The pros and cons of ‘moment marketing’ for brands

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Another new term has entered the new age marketing & advertising vocabulary: moment marketing. It is essentially topical advertising but since turnaround times are not measured in days but in minutes it is called so, I guess. It is also a country cousin of occasion-led advertising where brands attempt to gain leverage from big news events or calendar events such as Mother’s Day, April Fools Day or Independence Day. In India, such calendar events are even more with a plethora of national or regional festivals such as Holi, Raksha Bandhan, Onam, Pongal and more. All this has resulted in brands coming under pressure to put out some creative on social media on all of these occasions.

Prior to social media, politicians would send out festival greetings and such news items would appear the day before or day after the festival. If there was no news item attributing a festival message from the leader it wasn’t noticed or missed. Nowadays, political leaders are expected to send out a tweet related to every festival and occasion. Some are chided for not posting a congratulatory message on Twitter. The plight of brands is a bit similar – if they don’t participate in an occasion they feel they might be judged. Naturally, FOMO (fear of missing out) takes over and brands feel obliged to create occasion or moment-marketing led communication.

Topical advertising and moment marketing: when relevant?

In my view, the hallmarks of a great topical ad are when it is based on an event which is truly creating buzz, with a creative message which is relevant to the product, i.e link it to the brand’s proposition in a clever way, delivered lightning fast when the topic is still fresh in people’s minds and finally executed with some subtlety and class. If done well they can deliver great impact for the brand especially if it becomes part of the news cycle. When President Obama was sworn in, depilatory brand Veet released this ad in Australia.

During the time #BreakTheInternet hashtag was trending after a Kim Kardashian cover shoot, IKEA released this ad:

Years ago, the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland was an opportunity for East Coast trains in the UK to create this:

Recently, an Indian actor Rahul Bose posted a video on Twitter showing how he was charged Rs. 442 (approx $6) for two bananas at a luxury hotel (normally sold for about Rs. 10 or so in grocery stores). Social media being what it is consumers shared their ‘Rahul Bose moment’ showcasing when they were overcharged. Several brands outside of the luxury hotels category jumped on to the bandwagon. One could say that it is exploiting the misery of another brand (and the roles could easily reverse any day) but it was an opportunity nevertheless. Among those which stood out and brought a smile were these:

As you can see some had some relevance to their service offering, executed the creative fairly quickly and did in a classy tone of voice. But many others tried too hard to find a connect, be funny or relevant. In that process, such efforts merely add to the noise on the internet or help tick a box in the internal marketing playbook.

The pros of such opportunities

If done well, such communication can help brands in two ways (a) imbue or enhance cool quotient and (b) extend the visibility beyond just that moment to a longer shelf life if it wider publicity through media – i.e go viral. However it is not a one time magic pill. Even in the above examples of Zomato and StarQuik the former brand is likely to extract more mileage out of such as they are consistent in such efforts and tone of voice. Amul’s topicals are a great example of consistency in this domain.

The downsides

Most advertising goes unnoticed anyway. Brands trying to force-fit their proposition or offer into any news event without any relevance or link to the brand only increases that probability as consumers will ignore and even be irked.

In today’s context there is another very important factor at play which brands need to take notice of:

Good quality, free entertainment is easily accessible: it is not just the copywriters in ad agencies or screenplay writers in the entertainment industry who can create engaging content anymore. The common people has never had it so good to showcase their talent – thanks to social media. Their creativity is taking many forms – words, videos, tweets, images and more.

Here’s another creative, entertaining thread on Twitter:

As you can see there is a whole lot of tweets, memes, WhatsApp forwards, podcasts, web films, Instagram posts, blogs and so much more in popular culture that is riveting and has oodles of creativity.

Brands need to compete with that. Whether it is thematic or tactical communication (brands need both) the bar is set very high nowadays in order to break the clutter. Apart from being relevant to the brand, unless the communication – moment marketing related or otherwise is as good as or better than what is seen in popular culture it will be tough to break through the clutter. Worse still it could turn out to be an exercise in futility.

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