the online brand activity closely during this year’s Super Bowl as part of our third annual Hashtag Bowl. Join us on February 2nd as we see who wins the social/digital marketing game on Super Bowl Sunday.
(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)