Marketers have more channels than ever in which to hawk their wares, and combined with our 24/7, media-obsessed culture, marketers arguably have more opportunities than ever to reach consumers.
For better or worse, marketers are under enormous pressure to capitalize on these opportunities. But increasingly, it’s worth asking: just how many of them are really worth pursuing?
This is a question the marketers behind Poland Spring had to answer when United States Senator Marco Rubio needed a sip of water during his televised response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. Yes – he happened to reach for a bottle of Poland Spring. Rubio’s thirst-quenching move was likely seen by millions and, perhaps undeservedly, became one of the biggest highlights on one of the biggest nights in U.S. politics.
So how did Poland Spring, which is a brand of Nestlé Waters North America, respond? Yesterday, it posted an image to its Facebook page showing a bottle of Poland Spring in front of a makeup mirror with the caption, “Reflecting on our cameo. What a night!”
Drinking the Kool-aid?
The company’s response may not have been Oreo-quick, but it was a reasonable one, right? After all, a politician took a sip of water. Poland Spring wasn’t endorsed by the president, or made the official bottled water of the United States government.
But some believe that Poland Spring’s tardy response was a “missed opportunity.”
One of those in the Poland Springs could-have-done-better camp is social media marketer Lee Odden. As detailed by MediaPost’s Karlene Lukovitz, Odden praised the company for eventually responding, but chastised it for not responding sooner. He suggested that companies invest in social media monitoring so that they can react rapidly when opportunity strikes, and added a warning: “If you don’t, your customers — and possibly your competitors — will. You miss out on all of those social moments that are part of the brand experience, and risk possibly looking not very forward-thinking.”
Even those who are less emphatic about the incident think Poland Spring can do more. Drew Neisser, head of social agency Renegade, stated “Poland Spring could and should have a lot of fun with this, both creating their own memes and amplifying the ones popping up. Carpe diem is high on the list of social media best practices.”
Opportunity filtering: the difference between success and failure
The question, of course, is what Poland Spring realistically would have accomplished with a more aggressive, and prompt, response to it’s State of the Union response cameo.
Yes, brand marketing isn’t all about sales, so it’s not entirely fair to suggest that Poland Spring is not going to see increased sales as a result of this incident and leave it at that. But just because branding is often a fluffy, feel-good exercise doesn’t mean that it’s an exercise that shouldn’t be driven by strategy. And brand strategy should serve as a filter for marketing opportunities.
When it comes to filtering, brand marketers should think of themselves as investment fund managers, not newspaper editors. Fund managers with billions of dollars in capital can invest in literally anything, but the most successful fund managers rarely become successful by chasing every opportunity that comes knocking. Instead, they develop a strategy and stick to it until the desired outcome is achieved, or their assumptions are proven wrong and they adopt a new strategy as a result. The newspaper editor, on the other hand, must chase every hot story.
Obviously, brands can have fun, and agile marketing is a great way to do that and potentially gain earned media at the same time, but brand marketers need to recognize that the really important parts of the long, arduous process known as branding don’t typically make headlines, and marketers shouldn’t lose sleep when pundits suggest that their job is to come up with witty tweets every time the spotlight unexpectedly shines on their brands.