Oh, For Tweet's Sake

Good Deeds Lead to Good Brand Engagement

In September 12, 2014

Not-so-random acts of kindness and good will are becoming one of the most common go-to devices for today’s publicity stunts designed to boost brand engagement. To generate buzz with Twitter, Facebook and even more traditional media like the local and national news, marketers are creating heartwarming events and joyful customer interactions that can be captured on video and tossed into the winds of the web to be blown far and wide like seeds of a dandelion puff. When done right, they go like gangbusters, with two recent examples being WestJet’s personalized holiday gifts delivered at baggage claim and the ATM stunt (Automated Thanking Machines) of TD Canada. While the ability for these tactics to generate awareness is inarguable, the question most savvy marketers would ask is whether or not the brand engagement generated is actually a true reflection of how these company’s operate day in and day out. In other words, do these brands go above and beyond what most of their competitors do to make customers happy throughout the year? If so, then these incredible acts are a genuine reflection of the brand and don’t risk the ridicule or backlash that can come from a more disingenuous brand engagement ploy created for the sole purpose of generating buzz. And that’s the key—keeping it real when it comes to brand engagement.

The litmus test for whether or not your brand engagement initiative is genuine is to ask, “Would this be something we’d be willing to do if people’s reactions weren’t being videotaped?” Just the other day, I came across one of the most wonderful examples of a “brand’s” genuine good will while peddling my bicycle from Akron to Cleveland. I put the word brand in quotation marks because the entity I’m referring to was, I think, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. (It was tough to be sure because this initiative wasn’t branded particularly well. However, that made it all the more charming.) While travelling along the Bike & Hike Trail near Brandywine Falls, I stopped to check out what looked like an amped up version of a homemade lemonade stand. However, what made this one special was that it was self-serve—100% honor system. And it wasn’t lemonade being offered to hikers and bikers, but water, juices, popsicles and ice cream treats, and little bags of snacks like chips, trail mix, and cookies. There was even a bowl perched down low on one side full of fresh water for dogs. Oh, and even free air, just in case you needed to get pumped up.

Oasis Cart

Free Popsicles

Free Bike Pump

What made this brand engagement so heartwarming was the fact that there were no cameras. I wasn’t asked to share a selfie of myself next to the stand. No one was pestering me to “like” anything. It was just a really nice thing to do for visitors passing through the park. Period. Now that’s a genuine brand engagement! And look, now I’m sharing it without even being asked to! Go figure.

This was inspiring and a great reminder that as marketers looking for ways to generate buzz about our brands, we need to worry first and foremost about how we treat customers when no one is watching, when no cameras are running. It’s those quiet, day-to-day brand engagements that mean the most.

Rick Riley

Mom always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to blog, don’t blog anything at all.” Okay, that’s not true. In fact, mom never read a single blog, nice or otherwise. But it’s still good advice. So look to me for nice … or at least interesting, relevant or funny. Well, maybe smartass or irreverent or sarcastic, too. But that’s it. If it doesn’t fall into one of those categories, you didn’t hear it from me.