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Situational marketing

What is situational marketing

What is situational marketing?

Situational marketing refers to a brand's response to a current notable event or trend, utilizing the latest news, various current events, and trends to promote the company and its products, enhance its recognition, and attract new clients.

It is critical to realize that the news or event forming the basis of the advertising message in situational marketing should be significant and of interest to the brand's customers. Moreover, the news hook must resonate well and be familiar to the majority of the potential audience. Examples include high-profile events from society's political, economic, social, or cultural life. Consequently, situational marketing encompasses the creation of memes, humorous publications, and similar entertaining content, playing off the news hook.

However, to ensure the news and your company are remembered, it is best to choose a news hook that is also related to your brand's field of operation. This involves fully integrating the news event into your brand, showcasing to the audience how precisely the event influenced the company's activities and reflected on its products. Only in this case can leveraging a news hook be termed situational marketing, portraying global events through the lens of the brand and its values.

An integral component and tool of situational marketing is newsjacking, literally translating to "news theft," implying the utilization of others' news hooks to create your content. However, newsjacking typically involves reacting solely to current news, whereas situational marketing embraces all available news hooks, including foreseeable events such as annual occasions, campaigns, sports competitions, and holidays. Regardless, the golden rule for newsjacking and situational marketing remains relevancy and timeliness. To adhere to this, specialists responsible for brand promotion must constantly monitor the news and select the most exciting publications.

Goals and objectives of situational marketing

The main goal of situational marketing always depends on the company's overall development strategy. Moreover, it can address several objectives simultaneously, such as:

  • Attracting audience attention. Situational marketing enables a company to differentiate itself from competitors and elevate its brand recognition. For instance, take one of Coca-Cola's advertising campaigns centered around the New Year. Through situational marketing, no festive table is complete without a couple of Coca-Cola bottles. Moreover, this form of advertising captivates audiences by leveraging a widely beloved and eagerly anticipated annual event, fostering a festive spirit. Consequently, the brand becomes synonymous with celebration and enchantment.

  • Boosting engagement. Facilitating interaction with the audience augments customer engagement and fosters involvement in the brand's narrative. It also nurtures long-standing trust and profound emotional bonds. During the FIFA World Cup, Adidas initiated the "Trippster" advertising campaign. It involved a specialized chatbot through which users could partake in contests to win attractive prizes, forecast match outcomes, and access exclusive details. This strategy facilitated sustained customer attention during a large-scale sporting event.

  • Formation and maintenance of brand image. Situational marketing aids in fortifying a company's image and standing in the media landscape. A case in point is McDonald's utilizing an ever-fluctuating and regularly altered news hook - the weather conditions - for situational marketing. They rolled out a series of digital advertising billboards whose content changed based on the prevailing weather conditions. For instance, during rainy and cloudy weather, the billboards would display: "Rainy? Enjoy a warm cup of coffee at McDonald's." Alternatively, in hot weather, they showed: "Sunny outside? Cool down with a McFlurry." This campaign fostered an association of the brand with comfort and customer care.

  • Sales generation. Situational marketing can also help a company increase sales and the level of distribution. By utilizing current events or trends in its advertising, a company can create desirable offers for potential customers, stimulating sales. One notable example is the advertising campaign for Oreo cookies. The hook was not just a sporting event but a blackout at the stadium during the Super Bowl. In their next post on their official Twitter page, Oreo playfully reminded viewers that darkness couldn't prevent them from enjoying a couple of Oreo cookies. The previously mentioned company, Coca-Cola, adopted a similar strategy. On one occasion, British Airways experienced a technical failure that led to numerous flight delays. Coca-Cola, a former partner of British Airways, used this situation to its advantage and placed giant advertising banners near several airports with the message, "Flight delayed? Now is the perfect time to enjoy a Coca-Cola at the nearest café." However, such advertising strategies can sometimes backfire. For instance, the clothing brand American Apparel launched its advertising campaign immediately following the devastating Hurricane Sandy, which resulted in numerous fatalities. The store sent out discount coupons that they offered to use if "you're bored during a hurricane." As a result, the company faced public criticism and negative reviews.

Therefore, competent situational marketing involves:

  • an economical and budget-friendly way to promote a brand,

  • opportunity to increase reach and awareness,

  • a way to establish connections with the target audience, foster loyalty, and expand the geographical reach of sales.

Types of situational marketing

Types of situational marketing

There are two most common classifications of situational marketing. Depending on how and through what channels situational content is distributed, advertising can be:

  • Banner. In this case, marketers play up current events and post the created content in volumetric graphic images to attract attention in most public places. Modern banners or digital signs, called digital signage, allow you to update and change advertising messages in real-time. For example, a banner can directly display situational content and then demonstrate the latest changes in product prices. In addition, digital signage, screens or displays posted in shopping centers, bus stops, cafes and restaurants, airports, and other places can be equipped with elements of interactivity, such as clicking, swiping, hovering the cursor, and even going to the official website of the store. As a result, this increases efficiency by attracting and retaining user attention.

  • Posts on social networks. Usually, situational marketing, such as memes and similar humorous content, is produced specifically for social networks like Twitter or Instagram. Linking to a well-known news hook will allow your post to go viral, increasing subscribers' reach and engagement. SMM specialists can also use popular online trends and special hashtags to attract new audiences.

  • Contextual advertising. That's what they call a type of targeted online advertising. When displayed, keywords and the web page's content are considered. This involves placing advertisements using specialized automated systems that display content relevant to the site's subject, ensuring it's engaging and valuable to users.

  • Contextual advertising acts selectively and is therefore considered one of the most effective.

  • Newsletters. The probability that the user will notice and read the letter increases if it is related to a high-profile event or contains humorous content.

  • Offline. Situational offline marketing involves updating product designs to align with significant upcoming events or those already occurring. For example, Coca-Cola, considered a giant of situational marketing, released a series of drinks with the image of "Star Wars" heroes for the release of one of the films in the film franchise. Many companies make similar series or product design updates on the eve of holidays such as Valentine's Day, Christmas, or March 8th.

In addition, situational marketing also differs based on its informational premise:

  • holidays and memorable dates;

  • global and domestic news;

  • sporting events;

  • charity events and community events;

  • film premieres, literary novelties, and the like;

  • cultural trends (for example, fashion trends or flash mobs on social networks);

  • loud statements by famous personalities or scandals among stars;

  • events within the company (for example, company birthday, opening one branch, launch of a new product line).

Where and how to look for informational hooks

Where and how to look for informational hooks

Thus, any event significant to the audience can serve as an informational occasion or news hook. To always stay "on topic" and not miss an exciting occasion, you need to monitor several sources of information constantly:

  • News media feeds. It is vital to keep your finger on the pulse of current events by monitoring the news market feeds of several news agencies at once or selecting the most significant news items for the company and adapting them to your product. The main thing is to use reputable and verified sources.

  • Social networks and forums. Many social networks have separate sections with news that should be monitored regularly. Thematic forums can become a treasure trove searching for relevant and pressing issues. In addition, on the Internet, you can find the most exciting and popular trends that will help promote the brand's offerings. However, it is essential to remember that memes and trends are only relevant for a certain period, so situational marketing must be prompt and timely.

  • Platforms for finding relevant content. Special platforms provide popularity statistics and hashtags, namely the number of their views and frequency of use. Most often, services such as Feedly, Pocket, and Reddit are used so that marketers and SMM specialists can ensure whether a particular news hook will be relevant.

  • Monitoring and analytics tools. Many programs and online services, such as Popsters or SMMBox, offer tools for monitoring social media and news sites. Setting up tools to track specific keywords or phrases lets you keep abreast of news and events related to the company's industry.

  • Collaboration with influencers and experts. The knowledge and opinions of experts in the company's industry can become a proven source of information about current and upcoming events and trends. Such cooperation with influencers will allow you to keep abreast of the latest news and upcoming events to leverage them in situational marketing.

How to use situational marketing correctly

Here are several basic rules which, when adhered to, allow situational marketing to yield the expected results, enhance brand recognition, and attract new clients:

Rule #1: Stay tuned to current events

Stay updated with the latest news and trends on social networks and other relevant information sources. This will allow you to quickly detect such an information cue that can be used to promote the brand, its products, or services. Remember the news selection criteria:

  • The news should be of interest to the target audience, clients, and consumers of the brand's products;

  • The news should influence the company, the industry, or competitors' activities. For example, an event may directly concern the brand's audience;

  • The news should create a buzz and hold significance; additionally, the situational content should captivate the audience.

Rule #2: Create content quickly

Situational marketing involves creating content as quickly as possible while the audience's interest in the news item is at its peak. Therefore, you need to be ready to respond quickly to current events and create relevant content that will be interesting and attract users' attention as quickly as possible. In addition, trends can change at lightning speed, so situational marketing requires more flexibility, that is, the ability to quickly adapt depending on the changing situation in the media environment.

Rule #3. Interpret current events in line with the company's activities

Situational marketing is not just a repost of news from a news agency or its retelling. A news story, event, or activity must reflect the brand's perspective and align with its core principles and values.

Rule #4: Be careful

Situational marketing is much more complex than it seems at first glance. For example, utilizing unfavorable news hooks, such as natural disasters, large-scale accidents, and other serious incidents, can ruin the company's reputation and cause even regular customers to leave. Thus, the risk of an adverse reaction from the audience will always be high, especially if the brand exploits natural disasters and catastrophes or modern trends such as body positivity, feminism, and other highly topical issues.

Rule #5. Actively distribute the created content and monitor the audience's reaction.

Once a relevant news story has been selected and interpreted from a brand point of view, it is time to publish it. Content should be posted on all platforms, the company's social networks, the official website, and streaming services. The more distribution channels involved, the better. After a certain period, it is necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of situational marketing, for example, by the number of views, likes, reposts, comments, and new subscribers. If situational marketing is used successfully, the coverage will significantly increase. However, if an unsuccessful news hook was chosen, the company would not avoid negative reviews, negative feedback, online backlash, or a loss of customers.

Situational Marketing Mistakes

Situational Marketing Mistakes

Violating even one of the above rules can lead to failure and negative consequences in situational marketing. The main mistakes when using this method include:

  • lack of connection between the brand and the event;

  • unclear brand stance on the news;

  • inconsistency with the brand values; that is, situational content that does not support the company's mission can foster distrust and alienate the audience;

  • inaccuracy or failure to take into account the context of the event;

  • overly obvious hype on popular, controversial topics;

  • addressing topics related to religion and beliefs, nationality, physical appearance, body type, etc.

Thus, it is essential that the created content does not provoke disputes, cause negative reactions from the audience, or bring inconvenience to the company's clients. Remember that it is always necessary to consider the context of a particular situation and the preferences and sensitivities of your potential audience when consuming content.

There are several examples of situational marketing

One of the largest companies, successfully leveraging various news events from societal life, is the furniture and household goods retailer IKEA. Once, its marketers used the release of the new season of the popular TV series "Black Mirror" as an information source for situational marketing. Thus, a new description appeared for an ordinary mirror with a black frame: "Black mirror from IKEA. Only shows a happy future." The advertising campaign resulted in a significant increase in sales.

Another successful example is the American coffee chain Starbucks. Ahead of the premiere of the final season of Game of Thrones, the company created a new refreshing drink and named it Dragon Drink in honor of one of the main characters. Thus, numerous fans of the series paid particular attention to Starbucks coffee shops, boosting their popularity and attracting new customers!

Pepsi also often presents successful and creative advertising campaigns, but in 2017, it encountered some setbacks. "In the storyline of the new commercial, model Kendall Jenner leaves the shoot amid mass protests of the Black Lives Matter movement to join the protesters. At the end of the video, she offers a can of Pepsi to the police, seemingly bringing the protest to a peaceful end. The ad faced immediate backlash for exploiting the BLM movement to promote the drink. As a result, Pepsi had to apologize, and the ad was removed.

In addition, the popular body care brand Dove also faced negative repercussions. It faced criticism for its shower gel advertisement. In the advertisement, a dark-skinned woman uses Dove gel while showering, which lightens her skin significantly. Such advertising caused outrage and accusations of racism, for which the company had to apologize to the public.

Thus, situational marketing can be both an effective way of promotion and a dangerous tool due to the risk of causing an adverse reaction from consumers, offending the audience, and, as a result, damaging the reputation. But in any case, it is an essential element of a successful strategy because it allows you to quickly adapt to a changing environment, media narrative, and market requirements. In addition, situational marketing helps a company interact effectively with the audience, establish a positive image, and increase competitiveness.