Just Because It Trends, Doesn’t Mean It Should Blend

Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 2.43.33 PM
[Pictured]: the trending topics right now on Twitter / G+ at the time of writing this post.

There’s an old adage in the news industry: “if it bleeds, it leads.” I’d like to propose a new one for the modern media landscape. Some brands and digital shops seem to think: if it trends, it blends.

What exactly do I mean by this? I’ve mentioned brands in the past who do a great job thinking visual in social  (I mentioned Oreo in June 2012 as a brand to look at that was killing it). Then in February of 2013, the entire marketing industry exploded with buzz about Oreo’s real-time reaction to the Super Bowl power outage. So much so I even made a meme joking about how much coverage this single tactic received (kudos to the marketing team at Nabisco and their creative agency for great execution).

Anyway a lot of other brands piled on this event, as they’ve been conditioned to as we’ve continued to transition to a real-time web (and world). And many continue to pile on the big news each day with either image macros or inserting their product/brand sometimes in an interesting, but more frequently tasteless take on the topic du jour.

But to try to attrition attention from the day’s news in social just because something happens is an awful strategy to follow. There has to be a rationale. It has to logically make sense in the larger story you’re telling. It has to be organic and feel natural, even improvisational. You definitely can be scrappy (scrappiness is encouraged, actually). However this is as much an art form as it is a science of understanding trending topics / monitoring and taking action on their associated metrics. It’s just so easy to do stuff that feels cliche’d, contrived and otherwise ….well, awkward. Just like listening to a jazz musician riff on an improvised melody, this is either stunningly cool or equally painful.

I’m not going to call out any of the bad examples, but it’s clear what is happening. Marketing, PR and ad agencies are all thinking the same thing: if it trends, it blends (aka, needs to be remixed, mashed-up or otherwise used to blend up with a brand and serve as content in stream). The meetings with teams or agencies goes something like this: “we better remix this, quick, because it’s happening right now and x or y competitor is doing this.” Or, “oh, hey an opportunity to inflate my social KPIs, why not hop on this.” And while in some cases, this is executed really well (and is the essence of pull PR, a concept we’ve been talking about for years) this is not necessarily a good idea for every brand at every single event or news item.

I’d challenge you to think critically about any reactionary content you’re publishing. If you’re doing it creatively, following a strategy, it’s out of love and makes sense, it’s a great thing. If you’re doing it to check the box, you are causing more harm than good. I’ve already seen plenty of ridicule of some, and it’s not entirely undeserved. It’s polluting the stream.

As has always been the case, focus on your signal to noise ratio. Ruthlessly. The nature of the stream has not changed, but the amount going into it has continued to increase. Having built 7-figure social communities many times over I can say from experience: you will always have a more interested, dedicated community and greater outcomes from social when you realize it’s not what you say, but what you don’t say that defines you.

Just because it trends does not necessarily mean your brand should blend, remix or otherwise be a part of it.

Note: this post done with all respect to BlendTec, who are actually really thoughtful about what they blend for marketing purposes.