“You’re not yourself when you’re hungry” is written in neat handwriting on the outside of a package of Snickers and addressed to Jeremy Clarkson c/o Top Gear, meanwhile, the package is duly snapped and distributed via Twitter by the brand’s communications agency.

OK, we can all see the temptation, it’s a good joke, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, it’s going to achieve reach and penetration greater than most campaigns that take weeks of planning and consume bank vaults of budget but, have Snickers done the right thing by posting a box of the nutty confectionary to suspended TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson?

A few thousand re tweets later and the media is full of the story, filling no less that 8 Google search pages. Unsurprisingly, the tabloidy end of the spectrum, Metro and Sun, think it’s a giggle but then they are not going to pick up the pieces if the whole thing goes pear shaped are they?

Looking at the opportunity in the cold light of day, Clarkson, arguably a national treasure, may or may not have thumped a Top Gear producer. At the very least, according to onlookers, he was responsible for a tirade of bad language in a family hotel because he couldn’t get a steak after a hard day of being Jezza. At this point the BBC may yet retain him, or he may take the walk of shame, the outcome is by no means clear.

Opportunity marketing like this can be phenomenally successful but will it create a better bond between a brand and its audience? Will Snickers be seen as a cheeky chappy with a brilliant sense of humour? Will they sell more product thanks to the joke? Or, will people read the story, have a chuckle and then shake their heads at what they perceive as a cynical attempt to ride the wave of what’s trending on Social Media?

Being ‘part of the conversation’ is a fine line to walk in the world of social media where brands are tolerated rather than welcomed with open arms.

The risks of actually ‘being the conversation’ (in the wrong way) should not be overlooked. There have been some lively discussions in our office this week about what Snickers have done.

Although we all get the joke and have laughed out loud, along with thousands of others, we have ultimately come down on the side of caution.

At best you can call Snickers’ hijack brave, while at worst you might end up saying it was cavalier and ill considered.

Todays younger marketers grew up as part of the Twitter generation and this will inevitably influence the way they market brands, it also brings to the forefront the issue of hastily executed activity. As a brand it’s wonderful to be flexible, to be able to respond in real time, just like everybody else, but unlike everybody else your opinions will be forensically pawed over by all and sundry. So you have to get it right first time, there are no second chances.

As a brand, you have to carefully weigh up who amongst your audience is likely to be “in” or “out” with activity like this. Some in our office were definitely “out”, making the valid point that if it was Suarez who desperately needed that steak and bit the ear off a producer in a temper tantrum it would simply be case of bad taste to send the Snickers. Others were definitely “in” and thought it was fair game either way. Personally, I think that if there can be such a lively debate about whether a brand looks bad or not then you should give the idea the yellow card.

One thing we all agree upon: we live in a very marketing literate world, where people know when they are being sold something, and they are savvy enough to see what actually lies behind a joke.

To find your rapid response trending alongside a trending story maybe a marketer’s dream. However, thanks to the celebrity wild card, it’s also one that could backfire and turn into a marketing nightmare with the brand getting its Snickers in a twist….and on that bombshell.

Will Cooper, Commercial Director, Mr B & Friends
Phone:01225 424600

Published on: 8:36AM on 15th March 2015