Take two hip-hop heavyweights, a public twitter feud and some of the world’s best-known brands and what do you get? Social media gold.
Social media has provided brands with the opportunity to connect with their audience in an engaging and meaningful way, but it’s taken quite some time—and years of trial and error—to figure out how to leverage it most effectively.
However, it seems that marketers have finally cracked it: they’ve discovered a surefire way to engage customers and increase brand sentiment by employing a winning combination of quick-wit and popular culture references.
But first, some background. You may be aware of the now infamous war of words between hip-hop artists Drake and Meek Mill, which first began in late July when Mill instigated the feud by accusing Drake of not writing his own lyrics.
Soon after, Drake released a series of songs admonishing his former pal, adding fuel to the fire and kicking off a two-week public spat.
The quarrel has since been dubbed a marketing success for both Drake and Mill; the pair have accrued 838,000 and 617,000 followers respectively, and have received combined Twitter mentions in excess of four million. But other—and perhaps more unexpected—parties are also looking to take a piece of the pie: some of the world’s largest brands.
White Castle, Whataburger and Rosetta Stone are just some of the big names that have waded into the Twitter controversy with tongue-in-cheek commentary on the social media spectacle.
Even Planned Parenthood got in on the action, piggybacking on the vendetta to push its ongoing pro-choice campaign by tweeting:
“Unlike Meek Mill, Black women know how to clap-back when their bodies & choices are under attack."
So is capitalizing on cultural events a good strategy for brands when it comes to engaging with potential customers? Well, yes and no. “There isn’t a whole lot of evidence that shows it equates to more sales,” says Robert Passikoff, founder and president of brand research consultancy, Brand Keys.
Another observer, Frank Arthofer of the The Boston Consulting Group, disagrees. He argues that if brands don’t captivate users in non-traditional ways, they risk falling behind the pack.
"Branded content creates a competitive advantage," he says, adding that the efforts of companies with the ability to be witty and reactive when the opportunity arises are likely to pay off, as it enables them to engage millennials and build consumers’ trust.
So what can marketers learn from this?
There’s no denying that the content has been well-received—White Castle alone has received over 40,000 retweets for its contribution to the debacle. What’s more, leveraging current events as a basis to create compelling content is financially low-risk, meaning that if the strategy doesn’t deliver results, it’s of no real consequence.
All you have to do is keep your ear to the ground so you too can profit from the next big celebrity squabble.