If you’re an entrepreneur or if you have a public brand, it’s incredibly important to have your finger on the pulse of what is trending. The more current you are, the more you can target your brand messages – social media campaigns, ads and the like – and the more relevant and “on the pulse” you appear to your audience. And that translates into fierce loyalty among your supporters.

That said, it’s equally as important to be cautious about how you talk about what’s trending in your posts and campaigns, because sometimes, it can backfire. I’ve seen some big brands get huge backlash from some of their social media posts that – while on trend – carried a message that angered their supporters. 

When good campaigns go bad: When Prince passed away, Cheerios tweeted, “Rest In Peace” but they replaced the dot of the I with a Cheerio. While on point, people found it to be distasteful because they were trying to market their product when they should have been simply paying tribute to a musical legend. Cheerios took down the tweet.

Cheerios also got backlash when they featured an interracial couple in one of their cereal commercials. It produced so many hateful, racist comments in their Youtube comment section that they had to close it. Happily, Cheerios stood by their decision to feature this couple, and the commercial is still running.

People are going to judge and offer an opinion about what they feel is right or wrong in most situations (in the newspaper, online, on TV). But as a brand, you have to expect that if you are going to comment or take a stance on a current and relevant issue in your messaging, you must be prepared to either stick to your guns or else admit you were wrong, apologize (right away or not at all) and move forward. The internet has made it incredibly easy for everyone to have an opinion – with no exclusions. And opinions – true, false, right, wrong or otherwise – can spread like wildfire. Before you release any statement or message of any kind into the ethers, you must know what you stand for, you must know who your audience is, and you must know what your brand can withstand.

Know who is doing your social media so that you don’t have to apologize for the intern getting canned for the incident. After all this is your reputation. Companies need to have a conversation about what they want and what voice will be heard in social media. Whoever is responsible for hitting publish can confront the possibility of positive comments or a backlash. Be careful and avoid the obvious:

  • A hashtag that was meant to start a conversation that generates poor publicity for your company
  • A poorly timed post in the wake of a tragedy or other hot-button topic
  • Your social media manager doesn’t bother to research why a topic is trending

When good campaigns go well: In 2016, there were some pretty impressive social media campaigns such as one from the Superbowl that was considered one of the funniest and most recognizable ads from Doritos, which featured a woman getting an ultrasound and an apparently very hungry baby, went viral during and after the game. Since it aired the video on Youtube has received over 15,028,641 hits.

Another successful campaign came from Emirates’ marketing team. They feature a variety of brand components and video shorts of destinations, videos of their airplanes, also incorporating influencers to truly capture their buyer persona. By using Jennifer Aniston they show consumers and competitors that they are confident in all of its products, not just its premium cabins. In the ad Jennifer discovers the appeal of economy class on an Emirates A380 and opts to trade her first-class seat for a seat in the economy cabin. The video garnered 5,397,259 views. The best plug for Emirates on social media, is when they upgraded YouTuber Casey Neistat from Business Class to First Class on a flight from Dubai to New York. With 6,258,716 subscribers around a cumulative total of over a billion views for his videos and this video has received 32,576,547 views and counting. After watching him enjoy his flight, you’ll want this experience too (if you can afford it that is).

Know what kind of brand you are. Know what you stand for. Keep up to date with what’s trending and what’s hot. And by all means, target your messaging based on that. But be sure to strike a balance, and know that you can’t please everybody all the time. Pick your battles, and if you’d rather not fight, stay as neutral as Switzerland while also staying current. No one is saying it’s easy, but it sure can save a lot of headaches.

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