Marketing Around Tentpole Moments Isn’t Enough Anymore

Calendar with tentpole events
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Every year, marketing and strategy teams sit down and decide what events and holidays they want to plan their campaigns around.

If you’re a toy company Black Friday is an important day.

If you’re a snack-based brand, then the Super Bowl is a crucial time.

If you’re a fashion brand, the Oscars might be a critical day for you.

The problem with focusing on tentpole events is that it’s an incomplete marketing strategy.

I’m not advocating dropping tentpole event marketing efforts. I believe that marketing around tentpole events is important, but I also think that by focusing on tentpole events brands are missing out on a new fixture in the media landscape.

The new fixture in the media landscape is viral moments.

Viral moments are the disruptors in the advertising and marketing industry. Viral moments are those news stories and trends that rapidly capture a large share of media attention.

Some might disagree and say that viral moments have a small to negligible impact on their marketing plans. In response, I would say look at this year’s Oscars.

Many months ago, fashion brands decided how they wanted to advertise around the Oscars. Little did they know that they wouldn’t be advertising on the Oscars but on the slap seen around the world.

Any game plan those brands had was blown to smithereens the second Will Smith stepped on stage to slap Chris Rock.

Oscar statuettes

The one thing every viewer of the Oscars will remember is that slap, not who wore the nicest dress or who won what award.

Even though brands spent months planning how to advertise around this tentpole event, they only had hours to figure out how to roll with this viral moment.

In this case, the viral moment rapidly spread to outpace the Oscars in terms of viewership.

The Oscar viewership was up 50% to hit 16.6 million views this year. That’s an impressive number, but it’s eclipsed by the 200 Million plus views the top ten videos on YouTube have about the Will Smith/Chris Rock Moment.

Viral moments like this aren’t just spawned from events like the Oscars; they happen every day when a celebrity is streaming to their followers, a counter-culture stance is made on a podcast, or a new dance craze takes hold.

Just in recent memory, the Joe Rogan controversy surrounding Spotify and misinformation was headline news for weeks. If you were one of the 55 brands advertising on his show or one of the brands advertising on youtube clips about Joe Rogan, you had to develop a game plan fast. 

Viral moments are happening more and more often and on a larger and larger scale. Just as brands prepare for tentpole events, brands need to prepare for viral moments if they want to remain competitive. 

If viral moments are becoming a critical component to include in any marketing strategy, what’s a brand to do?

While viral moments are inherently challenging to plan around, the payoff will be massive if you manage to set up a system to handle them. 

To correctly manage viral moments, you need three things in place:

  1. Knowledge of your brand — You have to document what issues your brand cares about, the values it upholds, and the tone it prefers. You’ll need this to act as a filter for what viral moments your brand should target and to act as a mold for what your campaigns should look like.
  2. A detection system — You need software or team members to monitor the market for viral moments that work with your brand.
  3. The ability to move fast — Viral moments don’t last long. We’ve measured that the average length of viral moments is 34 hours. Meanwhile, the traditional change process for marketing and media campaigns can take up to eight days. To take advantage of viral moments, you’ll have to respond as close to real-time as possible to reap the benefits.
Trend timeline vs traditional change process

If you have these three things in place, you’ll be prepared to take advantage of the momentum that a viral moment affords.

With the disruption that viral moments are causing the world of marketing and advertising is becoming more complicated. On the bright side, there are a lot of strategies that can point you in the direction of success and away from the dangerous pitfalls lurking underneath these moments. I hope this article has you thinking about how your brand can take advantage of this change happening in the industry.

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