People are social creatures, and feel most comfortable going where everyone else already is – something referred to as the ‘bandwagon effect’. In marketing, the bandwagon effect often turns into something darker – the crass exploitation of an event or trend for marketing gains.
The most egregious example I’ve seen was Michael Jackson’s father at the BET awards. Three days after his son’s death, he used a sympathetic interview to pitch his new records label. And it backfired. He lost viewer sympathy almost instantly, and managed to promote only his own callousness.
Usually, however, it’s much more innocuous. Cloud computing is hot, so suddenly every technology is enabling cloud computing. Green technology? Companies stretch to figure out ways that their technologies could be perceived as eco-friendly.
Every time there’s a major news items, you can almost hear marketing executives around the globe saying “How can we take advantage of this thing?” And then they run campaigns with convoluted logic tying their products to the new trend.
Staying current and relevant is absolutely the job of marketing. But exploiting current events in ways that bring no real value? That’s marketing gone bad. Sure, you may get clicks to your website, but they’ll bounce unless you immediately and clearly offer a value relevant to the hot topic. And you have to believe that buyers can detect desperation. Don’t be Joe Jackson. Stay relevant but authentic.