One of the more powerful tools in modern marketing is making good use of keywords and trending topics - being able to make your own brand relevant in association to a story which people are already discussing, and thus being able to reach more people because they’re actively looking for things related to that topic - and their search could send them your way, they like what you do, and boom - a sale, and a new fan.
But one of the big dangers of being too wedded to using these trending topics to promote your own brand, no matter whether they are relevant to you or not, is that you could have the opposite effect, putting people off because you’ve jumped onto the wrong bandwagon. Not much is more off putting to a potential customer than seeing some pushy sales speak that’s shoving a product they don’t want in their face when they were on the hunt for something specific, and got sidetracked by the wrong link along the way.
So how do you choose when to hitch your own wagon to a hot topic, and when to leave well alone?
Tuesday 16th April is national wear your pyjamas to work day; this is a ‘holiday’ which comes from America and no amount of online rummaging has found me a reason for it, other than pyjamas being terribly comfortable and people being a little silly.
Unless your business is selling pyjamas or other sleepwear, there isn’t a lot to tie to for marketing purposes - and using the hashtags associated isn’t likely to get you much by way of traffic or sales.
This is a prime example of bandwagon marketing - jumping onto something that just isn't relevant to your brand to try to raise your profile - and trying to link what you do to something wholly unrelated is more likely to put people off you than it is to build successful relationships. Anyone who has ever worked in journalism (or blogging!) will know the pain of receiving a dozen press releases from desperate PRs or marketing teams who are using the most tenuous of links to send out a press release for a client to check it off their list, but it just doesn’t work.
In the past I’ve had press releases hit my inbox advertising adult nappies during the Royal Wedding, major film releases tenuously linked to interior design, small businesses selling children’s toys piggy backing on the great british bake off final, and countless other such nonsense which, rather than making me click through to their website to learn more, has me tutting and muttering at my desk because it’s not only a waste of my time, it’s a waste of the investment (whether that’s financial or an investment of time) for the person creating that press release and the company it’s supposed to be promoting. It smacks of desperation and is a cheap marketing method which has little care for the brand or the kind of customer who will want to shop with them.
Successful marketing is NOT about getting the most people to see what you’re selling at any cost - because that stops being relationship building, and becomes spam - and if you’re building a reputation with a wide audience for being spammy and irrelevant you’re actually doing yourself a long-term disservice; even if what you’re offering does become relevant to them, they have already formed a negative first impression - and fixing a negative impression is far more difficult than creating a positive one in the first place would ever have been.
Don’t make your own life harder by leaping onto every trend and throwing yourself into the hottest current topics - yes it’s important to follow these trends and to understand what people are discussing, and an awareness of major events does mean that you can join in conversations and build relationships - but be aware that you should only be promoting what you do to the right audience, and at the right times.
Other blunders people have made is when they see a famous name or a location trending and try to sell their related products, only to realise the trending was because of a death or a tragedy - and this can make you go viral for entirely the wrong reasons, seeing tens of thousands of offended people blacklisting your brand because of your blunder.
Think Cinnabon using a reference to the iconic Princess Leia hairstyle to sell their products the week Carrie Fisher sadly passed away - or a number of big brand clothing companies like American Apparel and Gap piggybacking on busy social media during hurricane Sandy to offer discount codes for anyone “bored during the storm”. Another example of this was a pizza brand jumping on the #whyIstayed hashtag - a conversation about why people stayed in abusive relationships before finding the strength to leave - talking about staying in for pizza!
Later this month - April 24th - we have another clothing related awareness day; this time Denim Day - and this isn’t just a random item of clothing which people might wear, this is an awareness day for rape and sexual assault; this is a day in which people are wearing denim as a statement that nothing you wear invites assault, that there is no invitation to rape, and that it isn’t the fault of any victim and their attire, it is the fault of their attacker. The message here is powerful, and the awareness day is using this visual of wearing denim to raise awareness for an important topic - and this campaign has spread throughout the world because of the importance of this message.
(Hit this image to visit the Denim Day website, where you can find out more)
Again, this could be something which is powerful to share your own messages around; it could also be a great way to promote any products which help people to be safe, to be aware, to be protected - it could even be a way to promote your own denim products, if you are linking to the charity and the awareness aspect - but just trying to sell denim and ignoring the importance of the message would also be tacky, and could put people off your brand for good.
Understanding the messages behind campaigns, and understanding your place in that message, is absolutely vital; blunders could put your name out there for all the wrong reasons, and your values and morality are as important a part of your brand as your logo; remember, you aren’t selling a brand, you’re BEING your brand - you need to embody what it is you mean to sell, and promote that to your audience to build the right relationships.
Don’t piggyback on the success of others, don’t promote your goods distastefully, don’t use the pain of others to make a sale, and don’t jump onto that bandwagon just to make a tenuous link and spam people.
WHY you’re sharing a message is more important than simply sharing one - and only by remaining true to your values and aligning those values with your target audience can you make genuine, lasting relationships and be successful long-term.
For those who are looking for topics around which you could create stories to sell your brand or sell your products, I have a free downloadable content ideas calendar - you can get April here to finish the month on a high, and plan ahead with the May content ideas calendar here. You can also get a copy of my book “The A-Z of Marketing” for more tips and ideas from my shop.