It’s part of marketing lore already.  The Super Bowl goes dark.  Twitter lights up.  One of the major success stories of spontaneous social media was Oreo’s “dunk in the dark” tweet that became one of the most retweeted posts of all time.  Plus, it earned the Oreo’s team a lot of kudos from various pundits and fans, including this one from Fast Company magazine.

That could never happen without three things:

  1. A social marketing team with deep brand indoctrination and intent on capturing opportunity.
  2. A solid, pre-coordinated plan and process for social media activity.
  3. A lot of trust in the social media team.  To be spontaneous, you can’t wait for approvals.

That same methodology is behind another wildly successful campaign, Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” campaign (say it fast and you’ll get it).  While not event-based, the campaign was tested with a series of ever-widening customer circles in order to ensure that the raciness of the content didn’t backfire on the Kmart family-oriented brand, according to Adriana Llames Kogelis, a Sears Holdings vice president in mobile and social media marketing.  She spoke at the Mediapost Brand Summit last week, where I was also a speaker.  She said that the preparedness and trust is what enables the Sears social teams to be proactive, as well as business-focused.

ship my pants“We realized we were taking the brand to a whole new level and putting a family brand at stake,” she said.  “However, we didn’t do it without a measured set of tests that protected us.   It was testing well, and then poof!  The thing went viral,” she said.

Data showed it worked, she said. It wasn’t planned to be a national TV effort, but online reaction prompted so much publicity that it essentially aired on several national morning shows.  Results showed it had more than 20 million online views and more media value than a Super Bowl spot in the end, she said.

“Yes, it’s fun and clever, but there is also a core business message,” she said. “We ship direct to consumer.”

Event-based social marketing for Sears builds on those same principles – preparedness and training of the social team (all internal), a solid plan and deep trust.  “Everyone is on call – right up to the executives – and we all make a commitment to responsiveness,” Kogelis said.  That is what allows the impression of spontaneous, but ensure messages that is still on brand.

“Ours and Oreo’s campaigns were successful, partly because the companies were prepared and invested heavily in it, she said. “These tactics are not cheap and require a lot of prep work. Real-time marketing cannot be set up in real time to break out.”


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