I love The Onion. Last week, they published a spot-on piece lampooning marketers and their attempts to create branded content – “Hey, Everybody! This Cool New Tide Detergent Video is Blowing Up All Over The Internet!”
A fictional “Director of Digital Video and Social Media Ad Integration” for Tide describes the detergent brand’s fake effort with all of the tell-tale signs of “viral” cliche:
For those of you who haven’t seen it yet—and trust me, your friends are going to email this Tide detergent clip to you, like, a thousand times in the next few days—it’s got these cute, funny talking animals, a cool indie-rock song, and it’s just so hilariously random. And it’s got this amazing cameo by Bret Michaels, which is so funny because Bret Michaels is hilarious and from the ’80s.
You’d expect that’s where things end: Game, set, match – Onion. Three days later, however, Tide responded, actually creating the video The Onion had described:
While this may seem like a playful back and forth, it speaks to something greater: a bold social team working with Tide that’s willing to interact with popular publishers — even at the potential risk of taking their brand outside the formal guidelines for the image they’re tasked with creating.
Tide’s response also shows the brand is paying attention to the broader conversation in their space – which in this case just happened to be about the brand itself. Having a finger on the pulse enabled the rapid turn-around of their response, an essential element of staying interesting to an audience with a voracious media appetite (and short attention spans).
We’ve said for some time that brands should not just produce content exclusively about themselves or their product messages. With a sense of humor, Tide helped their readers discover something they would enjoy (hopefully both The Onion’s and Tide’s pieces) and built their brand in the process.