Why marketers should be responsive to national events

6 minute read

We can’t deny that national events mean big business for marketers; they prompt conversation and a story we’re all a part of – whether we like it or not. Last month we saw a huge amount of hype surrounding the birth of Prince George of Cambridge, from national (and international) news agencies, companies ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ and heck, even our friends and family were tweeting about it (I include myself in that group, I was hooked). With the hype having died down, it’s time to look at how and why businesses are responsive to these news stories in their marketing efforts.


Let’s start with an example: to the right of the page is a Warbutons advert released just after the news broke from Kensington Palace. Marketing Week deemed this as ‘bad’, but why? OK, it’s pun-tastic, but it’s engaging and still relevant to their brand. I rarely purchase Warbutons bread, yet when I was in Sainsbury’s recently I took notice of Warburtons and where their product range was. The power of clever marketing cannot be underestimated; this advert boosted my awareness of their company and all because they made reference to a news story that I was personally interested in.

Moving away from the royal baby, other examples to note have included Oreo’s reference to the Mars Rover landing, Nando’s making a light reference to Wimbledon (see below) and of course a select few who were allowed to get involved in the Olympics hype last year. You only need to look at the number of likes, comments and shares to see the kind of success Nando’s had with their simple post.


But how do you do it and get it right? I’m sure there’s an argument to say the examples given are from companies with a big budget and ad agency behind them, but it’s not about that, it’s about having a little imagination. It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, recognising the topics we’re all talking about anyway adds personality to your brand and can generate a conversation with your customers. You might not be able to reach them in a formal capacity, but you could get to them by referring to a sporting event on your Facebook page in the way Nando’s did.

To get started, here are some top tips to responding to those all-important national events:

Keep an eye on the news – you’ll need to be quick with your responses. Making reference to Wimbledon a week after the tournament had finished wouldn’t have worked; you want to be involved in the story from the get-go. Back in November 2011 I wrote a post about a social media story covering Shippam’s Paste. I prioritised the post and got it live the day it was trending on Twitter. We saw a heap of traffic and retweets, and all because we were quick while the story was ‘hot’. I’d highly recommend Twitter for keeping yourself up to date on the news.

This is a difficult one, but make sure it’s relevant to your brand. Some of the criticism surrounding the royal baby press was that companies had simply jumped on the bandwagon, forgetting their brand and if there was actually a fit. Warburton’s worked well because the pun referenced their product, as an example.

signupto-halloweenKeep it simple. Subtle references will help with ensuring it’s in keeping with your overall brand, but will help with that personal touch to your efforts. In the past we’ve themed our monthly newsletters to seasons; here’s an example email header recognising Halloween (the email send date was the 30th October).

Pick your story carefully. The last thing you want is to pick something that is wrapped in controversy and trouble, bringing your brand down with it. Earlier this year Tesco, already caught up in the horse meat scandal, found themselves in hot water with a ‘time to hit the hay’ reference in a late night tweet. Oops.

Have fun with it! Marketing your products and services doesn’t have to be so serious, so make light of it and see what happens. Your customers are far more likely to engage with you if they can feel a personality behind the offering.

While there will always be questions as to the relevance of including news stories within a company’s marketing activities, marketing by its very nature is about communicating the value of a product or service to a potential customer. What better way to do it then by mentioning stories their customers are already reading in the news, or talking about with their friends? Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.