Kudos to Dunkin’ for pulling off their own ‘Oreo’ moment of real time marketing during the recent Deflategate media circus. While the NFL season is just now kicking off, football fans, especially those of us in New England have been talking football for months. When Judge Berman overturned the NFL commissioner’s suspension of Superbowl MVP Tom Brady on September 3rd, it became front-page news well beyond New England, and armchair pundits everywhere took to social media with abandon to express their opinions.
Half an hour after the decision came down, one Dunkin’ Donuts in Maine changed its sign to read ‘JUDGE RICHARD BERMAN GETS FREE COFFEE FOR LIFE”, and a picture of that sign went completely viral. As of exactly a week later, a Google News search for “Berman”+”free coffee” returns 6,948 articles, including major outlets like The New York Times, US News and World Report, ESPN, and SI. That whopping number is still just the tip of the iceberg compared to all of the subsequent social sharing, personal Facebook posts, tweets, emails and texts between friends sharing the well branded picture.
Oreo is very clever, but by now overly ballyhooed ‘dunk in the dark’ tweet during the Superbowl blackout three years ago brought the potential of real time marketing to the fore for many large brands.
Any brand can try to force their messaging into a topic it doesn’t fit in and call it real time marketing, and many do (with mixed results), but there’s a reason why Dunkin’s went viral. It was authentic, and rooted in a story the brand has been telling about itself for a long while. In New England, it feels like Dunkin’s outnumber ATMs, around every corner, in every town. While they’re the largest coffee retailer in the world, they’re from New England and very much promote that hometown connection locally. The brand has long sponsored everything Patriots and most things Boston sports, with several key players as spokespeople. Importantly, this was an authentic, exuberant action at a single store level. It wasn’t clickbait or forced.
As that photo started gaining momentum, the brand had the discretion to not ‘co-opt’ their own moment, by plastering it into ads, or forcing it through their own channels. This allowed it to grow faster with that authentic, impromptu momentum, while not alienating a larger national audience of fans of teams regularly defeated by the Patriots.
Locally, they complemented it on their own channels with very heavy Patriots branding, including prompting fans to set Gronk’s voice as their Waze navigator (unconfirmed if he turns or just steers through everything) building to a larger reveal on Facebook that their New England perks members will get free coffee this season the day after a Patriots win.
Real time marketing is not about interjecting yourself into anywhere an audience has gathered, it’s about earning attention by the merit of what you have to say and the credibility you have to say it. It can be clever, funny, insightful, or inspiring, but you’ve got to pick your tone and your moment, and make sure it’s one your brand can uniquely and authentically contribute to.