Topical humor has a way of gaining popularity on Social Media platforms because of its simple and relevant nature. Nothing is more topical at this moment than Uruguay’s hungry forward, Luis Suarez. For at least the fourth time in his playing career, Suarez has bitten an opponent during a game. His strange actions against Italy’s Giorgio Chielleni have caused a lot of media attention, for obvious reasons. What’s more interesting than his mid-game snack is the latest craze for big brands around the globe.
McDonald’s Uruguay posted “Hola @luis16suarez, si te quedaste con hambre vení a darle un mordisco a una BigMac ;)” onto their Twitter. Translated into English, “Hello Suarez, if you are hungry take a bite out of a BigMac”. The Uruguay based Twitter post was retweeted over 74,000 times by fans. Many other companies joined the Suarez marketing parade relating their products to Suarez and his actions. Trident Gum posted “Chew Trident. Not soccer players” onto their Twitter page.
Snickers posted an advertisement on their social media pages with a half-bitten Snickers bar with the text, “More Satisfying than Italian.” They also added the hashtag #LuisSuarez to increase their exposure. Their Twitter ad received over 45,000 retweets.
Why would companies want to use topical humor?
Memes have become a cultural phenomenon around the world and many popular memes will be integrated with the latest news stories. We love to see new and creative pictures, GIFs, and videos putting a comical twist on news events.
Clever posts relating to current events increase brand exposure for companies, big and small. McDonald’s and Snickers both received exposure thanks to an event that had no real relevance to either company. This is not the first time that brands have benefitted from topical humor.
Kit Kat created print ads relating to the Felix Baumgartner space jump postponement. Their ad showed an astronaut sitting on a couch with the text, “It could be a long wait Felix… Have a break, have a Kit Kat.” Felix’s jump cancelation received a lot of media attention because of the nature of the event. For anyone who hasn’t seen the Felix Baumgartner jump, he was lifted miles into the air in an astronaut suit, then after reaching its max height, he jumped, reaching the fastest free fall distance and speed before opening his parachute and landing safely on the Earth’s surface. The day before the rescheduled jump, Kit Kat sent a candy into the atmosphere attached to a balloon with a GoPro camera. Candy bars may be tasty, but they have no relevance to the jump. Brands are using the media frenzy surrounding these events to gain exposure.
Is this form of advertisement ethical?
There is no right or wrong answer for every situation. Marketers should always use good judgment when creating a topical Social post. Some topics are very controversial and should not be taken as a joke. Other topics are so horrific that a topical joke would cause backlash against the brand. There are some general guidelines for these posts:
- Avoid a topic that is offensive. Deaths and natural disasters are not a good way for brands to gain positive exposure through comedy.
- Avoid hopping on the bandwagon. If other brands have already started posting or advertising using a specific topic, avoid it. Joining late in the game may cause audiences to see the brand as lazy, uncreative, or “behind the times.”
- Find a creative way to make your brand relate to the topic. If the post seems forced or irrelevant, audiences may lose interest in future marketing attempts.
Oddly enough, with Suarez, the jokes at his expense are generally accepted. The situation with Luis Suarez is unique because his actions were generally seen as unethical. Also, none of his victims have been seriously injured. Brands are able to justify their ads and posts because of Suarez’s childish behavior.
The Suarez posts will dwindle down soon enough. Once the World Cup comes to an end, the audience’s level of interest in soccer will drop as something else becomes more interesting and relevant. So the main takeaway: if you are going to take advantage of a social event for branding or advertising, do it quickly and tastefully.