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Hitch A Ride on Someone Else’s Story

Hitch A Ride on Someone Else’s Story

For the last several weeks, like hundreds of millions of earthlings, I have tuned in for a few minutes every day to catch what’s going on with that little ball skittering across a small screen. I’m not actually watching the World Cup, but I can’t get enough of the daily homage to it on my search engine.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Google Doodles. Even though I know they are a marketing tool, they are at least partially responsible for my brand loyalty to Google. Naïve as I realize it is, there’s a small part of me that just doesn’t want to believe that a company that produces such brilliant, ephemeral digital art could possibly be the evil, secret-selling empire that they probably are.

Real-time Marketing in Action

For the World Cup, Google actually dispatched a team of its doodlers to Brazil to cover the day’s soccer events as they happened – the first live doodles the company has ever produced.

One of my favorites was the U.S. vs. Ghana match, which was represented by two eagles (symbolic birds for both nations), kicking the ball back and forth. For each point scored, that country’s eagle got an egg. At the game’s end, the eggs hatched: two eaglets for the U.S., one for Ghana.

I also loved the tribute to Paul the Octopus, the (now deceased) cephalopod made famous during the last World Cup who had an uncanny knack for picking the winning team.

This real-time marketing is an inspired way to get your brand’s story into the news cycle.

In Google’s case, they took a planned approach. The idea and the basic framework of these Doodles could have been conceived the moment they found out that the 2014 World Cup was going to be in Brazil. As more information became available, they were able to fill the gaps in their strategy:

  • create a sort of editorial calendar,
  • develop a cohesive look and feel to the Doodles
  • identify any additional technology they might need to make the Doodles as awesome as they could be, etc.

Then, the coup de grâce, they had a team in place to update the Doodles in real time. All of the sudden, the story wasn’t just the U.S. beat Ghana, the story was also the U.S. got two baby eagles.

They completely news-jacked the World Cup, but I can’t imagine FIFA minded. It just meant an extra billion or so screens for them.

Real-time Marketing can Work for any Business Model

While that sort of planning, detail and expense are great for a Google-sized company, real-time marketing is possible at any level.

Some of the best opportunities come when you least expect them. I don’t think anyone at Arby’s thought they would be able to get exposure from the Grammys, but when Pharrell appeared wearing a Vivienne Westwood hat that looked just like the hat on their logo, all it took was a tweet to make people smile when they think of Arby’s.

The fast food chain kept the goodwill going by buying the hat for $44,100 at an auction to benefit charity. They took a simple resemblance that no one else might have noticed and turned it into a marketing moment that probably resonated more with people than all their other recent campaigns combined.

Being keenly aware of your brand identity and the ways in which you lead your industry allows you the ability to spot times when you can insert yourself into the news cycle, and be ready with your message. After that, it’s just a question of noticing when the right opportunity comes along.