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A quick guide to 'Reactive Marketing'

By Elle Marshall, Senior PR executive

Zazzle Media


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February 22, 2019 | 8 min read

With the ever-growing popularity of social media, allowing users to instantly express their thoughts and feelings, it's little wonder that reactive marketing is becoming more and more popular among brands.

Reactive marketing graphic

More brands are investing in reactive marketing.

In order to pull off successful reactive marketing pieces, you have to be quick off the mark. What's more, with the number of platforms - both online and offline - growing rapidly, it can seem near impossible to track all of the potential opportunities. However, I’ve outlined below a few ways in which you can prepare yourself and better spot those opportune moments.

Seasonal planning

A great way to get a head start is to create a seasonal calendar. Look out for key dates and events that perhaps align with your brand, relate to your values or you feel you could benefit from any of their potential marketing efforts.

We recently talked about the sporting calendar in 2019, and how brands can jump on these big dates with big audiences - you can get the calendar template here.

A good example of this would be the release date of the John Lewis’ Christmas advert - this date will be deep-seated in the minds of marketing managers throughout the retail industry. Marking big societal events, useful holidays, and peak sales seasons on your new calendar will give you a good idea of where to keep an eye out for opportunities alongside your usual campaigns

It’s also worth looking back at a few stand-out dates to see what opportunities arose then, and to gauge a possible trend that your brand could jump on in future.

Specsavers capitalising on the North Korean flag fiasco at the London 2012 Olympics is a golden oldie in the reactive marketing archives. It highlights the advantages of knowing what’s coming up and how it can aid your efforts. Specsavers’ creative director, Graham Daldry, commented: “We were on the lookout for an Olympic ‘Should’ve’ and we haven’t had to wait long for a classic”.

Specsavers Korea flag olympic blunder

Piggyback on the news… but be quick

The quicker you react to an event, the more impact and reach it will have. Commenting on something that happened a week ago is just a bit, well you know... old. You need your brand to be ‘in the moment’.

A must is to keep an eye on trending stories. Delegating this type of activity to someone, if possible, would be great to ensure you always have eyes on the (potential) prize. You can also set up Google Alerts which will send you notifications for specific keywords you've chosen.

Lidl showcased their ability to move quickly with the 2018 John Lewis Christmas ad - famously parodying the piano commercial, by offering a much cheaper alternative to John Lewis’ highbrow approach. Sharing this across their Twitter, it quickly racked up nearly 10,000 retweets and 27,000 likes. Not bad compared to the stats of JL’s 29,000 retweets and 84,000 likes for something that cost next to nothing to create.

John Lewis were also quick to reply to this piggyback marketing, and joined in on the fun, with a £15 toy piano alternative, stating ‘It’s a Lidl bit cheaper…’

zazzle - lidl john lewis tweets

This not only shows both brands are agile, but also is great entertainment for your audience. Many people commented on the exchange, loving the banter between the shops, and getting in on the jokes themselves.

zazzle - reactive joke tweets

Brainstorm and validate

Armed with a seasonal calendar, for certain events such as Annual International Days, you can certainly get ahead of the curve and brainstorm some ideas around the kind of content you could create.

I have previous written on how McDonald’s flipped their famous golden arches to represent a ‘W’ in honour of International Women’s Day - something their marketing team had definitely discussed and planned well in advance.

However for those impromptu events you need to brainstorm and validate quickly but effectively. One way in which to quickly round up ideas and get those creative juices flowing is Brain Writing. This is where someone starts with an idea, either writing it down or sending a group email and people bounce off each other’s ideas. This can be a good way to pull together some ideas quickly.

But be sure to use a checklist to make sure your idea is ready - validation is key to avoiding PR backlash. Here’s some things to consider when you’re putting together ideas for campaigns/social posting:

  • Does your approach express key values and messages of the brand?
  • Keep it unique. You want a new, fresh angle that is clearly aligned to your company.
  • Check social hashtags - you don’t want to tag something that has another meaning.
  • Quickly mock up a visual - does it look ok?
  • Plan out supporting content. This could be a press release, social posts, comments.
  • Sense check - sometimes all you need is an extra pair of eyes, to be sure you won’t offend anyone, or have missed any glaring errors in judgement.

Reach and reactions

When executed well with a strong, clear and meaningful message will have impact and capture the attention of its audience. The online community then has the power and ability to spread your message, building your brand with it. Keep abreast of news that has big impact and plan for your big campaigns with these in mind - but only if your brand has something valuable to contribute to the conversation.

Social media has to be one of, if not, the most powerful tools for reach and reactions to this type of marketing - so use it. Referring back to the checklist above, making sure your take on an event is unique with a stand-out approach is key to a viral-worthy piece. Being bold and not too afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone (while not losing your brand’s voice and values) can often give your content the push it needs to be successful.

So, once you’ve nailed seasonality, agility, brainstorming and societal trends, you’re ready to attack any reactive marketing opportunities which comes your way.

Here’s a quick reminder on how to nail that next campaign:

  • Failing to plan, is planning to fail. Pull together that seasonal calendar and make note of all events relevant to your industry and business.
  • Brainstorm some ideas for upcoming dates.
  • Validate with a checklist to ensure those quick-fire ideas are solid.
  • Need for speed. Always be on the lookout for potential opportunities and when they arise, act quick.
  • Set notifications. Keep an eye on that trending content.
  • On brand. Keep your content aligned to your values and principles and be sure your brand has something to add to the conversation.
  • Be confident in your approach. Commit to the idea once it’s validated and ensure there is a full campaign behind the content, to ensure it gets the reach it deserves.

Elle Marshall is senior PR excutive at Zazzle Media


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