Memes Viral Advert Consumer Behaviour

What’s trending on Reddit... and what does it mean for brands?


By Kenneth Hein, US Editor

July 23, 2020 | 7 min read

What does the world look like for marketers through the lens of Reddit? It’s full of cake, surreal paintings, home gyms and lots of consumer insights. The Drum has partnered with Reddit’s marketing sciences team for a twice monthly look at what’s trending – and what it means for brands. Here’s what we’ve discovered so far.

Jimmy Johns

Poor drawing, great results for Jimmy John's on reddit

Cakes that look like laptops. Cakes that look like heads of lettuce. Oh! those amazing cakes. Then there is artist Seamus Wray painting himself, painting himself, painting himself... Are these simply oddities trending on Reddit, or are they leading market indicators?

For brands who know where to look and why, Reddit communities are fertile ground. Recognizing that there is an opportunity for marketers and for Reddit itself to capitalize, the platform has launched a marketing sciences team, led by Jack Koch, formerly of Spotify, LinkedIn and Electronic Arts.

Koch’s team aggregates billions of posts, comments, upvotes, “all of what happens among our 430 million visitors across 130,000 communities,” he says. “We like to tell the world about their world through the lens of Reddit and our data.”

He’s partnered with head of brand strategy, Will Cady, who oversees a team responsible for finding “homes” for brands on Reddit. And that’s just the trick, really, if redditors don’t like a brand’s involvement, they’re not going to engage – or, worse, they may trash it. But if they do like it, the brand just may become the next Jimmy John’s. The sandwich chain created its own meme with a poorly drawn ad created in Microsoft Paint that read: “I’m working from home without the design team. Hopefully this conveys Jimmy John’s is open for delivery.” Many applauded, copied, mocked…all the while, authentic awareness with an engaged audience was created at a vital time for the brand.

Then there’s Netflix. While it may not have helped with earnings, Netflix scored a hit with redditors by dropping an entire Google drive of new evidence that didn’t make it on to its revival of the show Unsolved Mysteries. This drove fans deeper into the cases, the series and the brand.

There are plenty of other examples from Nissan, Ally Bank and the Economist to choose from. So what do they all have in common? Koch and Cady say it boils down to these three things:

They act on current trends as they happen (like people who are getting in shape, fast). r/homegym had +255% spike in views for the week ending July 13. This stock and shipping thread played a big part in the attention paid, as did top content like a home gym created as a surprise for a member’s wife and a basement gym carved out of a decade of dust and spiders. “The conversation has shifted from sharing info about baking bread to sharing info about setting up a home gym,” says Cady. “It’s not just about equipment. It’s the little things that make it feel like a gym, like the banners on the walls. These are the types of actionable insights for brands to come in and take part in a conversation in a positive way.”

They tap into purpose, but not the kind marketer’s usually talk about. Car companies, for example, can tap into the actual purpose of cars like a passion for racing (eg r/NASCAR, r/Formula1) or r/overlanding (where people take their vehicles off-roading). “Communities are connecting on purposes and taking actions because of it,” says Koch. ”This creates valuable data for marketers and a specific audience with a specific interest.”

They speak authentically, even if it’s a woof, a howl or a meme. The direct-to-consumer dog toys and treats company Barkbox accomplished something few brands ever do – successfully using a meme to get in front of its target audience of internet pet owners. In fact, Barkbox was so successful it found itself on the front page of r/FellowKids, being applauded by a community typically focused on skewering brands’ attempts at speaking to internet audiences. “It was in front of the pet owners in communities like r/rarepuppers, speaking their own language, existing in their culture,” says Koch. “The communities are open to speaking to brands if they really find value in the relationship.”

But what about the cakes and the guy who is painting himself into infinity? This too is part of a larger trend. In fact, there was a 12% spike in the arts and crafts interest group, a 21% increase in 3D printing and a 28% increase interest in Lego. It seems people who have been sheltering (AKA been trapped) inside are finding new and impressive ways to feature their homemade creations. Marketing opportunity or fad? You be the judge.

bark box

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