In an April filled with spotlight-stealing events likes the Pacquiao-Bradley match and the Presidential Debates, the most viral happening was undoubtedly the much-awaited Suntukan sa Ace Hardware. Over at Facebook, more than half a million people have declared their interest (or outright confirmed their attendance) to the April 15 joke event. In comparison, Pacquiao-Bradley only enjoyed a crowd of about 15,000.
Viral stunts like this only happen once in a lifetime—but here are three valuable lessons we can pick up to help replicate that marketing lightning in a bottle.
When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade
The event’s unexpected popularity certainly took Ace Hardware by surprise…whose reps reacted like they were facing a legitimate PR crisis. The company immediately disavowed their involvement, probably frightened by the prospect of having their name linked with a brawl. The event page was even taken down.
However, as noted by MullenLowe’s Chief Creative Officer Leigh Reyes, fame is worth its weight in marketing gold. Despite the raucous comments in the Facebook event page, the harsh tones were never directed at the brand and everyone was clearly in on the joke. The disavowal was a knee jerk reaction that didn’t help the brand capitalize on the unwanted (but certainly not undesirable) attention.
Fortunately, cooler heads seemed to have prevailed. By April 4, Ace Hardware promoted its 3-Day Sale on the date of the supposed fight using visuals that imitate boxing ads.
Embrace the Flow
While the hardware giant spurned the event, more embraced it. Whenever anything goes viral, there will always be followers, copycats, and knock-offs. A deluge of silly events began to pop-up in Facebook invites: Suntukan sa Sherwood and Group Study sa SOGO Hotel were among the first imitators, followed by Agawan ng Boyfriend at Girlfriend sa Timog, Conyohan sa Starbucks, Landian sa Booksale, and dozens more.
7-Eleven Philippines understood the opportunity and created their own event in the same viral pattern: GULPihan sa 7-Eleven Libertad. The stunt promoted its Gulp drinks and its presidential candidate decorated cups. The invitation page collected 5.8 thousand attendees, sparked the interest of another 17 thousand people, and was seen by uncounted thousands more.
For the effort of thinking up a catchy name, setting up an event page, and uploading promotional photos, the convenience store received immense marketing and public relations value—all for thinking up of a catchy name that capitalized on an existing meme.
It was social media at its finest, quickly comprehending events and user’s behavior for the benefit of the brand. But that’s not what makes great social media marketing.
Social Media Users Like Fun
Although comparing the affected companies’ reactions helps hone a brand’s social media tactics, the biggest lesson from the event is the insight gleaned from the typical Filipino social media user. After all, the greatest social media marketing problem is not how to react to unexpected viral events but how to create a viral campaign yourself. Waiting for something to happen is not a strategy…but making something happen is. And to make something happen, the target demographic must be studied.
The Suntukan sa Ace Hardware demonstrated that users like fun. Perhaps because it was obvious, the attendees got the joke and reacted with light-hearted abandon. People were quite willing to click ‘Attend’ or ‘Interested’ for laughs or curiosity. While the initial jokes relied on the premise of an outlandishly unbelievable event occurring in a very specific—even brand-specific—place, the ‘event-place’ format proved to be fertile creative ground for a good laugh…especially the more believable ones like Puyatan at UPD. These easily demonstrated the viability of a geo-located campaign if you can sprinkle it with fun.
The Suntukan sa Ace Hardware meme might have run its course, but its PR lessons are highly important while the possibility of imitating its viral recipe continues.
Did you say yes or no to the Suntukan invitation? Share why or why not in the comments.