Missed Opportunities: Poland Spring & The State of the Union


True to the millennial that I am, my favorite hobby in recent years has been live-tweeting big live telecast events. That said, I would like to touch on how brands are or should be tuning into these events, no matter how seemingly irrelevant, to identify new marketing opportunities using the “second screen.” On Tuesday night, in true Twitter monkey fashion, I joined the Twitter hordes, providing some of the most entertaining and insightful commentary—perhaps even more insightful than CNN—during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech. By far the most entertaining part of live-tweeting televised events is watching my most intimate thoughts and observations stream through Twitter before I even mention them. From Veep Joe Biden’s intelligent squint with his sleek reading glasses to John Boehner’s impressive tan, Twitter users are leaving no stone unturned as they document these live moments, unlocking new opportunities for brands to seize real life use cases as moments to advertise their products e.g. Oreos at the Super Bowl.

The rise of the so-called “second screen” has magnified observations that may have otherwise been overlooked under traditional circumstances—or if they were noted, they would hardly leave your living room. Now, thanks to the hashtag (#SOTU, #SuperBowl, #Grammys) viewers are now able to share their observations with thousands if not millions. This has opened up countless opportunities for brands to insert themselves into real-time conversations that would otherwise only appear in a tabloid the next day. Think about it. In a 60-minute speech, any brand can now find an opportunity to capitalize on the smallest moment; a Freudian slip, a stumble, an awkward glance, a snub or even a quote can present a huge opportunity for a brand. Case in point, during Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech, while many had already checked-out, there is no denying that the highlight of the night wasn’t actually POTUS’s speech, but Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s thirsty grab for a tiny bottle of Poland Spring water. My first reaction was to search ‘Poland Spring’ on Twitter where countless mentions were already picking momentum. Jokingly mentioning how a sip of water could potentially cause a stock bump for Nestlé, I was reviewing Poland Spring’s social channels in no time. This highlights an interesting trend about millennials. According to Forrester Research, Inc., 18% of millennials look up products related to the show or commercial they are watching.

Given this information, I must say I was disappointed that Poland Spring was nowhere to be found during this golden moment. Actually, they only posted something on Facebook the following day as I was drafting this post, evoking mixed reviews from the social media community for their untimely reaction. I wasn’t expecting their social media team to have been prepared to throw some promoted tweets, but in this day and age, brands can still take social leadership in moments like this. At the least, it can be as simple as creating a hashtag for the moment or creating a Twitter handle for whatever inanimate object involved e.g. @SuperDomeLights or @RubioH2OBottle, allowing brands to own and become the center of the conversation. At most, brands can take inventory of relevant televised events through out the year, run scenarios to identify potential marketing opportunities, and set up a live war room for quick turnaround as social media agencies are being increasingly employed to do. However brands go about this, I hope this serves as a lesson for them to understand the countless opportunities that are coming from unlocking the power of the second screen. Alas Poland Spring, let this be your foray into the social media space.



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  2. 02/15 2013

    Missed opportunity indeed.
    However, I can’t really join the PS bashing party just yet. What bothers me the most is when folks compare Oreo Superbowl stunt to this incident thinking – well those guys tweeted why couldn’t Poland Spring? Although I agree in principal and wholeheartedly believe in extending the experience to all available screens – you can only say this if you know nothing about the current mechanics of large brands social media presence (especially ones owned by multinationals like Nestle).

    What is so fundamentally different between these two occurrences? Oreo had north of $4MM worth of skin in the game (no pun intended) with the Superbowl spot they were already running, social integration was already present and their brand team was closely following the game ready to jump in. Their social agency 360i had them in a “war room” (a terrible name for it) and ready to pull the trigger (another terrible military expression). So when lights went out they had a quick brainstorm session, graphic designer who created the famed image of Oreo in the dark and they got approvals from brand team, legal and regulatory right there on the spot. The star was born! There was a lot of planning and strategy involved in that one seemingly whimsical act on twitter as anyone who ever experienced involvement in big brand social media knows.

    Now, what happened with Poland? A completely unexpected, impromptu product placement occurred late at night during a very political, emotionally charged event followed by tens of millions of people. Yes, you can come up with a witty post that navigates these dangerous waters and come out as audience winner, but most companies wont even come close to touching something like that. Especially ones owned by multinationals. They would rather sit back and do nothing then risk losing their jobs because someone in the 15 layers of management above them thought that was not humorous or appropriate.
    Frankly, I think their next day “cameo” post on Facebook was more than what I would have expected and it was a hit with 720 shares compared to 3-5 shares they received on average. What preceded this post was a quick reaction from the social media team (or person) that went up the chain all the way to Nestle, got all the approvals and a sign off from legal and it only took half a day which is impressive by multinational brand standards.

    My point is – these companies are built on rules and hierarchy and social media benefits are still hard to understand for many brands. I am in no way a proponent of the current status, but being involved with social media strategy for multinational owned brands – I felt I needed to explain the processes and forces that work in the background that most are not aware of.

    Some companies get it and integrate social media into their traditional marketing and general strategy and (many more) opt for a bolt-on solution, check off FB page and Twitter off the list and spend their time making sure those social media people don’t disrupt their comfort zones with dangerous ideas.

  3. Tari Chivore
    03/27 2013

    Hi Ivan. You are absolutely right. As a community/channel manager who works with big multinational brands, the biggest frustration is convincing clients to implement a quick turnaround on what we like to call ‘easy wins.’ A lot of marketers out there have great ideas. But great ideas prove to be worthless when implemented at the wrong time. In this day and age, timing is everything. Fortunately, my personal hobby in recent years has been live-tweeting major live events ranging from pop culture events like the Oscars to political events like Presidential debates. As a millennial, I find these events to be very insightful in terms of gauging popular opinions that inform how brands engage with their audiences. Applying this approach to multinational hierarchies like Nestle, the reality is that a company of that size ranks how it allocates advertising dollars to its sub-brands. I know for a fact that there are brands within Nestle that are spending more money on social such as Nescafe and Purina. And it’s just a matter of priority for them. However, the fact that Poland Spring’s Twitter account, to this day, hasn’t push out a single tweet since January 2011 is slightly disconcerting. It’s one thing to post on Facebook, but it’s another to tweet, which usually requires less creative resources if we are talking about a simple text-only tweet. The existence of social channels for Poland Spring confirms that there is a dedicated marketing department even though they may not focus on social media. But now, it becomes the marketing department’s responsibility to keep a pulse on social media, mapping out big events like this on a calendar and identifying potential opportunities for responding or even being pro-active. This level of planning does not need to be stand-alone but can be incorporated into integrated marketing campaigns. As someone who came from the client side at a major international publisher, there are ways to frame such social media responses in a way that can expedite organizational approvals for example, setting up a frame work for brand-moderated discussions (live-tweets) in which the brand is not opining but rather amplifying any positive user-generated commentary. For Poland Spring, it can manifest, for example, in the form of a ‘live water cooler’ (quite on-brand in my opinion!) discussion during big televised events with comments aggregated under a hashtag. Rather than working within a complex hierarchy to develop a detailed social media activation, brand-moderated discussions can be minimal in terms of input, they leverage the creativity of the community and do not require any tech building since they can work with one community manager either natively or using a dashboard like Tweetdeck. There, however, will always be road blocks and red tape within big multinational companies but the fact that Poland Spring runs countless TV ads with not so much as a tweet in over 2 years is essentially what gave me pause.


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