A Tale of Two Tweets – And Five Takeaways for Brand Survival in a Consumer-Driven Culture

It was the best of times…and the best of times. Two very different brands, two very different markets, two very different tweets – but it all adds up to one very big lesson in the power of word-of-mouth marketing in today’s consumer-driven marketplace. Our story opens on October 1, when ESPN NFL Nation reporter Terry Blount tweets a photo from Houston restaurant Skeeter’s Mesquite Grill, where the specials board advertises the “Matt Schaub”: “Pick six toppings for your burger and pay dearly for it.” Skeeters This clever play on words was a reference to an interception the Texans’ quarterback threw during their September 29 game against the Seahawks – an interception that was returned for a touchdown, turning the tide of the game and paving the way for the Seahawks to claim an overtime victory. The photo quickly rippled through the Interwebs, and over the course of the next three days, this local mom-and-pop eatery received over 400,000 hits on its website, and its managers gave more than 50 interviews to media outlets across the nation, including ESPN’s SportsCenter and Mike & Mike as well as The New York Times and the New York Daily News. From Houston we travel to Richmond, Virginia, where John and Sherry Petersik, masterminds behind the hugely popular home improvement blog Young House Love tweeted a photo to their 27,000+ followers of a package delivered to their doorstep with a little something extra for their famed four-legged family member (coincidentally named “Burger”). YHL-Tweet But they didn’t just tweet it. They also posted it to their Facebook Page, where they have more than 86,000 followers. And to Instagram, where they have nearly 56,000 followers. Assuming that some of those followers overlap (as they surely do), that’s still a lot of valuable publicity garnered for the price of a dog treat. YHL-Instagram Even more noteworthy? The many commenters that eagerly chimed in to sing the praises of their own thoughtful neighborhood UPS delivery driver. YHL-Facebook So what do these moments of marketing kismet mean for you? After all, they are lightning-in-a-bottle moments to be sure. But the point is not to replicate them; it’s to learn from them. Here are five key takeaways that you can apply to help your brand not only survive but thrive in today’s consumer-driven marketplace:

1. Deliver delight.

How much effort did it take for that UPS delivery driver to leave a treat along with the day’s package? How much did it cost the company? Nearly nothing, yet this seemingly insignificant gesture of care and courtesy garnered thousands upon thousands of positive impressions on social media. That’s an ROI that’s nearly impossible to beat. So ask yourself: what can you do to delight your customers? How can you invest a little extra effort, time and thoughtfulness into making their lives easier or bringing a little bit of unexpected joy into their day? Even in today’s tech-centric world, it’s the personal touches that make the most lasting impression.

2. Follow the trickle-down rule of happiness.

It’s a formula as simple as it is true: Happy employees = happy customers. It starts with hiring the right people – people who are the right fit for your corporate culture, who share your passion and your vision and who are driven to go the extra mile. Then empower those people. Make sure they know that you have only one rule when it comes to serving your customers: do whatever it takes to show them that they are valuable and appreciated. When you surround yourself with a top-notch team, you can entrust them to make the right decisions when the rubber meets the road to uphold your brand’s reputation.

3. Know your tribe.

There’s no magic spell you can cast to make your marketing efforts go viral. However, when you know your tribe, you know what they’ll respond to. You know what they’ll find funny or clever or quirky or cool. You know how to stay on the right side of the line between being in on the joke and making a pandering marketing ploy. Skeeter’s hit the right note among their sports-loving clientele with their timely, cheeky special. By having a little fun at Matt Schaub’s expense, they sent a clear message to their base of Texans fans: We know the feeling. We’re one of you. It’s the marketing equivalent of saddling up to the bar with a pint to commiserate over the outcome of the game.

4. The walls have eyes. And ears. And blogs.

Did that UPS delivery driver know that the home where he left the treat for the garrulous Chihuahua was inhabited by bloggers? Probably not. Was he following a PR plan carefully researched and plotted by UPS’s corporate marketing team. Most certainly not. But that’s exactly the point. In today’s era of social media, you should treat every customer as though they’re the Petersiks. Not every one of your customers has their own blog, but nearly every one of them has their own Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram, etc. Each of these platforms is a megaphone that they can use to sing your praises or rip you to shreds. You never know whose megaphone is the loudest, and there’s nothing people love more than jumping on a bandwagon. Which direction that bandwagon is heading is up to you.

5. Brands are made in moments.

This is a corollary to #4, but in these times when everyone has their own soapbox, brands aren’t defined in board rooms; they’re shaped moment by moment in homes and in cars and on screens across America. Every encounter between your brand and your customers – whether real-world or virtual – shifts and redefines your reputation. Whether your annual marketing budget is in the thousands or the millions, there’s nothing you can do that carries the weight of the word of someone who has experienced your products and services first-hand. So rather than obsessing over every word on your website, put your time and energy where it counts – on the front lines where your brand and your customers come face-to-face.