Grammy’s, Super Bowl, and Social ‘Tea Parties’ to Win the Real-Time Day?


Arby’s Grammy’s tweet certainly made noise with a single stroke and created a conversation that continued well after the awards show. Like Oreo at the Super Bowl, Arby’s was lucky to both have an event to capitalize on (in this case, Pharrell’s choice of headwear) that perfectly aligned with the brand and its audience, and also nimble enough to react to it in a real time. However, it’s unlikely that without Pharrell’s retweet that the message would have gone so far – Pharrell has over 10x the followers of Arby’s. It would also be remiss to fail to note that Complex Magazine first drew attention to the similarity between Pharrell’s chapeau choice and the Arby’s logo.

The real brand value for Arby’s is twofold: First, the tweet reached a significant audience through its various retweets and responses, reach that Arby’s didn’t have to pay for. Second, they engaged that audience with a transient but authentic association with one of the the biggest tastemakers of the year. The key lies in its authenticity: if Arby’s sponsored Pharrell to wear their logo to the Grammy’s, it’s unlikely that the tweet would have had the response that it did.

The authenticity of both the Oreo and the Arby’s tweets presents what you can consider the Catch-22 of real-time marketing. If you rely on generating viral reach by creating an authentic reaction to an unpredictable moment, it’s next to impossible to predict whether you’ll be able to reach enough of the right audience at a high-enough frequency to consider real-time marketing a success.

A way to sustain and build more organic reach is to extend the conversation to related but uncompetitive brands. Brands like Pepsi and Hyundai attempted to get involved, but Arby’s didn’t carry on the conversation. In comparison, check how Tesco Mobile, Yorkshire Tea, and Jaffa Cakes took a brand complaint and turned into a spontaneous tea party back in November:

While there is no formula for predicting a real-time marketing lighting strike, at an event like the Grammy’s, a major match at the Olympics, or the Super Bowl, brands are certainly going to try. In order to maximize the potential for real-time marketing success, brands should:

  • Have a firm understanding of their audience’s social behaviors and cultural touchstones
  • Have a strong, real-time listening program in place to quickly uncover the moments that audience is already responding to
  • Co-opt other brands with similar audiences to sustain the social velocity of the conversation
  • During the Super Bowl, I expect to see a slew of brands creating real-time marketing noise around the game. To cut through the noise, I believe that the best combination of real-time marketing and Twitter ad units will win the day.