August 15, 2017
“I’m Not Like a Regular Mom. I’m a Cool Mom.”
By Lance Lemen
In my previous blog post, I talked about the positive effects a brand can have when jumping on an internet trend. Brands can use their power of large exposure (and budgets) to make the world a better place. It can be a beautiful thing. However, brands aren’t always so well intentioned. Frequently, brands will embrace trends in an effort to follow their customers, engage new audiences and force a sale. It's what I'm calling the "Cool Mom" approach.
Marketers have always found new ways to reach consumers. Some have become so ingrained in our culture we don’t even notice them. Take, for instance, the roadside billboard on an otherwise beautiful stretch of highway. That’s a marketer who has found you in a captive state and pushed a message over the natural beauty of the scenery. It’s the perfect example of marketers ruining something innocent because there was a dollar to be made.
As the way we take in information has changed and gotten faster, trends have sped up, too. It’s unsurprising to see marketers scrambling to jump on the newest, shiniest bandwagon. They pay attention to the things you like and, by appearing to like or understand the same things, it’s much easier for them to win a little more of your attention. It’s the chance for relevancy and targeted audience engagement—sometimes at little or no cost.
For brands, participation is the easy part. Anyone in the world can throw up a photo or video on social media as the next Bow Wow Challenge (my favorite recent internet trend!) quickly becomes embedded into pop culture. But, it’s best to look before you leap into those trendy waters. Here are a few tips to keep your brand out of hot water when it comes to marketing trends.
Be Authentic—Especially to a Cause
Trying to be trendy can come at a cost if it’s not authentic. It’s like your mom telling you that her last Avon party was “lit.” You want to run away from that word and never hear it again. Brands can easily ruin trends, instead of supporting them, by haphazard participation.
Remember that little Ice Bucket Challenge back in 2014? It was fun, engaging and spread across social media like wildfire. But, we knew it was going downhill when phones challenged each other to try it, a stunt designed to showcase their waterproof products. In my opinion, that was an example of inauthentic participation in this viral trend. It was more about selling product features than participating in the ALS fundraising cause, making the actual Ice Bucket Challenge a little lamer every time a pair of eyeballs saw that Samsung video.
Be Real, Not Forced
Remember that time Pepsi thought Kendall Jenner and a can of soda was the peaceful solution to an over-the-top-diverse protest? The video got slammed for being tone deaf, pushing product and exploiting those involved in real, passionate protests. It did not sit well with the internet world and definitely not with their target Millennial audience.
It’s all about being real and staging a protest to sell soda is far from real. In a recent survey, 80% of Millennial respondents said that they prefer brands that promote “real life.” Everyone’s BS meter is sharper than ever and Millennials are leading that charge. For a brand to be relatable and trusted, their intentions need to be honest—not an attempt at relatable and hip.
Be Yourself and Have Fun
If you’re a really smart marketer, you can find a way to participate even if you’re late to the party. Here’s a brand cleverly using some famous trends, even after they were past relevancy. In these internet provider commercials we see distant people participating in an almost equally-distant trend, while making the message relevant to their product. With the buzz of the Ice Bucket Challenge and Harlem Shake gone, this campaign received more exposure than all those other brands who jumped right into the thick of the trend just because. It’s fun and it’s authentic by showing some brand personality.
Planking, Tebowing and every other ridiculous trend were created because someone was having fun. They started organically and spread organically. Your brand’s participation is unlikely to make it any better or more popular so be yourself. That’s the best way for your message to be seen. It all ties right back into the need to be authentic and real.
So, when that next social media trend or meme comes along, remember how it started. Don’t force your brand or product into it out of obligation or FOMO. Find a way to really help, communicate a powerful message or at the least show off your brand’s quirky personality. Be authentic, genuine and real. That’s exactly what your consumers are doing, and it’s working for them.