Brand Newsjacking

Brand Newsjacking, Seasonality and Trends: How to Make Your Brand Stand Out

As a brand, it can be tempting to use seasonality, brand newsjacking and big news stories to form the basis of your branding and marketing strategy by making the most of popular topics which you know will resonate with your customers.

When this is done well, campaigns can achieve great traction and become positively associated with trending news. But beware, if this is executed badly it can lead to social media backlash, or even just a big waste of budget because your brand becomes submerged under all the noise of your competition. It’s also important not to lose sight of your longer-term brand-building strategy.

Related: Top 10 Branding Trends in 2019 Part 1

In this article, we’re uncovering how to use seasonality to your advantage in your business, together with newsjacking, examples of brands doing this well and a guide on how to utilise these types of opportunities for growing your brand.

Related: 7 Universal Branding Lessons From Christmas Adverts

Seasonality Brand Trends

In any business, there are peaks and troughs throughout the year which align to the products or services you sell, as well as to external factors such as time of year e.g around key seasons like Christmas and gifting, back-to-school or even summer holidays.

These particular times of year can provide opportunities for brands to benefit and increase sales if they are in line with the products or services which customers are focused on. During peak trading periods, like Christmas, retailers potentially have a much stronger ability to influence purchasing decisions, more than any other time of the year, because 50% of shoppers are undecided in their purchasing decisions and so open to being influenced while in the buying mindset. However, brand owners and retailers have to have the right strategy and incentives in place to harness the opportunity.

Brand Newsjacking

To make the most of a seasonal period you need to make your brand more experiential on and offline, B2B or B2C, and ensure this sits at the heart of your brand brand strategy to attract your ideal customers’ attention. In the retail world your brand should be a place of experience not merely shopping habits or it simply won’t survive.

Online create content e.g. videos, blogs, games, quizzes, downloads, selection or trialling aids etc. which are both useful and related to your product or service. For example, Hobby Lobby have produced a series of videos with guidance on How To Wrap Gifts Attractively which gains them attention during the holiday period and could attract new customers to the brand.

Similarly, John Lewis has become known for its iconic and often highly emotive TV adverts produced every year to deeply link to the Christmas period. In fact, they’ve become so highly anticipated in the UK that people now associate the time of year that the John Lewis Christmas advert is first aired to indicate that Christmas is approaching.

While the ability to create such well-known and highly recognised symbols of the festive period is typically the reserve of the biggest brands with sizable TV budgets, and a well established reputation from running campaigns for multiple years, smaller brands can take advantage of these seasonal trends too. For example, Lidl (although not a small brand) was able to very cost effectively and successfully newsjack the John Lewis advert in 2018 by creating their own spin off version.

Brand Newsjacking

This humorous acknowledgement of the John Lewis advert gained Lidl a huge level of engagement and attention online, for a lot less money than John Lewis (roughly £7 million) will have invested in their entire campaign — proving its extremely doable by even the most modest budgets.

The reactive Lidl team of brand managers and marketers were empowered to produce this campaign as a quick response just hours after the initial TV advertisement ran, proving themselves as a brand to be truly ‘in tune’ and up to speed with their customers.

Related: Use Humour in Branding to Create Strong Emotional Bonds so You Increase Sales

Another case on point is this short Christmas film reportedly produced on a shoestring budget of £50 showing a man preparing for the festive season which has been re-released this year (since 2014). In the countdown to Christmas, we discover that he’s been gifted cassette tapes with a Sony Walkman by his late mother who recorded them for him to listen to each year on Christmas following her death. “Merry Christmas poppet, another year has passed. I wanted to start this one by saying something I haven’t said yet, which is thank you. Thank you for taking the time to remember me.”

It’s highly poignant and touches us all with the the simple theme, ‘Love is a gift that lasts forever, Merry Christmas’. It’s resonated so strongly with John Lewis fans that many are calling for the filmmaker, Phil Beastall to direct John Lewis’ next Christmas campaign. Most importantly, it proves you don’t need a mega budget to produce something meaningful that resonates with your primary customers.

We know that sometimes it’s a struggle to build a brand strategy that really engages your ideal customers effectively so we’ve developed three different ways of working with us to help you build your brand, depending on your preferences, so if you’d like us to:

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday Brand Trends

It is difficult for any brand to avoid Black Friday, Cyber Monday or the weeks surrounding these key days now because they’ve become such a peak trading window. Whether you’re selling direct to consumers or to other businesses, it’s now expected that you’ll be running your best deals and promotions during this period.

Related: Top 10 Branding Trends in 2019 Part 2

Brand Newsjacking

Image via, 2017

In the UK, over £3.1 billion was generated through online transactions in the 2017 Black Friday weekend, which is set to be even higher for 2018.[1] The majority of European countries and the US have embraced Black Friday as a key trading day so as a result brands need to evaluate this time period and build it into their brand strategy with their own approach in order to maximise sales too.

One of the biggest Black Friday challenges, as a brand, is how to stand out because all your competitors will also be running special offers so in order to avoid becoming a victim in the ‘race to the bottom’ how do you engage customers in a more interesting, highly visible way?

Related: Rebranding? 15 Do’s and Don’ts for Brand Success

Successful brands often run exclusive offers to their existing customers, including special access to their sale before its official launch to the general public, because this helps build loyalty from your current customer base.

With an intense weekend full of competing offers, it’s key to stay true to your brand messaging and guidelines, and avoid simple discounts or imagery which is ‘off brand’. It’s a frequent mistake to use unrelated ‘off-brand’ imagery around this time e.g. using the colour black as a link to Black Friday when its not true to your brand guides.

A successful Black Friday campaign doesn’t sacrifice or compromise the quality of your product or service — which is what customers are ultimately looking for. Remember to step into your customers’ shoes because one of the major drivers in their buying decisions is the perceived added value and service your offer — not just the price paid.

Related: Increase Sales Using Buyer Personas, Your Guide to Understanding and Targeting Your Ideal Customers

Single’s Day Brand Trends

One of the newer peak holiday trading periods impacting brand owners and retailers is Single’s Day. Celebrated throughout China since the 1990’s, this holiday occurs on 11th November (11.11) and is seen as an anti-valentines day for single people. It’s the largest trading day online and in 2018 beat Black Friday and Cyber Monday’s previous sales records combined.

It is becoming increasingly popular to celebrate Single’s Day outside China now, as Western brands begin to follow the lead of Alibaba so they can take advantage of this peak trading opportunity too. If your brand operates within the traditional single’s markets, product or service, then it’s a natural progression to provide offers and participate in this peak trading Single’s Day event when customers are primed for buying.

Related: Boring Brand? How To Create a Unique Brand and Market Positioning

There was a 39% uplift in transactions in the UK markets too [2] on the 11th November in 2017 which looks likely to increase year-on-year. Despite, the clash of dates with Remembrance Day and the proximity to Black Friday, Single’s Day is a shopping event which is growing far faster than anyone predicted.

Are you a business leader, manager or entrepreneur who wants to re-evaluate or build your brand strategy so you can effectively leverage trends, seasonal occasions or events to increase your sales? Are you curious about how to build or scale a highly successful standout brand? Join one of our branding workshops because they empower you to build your brand, enhance customer experience, expand your market impact and create higher perceived value so you can command a premium.

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Newsjacking Brand Trends

Newsjacking is a term which refers to brands picking up on a current news event and using it to promote awareness of their own brand. A common brand strategy amongst businesses, in particular on social media, a brand identifies an angle relevant to their story, positioning and messaging that ties in with current affairs and then use the awareness of the news story to push their brand to the front of people’s minds too.

Related: What Game Of Thrones Can Teach Us About Brand Story

Known as a risky tactic, newsjacking can backfire on your business if you pick the wrong story but it can also be extremely successful if aligns well. Oreo became famous for newsjacking with one of the first popular examples of it during the 2013 Superbowl where it used the timely blackout to tweet about ‘dunking in the dark’.[3]

Brand Newsjacking

Image via Oreo on Twitter

This quick response and tongue-in-cheek humour was something that the Oreo brand quickly became known for and a tactic they still use today, such as in their recent Android campaign:

Learning from Oreo, many brands have adopted a similar approach with their marketing because it’s a quick effective way to gain attention and demonstrate their brand personality. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a tactic just available big brands, it’s also a way for smaller businesses to gain national exposure at low cost.

Related: 5 Remarkably Heartfelt Brand Personalities Winning Buyers at Christmas

For example Rainbow Music, a small local music store in Dundee, was able to use MEP Godfrey Bloom’s famous comment on ‘bongo bongo land’ to gain coverage across media outlets when they sent a pair of bongos to the politician. This campaign caught mass attention and achieved national recognition as part of a big news story because of the humour underpinning it combined with the quick response from such a small store.[4]

Brand Newsjacking

Rainbow Music, Image via © Evening Telegraph

Moving away from consumer brands, Citrix runs frequent campaigns around snowstorms to encourage people to stay safe and work from home using their virtual meeting software. The campaign initiated from Citrix newsjacking during a huge snowstorm in San Francisco which closed the major roads.[5]

Brand Newsjacking

Image via Citrix

Another way to newsjack is to take advantage of another brand’s misfortune, where appropriate, and show the positive side to your brand instead. When Ashley Madison experienced it’s data hack in 2015, a smaller florist brand was able to make the most of the scandal by launching a unique ‘ASHLEYMADISON’ discount code for people who had some apologising to do. This was a delicate subject for a brand like Arena Flowers to involve themselves with, but overall the campaign was a success for them in generating sales and attention to their brand.[6]

Brand Newsjacking

Meanwhile, Eloqua (a SaaS platform) successfully stole the conversation from the larger brand Oracle when they were able to take ownership of the story of Oracle acquiring Market2Lead (a competitor).

By identifying the other brand’s weakness in announcing the story and acting quickly to take control of the conversation, Eloqua was successful in becoming part of a story much bigger than itself – much like Arena Flowers, Oreo and all the other brands mentioned here.

If you’d like to discover more about building and maintaining a thriving, high performing, highly profitable standout brand, then get in touch because we’d love to help you make your brand into a profit powerhouse.

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Lorraine Carter is a professional speaker delivering talks that inspire and motivate along with masterclasses and workshops that inform and support transformational outcomes fast, and consultancy solutions that solve problems so you can outshine, outperform and leave your competitors way behind.

Final Word

Identifying Your Opportunity to Leverage Newsjacking, Events and Trends

There is, without a doubt, a place in most brand’s marketing strategy for seasonal trends, events and even reactive newsjacking to be part of core tactics. If you can find a way to help your brand to stand out from the crowd and benefit from the timely attention around the trend, then you’ll be getting a far greater return from your brand investment.

However, like all strategies, there are pros and cons so here are three golden rules for finding the right opportunities for your brand to follow:

  1. Only choose stories or seasonal events with positive connotations to engage in and avoid risk of appearing insensitive
  2. Be picky to ensure there’s truly a relationship between your brand and the event – repeating this tactic too often and you’ll have less impact
  3. Be proactive and fast to implement for maximum coverage — this means you need to have your team primed and prepared so they’re equipped to identify and leverage the right opportunities fast when they arise during seasonal times and key events

Related: Profitable Lessons from Luxury Brand Leaders, Brand Positioning for Premium Pricing

Questions to Consider

  1. How clear are you about your brand strategy so you can act fast to leverage the potential opportunities posed with newsjacking?
  2. Are you building experiential and trialling elements into your brand strategy seamlessly between the on and offline world so your ideal customers have an opportunity to get to know, like and trust your brand?
  3. How is technology disrupting your sector and how agile are you in adapting and using it to your advantage?
  4. Is your brand management team fully brand inducted, trained and empowered to make key decisions using their own initiative with newsjacking brand strategies?
  5. Does your brand, product or service, have a natural fit with key seasonal purchasing trends?
  6. Have you built your brand strategy so you’re able to maximise marketing campaigns around these peak periods — ensuring your brand stands out amongst all the competing noise?
  7. Does your brand need a brand audit health check so you have the clarity to make more informed decisions — identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for innovation and growth — particularly in relation to campaign building throughout the year and peak trading periods?
  8. If your brand is falling short and sales are underperforming in spite of the market’s buoyancy, does it need some brand revitalisation, a fresh or total rebrand?

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