For most companies, the process of getting marketing from concept to post is slow, expensive, and nets poor results. If you want your company’s marketing to pop, you need to have an approval process that’s quick, professional, and efficient. This is especially important if you want to engage in event-based marketing.
Event-based marketing is when you market based on a current event that already draws attention and might result in a viral response. When something is a hot topic, people are quick to share the posts because it helps support their opinion on a particular matter.
In some cases, companies have turned their entire business around off of one current event. One company that continually seems to crush the marketing game is Black Rifle Coffee (BRCC). When they started in 2014, they offered great marketing and quickly built a healthy following… But they weren’t huge, and they certainly weren’t viral. This all changed in early 2017 when Starbucks vowed to hire 10,000 refugees. BRCC quickly countered with the pledge to hire 10,000 veterans. Now, politics aside, this was a phenomenal marketing move. The owner and CEO, Evan Hafer, gained huge public support and soon found himself on the major news networks such as Fox News talking about his pledge.
Overnight his company blew up, and he couldn’t make coffee fast enough to keep up with the demand. Again, here we are not discussing whether or not the move was done for the right reasons; you could argue it was done just for publicity and to sell product, but in respect to marketing it was brilliant. Here BRCC took something that was a powerful national topic and leveraged it to improve their sales. One thing I do want to note is since using this tactic, BRCC has dramatically increased in size and are well on their way to hiring a ton of Veterans. Even Hafer is a friend, and I know he has a personal drive to hire as many veterans as possible, regardless of the marketing that came from the decision. He truly cares for the welfare of his employees and more importantly, the Veteran community, and we couldn’t speak highly enough of his morals as well as his incredible marketing capabilities.
The reason this campaign worked was that it was executed quickly. Imagine if BRCC conducted the same campaign today, over two years later. It would be a total flop. Even if it were done 6 months later, the result would be minimal. The thing I want to stress the most here is if you want to participate in event-based marketing it needs to be quick and professional. By professional, I mean the campaigns shouldn’t engage in slander. Imagine if BRCC came out and said, “f*** Starbucks and refugees, we are going to hire 10,000 veterans.” This campaign would miss the mark and invoke anger rather than a purchasing mindset.
One example we would like to show is in regards to the Nike // Kaepernick Betsy Ross . If you’re not familiar with the issue, Nike wanted to release a limited edition shoe that featured a Betsy Ross flag on the back. Kaepernick stated to Nike that the flag had ties to racism. Nike opted to drop the shoe creating a public outcry and some pretty intense emotions… this is where the marketing comes in. Through our retail company, we decided to put together an event-based ad that plays on public emotion.
In the ad, you will see that we played on Nike’s decision to drop the flag. Now, this option might be a little too direct to Nike, although we still tried to be a little tongue and cheek with the marketing. We didn’t say f*** Nike, but we did poke fun at them a bit. It’s a very fine line to walk and must be done carefully.
One thing you should notice is the immediate reaction to our post. In 3 hours, we have 94 shares, 509 likes, tons of comments, and most importantly, clicks to our website. This campaign netted immediate sales of the Betsy Ross Flag Patch and in our eyes remains a successful marketing campaign.
Be Careful What Events You Choose
Now, event-based marketing is a great way to drive sales and increase social media exposure, but it can also end in absolute disaster. If you choose to support the wrong side of a political issue that doesn’t resonate well with your customers, you could sustain a massive loss. For example, let’s say BRCC decided to support Starbucks and say they too would hire 10,000 refugees, they would probably be out of business today. BRCC’s customer base is primarily conservative and probably views Starbucks as a liberal company with terrible political views. The same level of passion and support that accompanied their decision to hire Veterans could have easily gone toward hate and anger if they took the wrong side. In short, be very, very careful what you back. At RE Factor we have some pretty stringent guidelines of what we will and won't go after with event-based marketing. Here are some excellent guidelines to follow:
1) Never attempt to profit off the dead or a loss of life
This seems like a give me, but you’d be amazed at how many people with take the opportunity of death and try to profit off it. Not only is it highly immoral, but it can also crush your company. One common thing I will see is a company making a t-shirt, patch, or memorable item to support the families of the fallen. This was observed following Extortion 17 and in 2015 when 11 service members died following a helicopter crash off the coast of Florida. Companies flocked at the opportunity to make patches and t-shirts where 10% or a portion of the proceeds went to the families of the fallen…. Let’s think about that for a second….. They saw service members die and offered to pay 10% of what they made off the sale of thousands of shirts to give to the families. Personally, this disgusts me, and if you’re a company that participated in such an act, shame on you. If you want to conduct such a campaign, you should donate ALL of the profits to the families. As a company, you have the ability to raise funds for those in need, do not take it as an opportunity to pad your own pockets.
2) Never fall too heavily on political lines
It’s great that you as a person are Republican, conservative, liberal or Democrat, but unless you’re selling MAGA hats, you don’t need to let everyone know what your direct political beliefs are. Now, in regards to the post above, we obviously fall on conservative lines because Kaepernick is a Democrat (or something like that) and Nike is a liberal company, and we openly oppose their views. You will notice that we didn’t say “the Democrat agenda sickens us, buy Republican, buy a Betsy Ross Flag, support your nation!” A post like that would invoke anger, division, and lead to negative results. By stating your company is a liberal/Democrat or conservative/Republican company, you will alienate everyone that’s not in line with your company’s political beliefs. There are plenty of individuals that might lean left who follow our page that might still purchase the patch because they think the entire Betsy Ross scandal is a joke. But if we come out and say, “screw Democrats,” that customer base might get turned off and write off our company altogether.
You will notice the post above does result in good reach, but it’s more of a political message than an ad campaign. This ad is hard to decipher if we are taking a stab at Obama and his followers or Nike or some other political agenda. It’s more of a political statement than an advertisement. We posted this as a way to simply show what’s a good event-based campaign and what’s a negative event-based campaign. The one that contains a message to Nike will lead to sales. The one about Obama’s election simply creates emotion. One leads to sales, the other leads to negative results.
3) Choose Only Somewhat Important Events
The event you want to go after isn’t the national polarizing event, it’s the one that has some exposure and gets somewhat decent coverage. We’d recommend staying away from events that are going to cause too much outrage even if it isn’t necessarily along one political line. For example, you’d probably want to stay away from abortion, #metoo campaigns, or a Black Lives Matter event. For that matter, always stay away from anything pertaining to religion, it will always hurt you. There are just too many emotions mixed up in them and the chances of getting it wrong are simply too high. Poking fun at North Korea or Iran or when some celebrity figure puts their foot in their mouth would all be good ways to get some marketing out there. But we strongly advise you to stay away from anything that's going to draw too much unwanted attention.
The bottom line is event-based marketing is a great way to drive sales traffic. However, you must be ready to get called out on what you’re doing. You’re taking a national topic and monetizing on it, plain and simple. After our Betsy Ross campaign, we had a few people get on and tell us we were just doing anything we could to make a buck and that we were just taking advantage of the situation… which we were. However, most companies operate in this area in some shape or fashion. If you want a great example, check out gay pride month. During the month of June, just about every “progressive” company out there will have some sort of rainbow product, logo or marketing plan. It’s nice to think that all of these companies really believe in equality for all but at the end of the day if it didn’t help their bottom line they wouldn’t do it. In the end, event-based marketing is powerful, but make no mistake, it must be done carefully and tactfully, or you can find yourself in a world of hurt.
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