Summer Doldrums? Have An Oreo

22 Aug

This post previously ran on Mediapost’s Marketing Daily and IQ Interactive’s blog.

Ah yes — the hazy, lazy days of summer, when marketing slips into a heat-induced coma. The pace seems a little slower, the controversies a bit duller and social media just plain boring.

Even the Olympics, that quadrennial bastion of sports and marketing, muzzled its social media armed athletes to assure their tweets, status updates and photos are only happy, happy.

But fear not – several companies failed to get the memo and are stepping up their game in flagrant disregard of the trend. While other brands are stretched out on a hammock in hopes of a cool breeze, a few hardy souls have tightened the laces on their running shoes.

Preparing To Run

These are the brands that have followed guidance from experts like the Altimeter Group. In case you haven’t read their guidance — and you should — Altimeter suggests that companies go through something of a process as they move into social media and content creation. They compare this actualization process to a runner.

  1. Stand – the process of having a pulse and curiosity of what’s going on out there.
  2. Stretch – The tentative first movements in the social world, starting to advocate inclusion of social media and experimentation.
  3. Walk – The point where there’s enough forward momentum to build strategy and process.
  4. Jog – Leaning forward enough that the organization is discovering and exploiting sources of content.
  5. Run – Finally reaching the point where the content comes so naturally that you get results that are monetizable (if that’s not a word, it should be).

So what does running look like? I’d suggest you picture an Oreo cookie. To be precise, a six-layer Oreo with a rainbow of cream filling colors that looks like the Gay Pride flag. Because that’s exactly what Kraft trotted out on Oreo’s Facebook page last month.

The Photoshopped image was the kickoff to a campaign for Oreo’s 100th birthday. But in the midst of the summer doldrums it was a stun grenade thrown through the door. The blast and shock wave were instantaneous.

Oreos Are Gay?!

In the first 17 hours more than 157,000 people “liked” the image, 40,000 people shared it and 20,000 commented on it. And then it really got popular.

“Dear God… Oreos are gay!” Stephen Colbert mocked on his show. “I should have known something was fishy when those ‘homosnacksuals’ got me to consent to consensual double-stuffing!”

The one picture unleashed a tidal wave of discussion, ranging from assertions that this validates that gay marriage is a mainstream value now to the calls for a boycott.

But here’s the thing about an organization that has gone through the steps of Altimeter’s process, or any similar progression. They understand that having a point of view on social media means respecting those with an opposite perspective. They don’t panic. They don’t have knee-jerk reactions.

Staying Cool Under Pressure

So when ABC News went looking for Oreo’s reaction all they got was calm, cool, collected response, and it came through in the resulting story.

“Basil Maglaris, a spokeswoman for Oreo’s parent company Kraft Foods, said in a statement that the image was part of a “series of daily ads reflecting current events in a fun way using images of OREO cookies and milk.” Kraft is not planning to sell the rainbow-stuffed Oreo in stores, Maglaris said, as it was created solely for the advertising campaign in honor of Pride month.

“We are excited to illustrate what is making history today in a fun and playful way,” she said in an email to ABC News. “As a company, Kraft Foods has a proud history of celebrating diversity and inclusiveness. We feel the OREO ad is a fun reflection of our values.”

Notice the confidence in that statement? There’s no fear of pending disaster, nor is there end zone celebration by a company trying to maximize the PR impact.

Kraft had a plan, a process and a point of view. It went into the campaign fully understanding that reaction was likely. They may not have planned on the image becoming so instantly iconic that it ended up on the evening news or “Colbert Report.” But when it did that didn’t change anything.

So to Altimeter’s five steps I’d humbly suggest a sixth. The cool-down — The confidence and wisdom necessary so that when things go big or go bad you act like you’ve been there before.

That’s just something to ponder while you’re napping on that comfy hammock on a gentle summer day.