Moment marketing: a digital-age compulsion thrust on brands

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I have been out of ad agency life for over 10 years now. As a consumer and as a mere observer of goings on in advertising, I can clearly the see the priority given by brands to what has come to be known as moment marketing. Aside from occasions such as Women’s Day or festivals, brands are putting out social media posts (which have become mandatory expectations from a digital agency) anchored on whatever is part of the news cycle or ‘on-trend’ popular culture.

What drives the moment marketing craze?

Is buzz the hoped-for ROI?: What could possibly be the rationale for brands to continue investing behind such efforts? I assume they see some sort of ROI – not sure what the metric would be. Given the nature of the social media world, the number of likes, ‘engagement’ and maybe banking on it going viral is the ultimate test.

Affinity with younger audience: another possible reason could be to ‘fish where the fish are’ with respect to reaching the younger audience. As they are likely to use platforms like Instagram, one sees creatives which are quirky or relevant to an audience over there. Deutsche Bank leaned on the Barbie movie craze with a post linked to career openings. Bit of a stretch? Maybe. But I presume this would bring a smile on the face of many young fans of the movie.

FOMO – the driving force: by now, I think it has become a mandatory for every agency (big or small) to deliver festival, occasion and news-of-the-day anchored ‘content’ on social media , however stretched the brand connect might be. FOMO – especially when a direct competitor is indulging in such (and seemingly reaping rewards by way of engagement and the proverbial buzz) could be a powerful motivator.

The likely pitfalls – but do brands care?

Weak, forced or missing brand & business connect: sometimes, the link to a brand and the occasion or news event is easy and natural. But the effort shows, when it is forced. Recently, Chandrayaan 3, India’s lunar mission got a lot of media attention and mindspace. Several brands put out social media posts with some sort of a brand connect.

Similarly the release of Barbie and Oppenheimer movies had its share of Instagram posts from brands who were not official brand collaborators but merely riding piggyback on the hype.

As you can see, the link to the brands is tenuous at best. While there maybe posts which were truly creative and relevant, that’s not the case with majority of such posts.

There’s no stopping the treadmill: once brands start investing behind occasion-specific ads, the temptation is to simply continue, not pausing to contemplate if it is essential or relevant to the business. Then every festival and even on the news cycle is seen as an opportunity to advertise. Such a mindset can lead to diverse messaging, disparate tone of voice and lack of focus.

Overdose of content: even without the pressure of moment marketing, brands – especially those for whom millennials and Generation Z are a key target audience, are present everywhere, with high frequency. It is not uncommon to have a new Instagram post almost every day. In such a scenario, it’s near impossible to deliver ‘hits’ every time. I guess the brand team sees the high frequency of posts as good thing – being top of mind and all that. While there are pros & cons to every approach, the occasional but interesting work seems a better approach than often but ‘unremarkable’ work.

Matching or surpassing the content quality of social platforms: doom scrolling on Instagram throws up a mix of reels, memes and images of all kinds. As with most content (cinema, books, articles, music) a majority of them barely get our attention. The ones which make us pause and give it a second chance could be from handles to whom we have some sort of affinity to (personal network, brands one likes) or genuinely clutter-breaking content. Brands are essentially intruders in that space trying to be seen & heard in a timeline possibly filled with content which has remarkable user-generated content. But most brands (at least the ones I see on Instagram) treat that platform like another advertising medium, many with creative executions that are not a patch on some of the best ones from social media stars or celebrities. Brands ought to play to the strength of the medium or platform – some brand categories (such as smart phones where one can showcase good photography) lend themselves well for such on Instagram.

Screen grab of Xiaomi India’s Instagram page

But some categories such as financial services may not be automatically suited for visual-rich social media content. Yet, many insist on putting out posts which stand very little chance of breaking through the clutter – pretty much like traditional advertising.

Is it all bad? No.

It is said that the first job of an ad is to get noticed. The same yardstick applies for social media posts and whatever is passed off as ‘content’ or digital marketing. I am also reminded of this famous quote from the 1950s:

People don’t read ads. They read what interests them. Sometimes, it’s an ad.’

Howard Gossage

I guess it all began for moment marketing creatives with that famous ‘Dunk in the dark’ tweet from Oreo in 2013. Among the myriad attempts to win hearts, bring a smile and go viral only a handful succeed. A great example of it is this user-generated content related to the Barbie movie: Ciaron McKeon is a Senior IT Analyst who has a passion for coming up with creative ideas for brand. As part of the OneMinuteBriefs activity on Twitter he created a mock billboard for Heineken:

Source: Twitter. Over at LinkedIn, his post has garnered over 500K views and is widely shared and appreciated on social media.

While one understands the compulsions for brands to see everything as an opportunity to be ‘on-trend’ and create social media posts, maybe a ‘less is more approach’, finding a natural fit with the brand, being relevant to the category or brand’s core idea and of course, a clutter-breaking, refreshing creative execution can be a more prudent approach. But there’s no doubting that if successful in terms of creating a buzz for the right reasons, it can be good ROI as the cost of production and media investment would be small compared to traditional advertising.

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