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How Brands Missed The Mark On #DrummondPuddleWatch

Real-time event tie-ins for social posts are a smart marketing move. But it’s all too easy to go wrong.

In case you missed it, the morning of January 6, 2016 dawned with over 20,000 viewers watching a live stream of a puddle on Periscope.

No, there’s no wordplay there; the video footage indeed showed people attempting to cross a literal puddle covering a small street in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. The stream was set up by Drummond Central, a local marketing agency, and before long, users across the world had joined in on #DrummondPuddleWatch.

puddle

And what fun it was — for a little while. The world watched as puddle-crossers did their best running long jumps, and by the time a man attempted to ford the flooding with a pink pool raft, the Twitter storm had begun in earnest. Which was, of course, the moment that some major brands rushed to get in on the action with puddle-related social posts aimed at boosting sales.

Domino’s tweeted “Domino’s – delivering to puddles near you.” Bookstore Waterstones suggested that followers check out a kid’s book titled “The Internet Is Like A Puddle.”

On the one hand, this was a display of smart marketing. Clothing retailer ASOS’s Twitter attempt scored 163 retweets, and research has shown that giving posts and promotions a real-time event focus can boost in-store sales.

But the strategy can easily backfire. By early afternoon, Twitter users were complaining that the brand attention had made #PuddleWatch “too mainstream,” and they resented the co-opting of a funny internet moment for financial gain. Mashable posted an article with the title “All these major brands just ruined #Drummondpuddlewatch for us.”

Since viral buzz is what every brand wants, what are retailers to make of this backlash? Should they sit out major online moments that have nothing to do with commerce in an attempt to seem “genuine,” or should they ride all the Twitter waves and hope for the best? The answer is likely somewhere in between.

Relevancy: It’s Not Just For Ads

Marketers have come around to the idea that in the age of on-demand — and ad blocking — ad content needs to be personalized and relevant. This holds true for social content as well, even though it isn’t targeted in the same way; essentially, brands that seek to comment on trends that have a direct connection to their primary business are more likely to succeed.

For example, a ski and sporting goods store doing a Winter Olympics tie-in? Good. But a pizza place commenting on a puddle? Not so much. (Sorry, Domino’s.)

That’s not to say that a branded Twitter account can’t make a joke; 20,000 people live- streaming a puddle is pretty funny. The smarter bet there is to keep the joke unrelated to commerce.

A tweet reading “Wow, can’t stop looking at #DrummondPuddleWatch,” is participatory. A tweet asking customers to buy something because of it can feel disingenuous. In other words, direct sales tie-in posts work better for brands whose products are involved in the action — for Hunter rain boots, for example, a puddle is a born marketing opportunity. For others, tread lightly.

Alas, #PuddleWatch was over as quickly as it began, but today’s social media world brings a new trending event every day, making it important for brands to learn these lessons now. In the meantime, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of GeoMarketing.com. A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.