Go look at what’s trending on Twitter right now. #WineWednesday? #HandmaidsTale? Whatever the Twitterverse is talking about, you can bet that there are brands jumping in on the conversation. And this isn’t limited to social media—email marketing, promotions, traditional advertising, etc. are all fair game when it comes to jacking a cultural phenomenon.
Trendjacking is a marketing technique where a company forms an emotional or intellectual connection to their audience through hijacking a relevant pop cultural or internet phenomenon. It’s instinctual and relies on substantial knowledge of a consumer base.
If a company knows its audience well and isn’t tone-deaf to social issues, then this strategy will build additional loyalty and engagement with their customers. However, an ill-conceived concept can hurt the connection that consumers have with a brand and generate some bad press.
The Cousin of Trendjacking: Newsjacking
While trendjacking is a recently coined term, it’s not an original technique. Companies and brands have been hijacking events and holidays since the dawn of advertising.
Another similar tactic to trendjacking is newsjacking, where a company uses news or a current event to expand their brand awareness. The dish soap company Dawn has mastered this. When there is an oil spill or leak, Dawn creates documentaries showcasing volunteers using their dish soap to wash and clean off the oil from animals.
Another example of a newsjacking is when twelve boys in Thailand got trapped in a network of caves due to flooding, and Elon Musk offered the use of his mini-submersible to help get them out. Though Musk did get some criticism for showboating, the event nonetheless inspired intrigue and gave attention to the project.
Newsjacking can be effective but has its own cautionary tales. It’s also more difficult to implement a content strategy based on newsjacking, because of the short nature of the news cycle. With trendjacking, you generally have a bit more time to brainstorm and create a quality control process so that the concept doesn’t come back to bite you.
The Right Way to Trendjack
Trendjacking happens when you insert yourself, company or brand into a hashtag, meme, internet trend, etc., and use it as an opportunity to reach new customers and bond with your current audience. This can be done by creating a video, image or any other multimedia content that relates to the trend while simultaneously correlating back to you.
Pick a Trend
There are many ways to do this, but the best way is to research on social media. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter offer the top trending topics on the daily. Don’t forget to consider upcoming big events—sports games, award shows, holidays, TV show premieres—anything is fair game. This is when having an editorial planner is particularly helpful. You can’t predict the next internet craze, but you can take advantage of predetermined events and see similar results.
Match the Trend to Your Brand
Ask yourself how the trend will resonate with your customers. Does the trend match your audience’s interests? Further, make sure it aligns with your company’s values and voice. Trendjacking is a more natural fit with consumer-oriented brands who hold a younger audience, but that doesn’t mean B2B brands have to stay far away from this strategy. The most important aspect here is to feel confident that your messaging with resonate well with both internal and external stakeholders.
Choose the Right Medium and Moment
Even the best of messages won’t land if the medium and timing aren’t right. Consider if a 15-second video would be more impactful than a three-second gif, or if there’s more sharing power in a social post than an email.
When it comes to timing, make sure your brand isn’t too late to the party. There’s nothing worse than posting a #MondayMotivation on Tuesday. (Womp, womp). But when the timing is perfect… well, that’s when the magic happens. One of the most famous examples is the 2013 Super Bowl blackout. The Oreo social media team used quick thinking to create the ‘You can still dunk in the dark.’ post, which caused online glee.
When Trendjacking Goes Wrong
Like any other marketing endeavor, trendjacking has the potential to backfire and cause disruption. When this happens, it is essential not to panic. Quick reactions cause additional errors that inflate the problem.
The main way to respond to a poorly received concept is to apologize. When AT&T posted about the Twin Towers in 2013, it was meant to memorialize the pain and suffering of 9/11. However, many people were upset because of the spotlight on the company’s phone in the image. Product pushing on sensitive subjects is a huge no-no. Inevitably every year, a brand ends up taking Memorial Day or 9/11 too far. And then they must do what AT&T did—apologize for the error and smooth over the incident with their customers. Some brands still attempt to add humor to their apologies, but that can backfire as well.
The most important action to take when a trendjack goes bad? Learn from your mistakes. Did the concept go out too quickly without the proper approvals? Audit your editing and quality control processes to ensure multiple people with versatile viewpoints are reviewing this kind of content. This is more than just a great exercise when it comes to trendjacking—it’s necessary to ensure your content marketing is inclusive and respectful to all parties.
To Sum it all Up
Trendjacking is a fantastic way to engage your consumer base and develop a keen emotional connection. However, it requires keen insights into your audience’s likes and dislikes and an understanding of social and internet trends. A single misstep (or mis-tweet, rather) could cause enormous damage to a brand’s image. But when creative minds come together and strategize in a thoughtful way, a brand can truly shine.
To learn more about trendjacking and how to incorporate it into your content creation, download “The Intelligent Content Playbook” for more insights.