Context marketing: How brands can use cultural relevance to hijack the news agenda

Oreo's success in hijacking Super Bowl XLVII with a timely tweet beautifully illustrated the power of context and sparked a growing trend for brands to attach more importance to contextual thinking and 'deviate from the script' where appropriate.

There’s no formula for whipping up a media frenzy, says Anna Terrell
There’s no formula for whipping up a media frenzy, says Anna Terrell
Over the past year or so, marketers have become increasingly aware that strategic planning should incorporate reactive tactics that enable them to take into account the environmental context of the situation and issue key messaging when it is most meaningful to the intended audience.

Reacting to the moment has long been a PR agency’s stomping ground, and producing reactive content is a skill on which most PRs pride themselves.

We struck gold with our Fifty Shades of Grey ‘staff memo’ stunt for B&Q, which trended on social media and became a talking point on TV and radio – not just in the UK, but globally.

There’s no formula for ‘whipping up a media frenzy’ but here are five considerations for PRs in 2015:

1.
Campaigns are no longer judged simply on reach and brand awareness. The most successful campaigns positively engage the public and become a talking point in the press and on social media. Content must create a reaction – content has been a buzz word for years now, and for good reason. The right piece of content will have a better result than a simple quote plugging a brand. One reason Oreo's Super Bowl effort was so well received is that it showed Oreo was listening and dealing with the lighting issue at the Super Bowl. More importantly, the issue was minor enough that a light-hearted reference made the content extremely relevant.

2.
The beauty of the B&Q story was getting it out ahead of the news agenda. The stunt was carefully masterminded weeks before the release of Fifty Shades of Grey. The key is picking the right moment to be ahead of the trend – in this instance, knowing that media hype for major film releases is at its height in the two weeks prior to release in cinemas.

3.
News is 24/7 and it starts online. Trying to hijack a story that is already in the newspapers is not going to work – the media will have moved on. The teams responsible for producing branded content, whether in-house or agency side, should have processes in place to track the news agenda.

4.
The best content agencies are ‘light-footed’ and structured to adapt. To facilitate this reactivity, marketers should establish a clear brand platform and tone of voice – this will give teams the freedom to behave reactively (within the confines of the brand’s tone of voice).

5.
News-jacking requires an element of bravery and belief in the creative idea. The impact of an idea will be weakened when brands try to force-fit perfectly constructed corporate messages where they don’t fit or ensure their logo is front and centre of a photograph. The best ideas are beautifully simple and easy to understand without the need for lengthy messaging documents.

"If content is king, then context is emperor." (Contagious, 2015)

Anna Terrell is consumer director at Good Relations

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