3 ‘boring’ brands that have made a social media splash

You might think your organization or client company is a bit bland compared with NASA, Disney and other high-profile names, but here’s how you might catch online lightning in a bottle.

“What if my brand is just too boring?”

That question comes up nearly every time I present at a conference, training or inspiration session. Someone will point out that the highlighted case studies and creative social media ploys are all well and good for the Red Bulls and Nikes of the world.

Then they’ll ask, “What about a low interest category?” or, “What about B2B?”

Or they’ll drop the B-word: boring.

I say no category is too boring for social media. If you have a strong brand, a good understanding of your customers and a bit of risk tolerance, your “boring” brand can use social media just as effectively—and sometimes, famously—as the fan favorites that come to mind as naturally social-media-friendly brands.

Luckily, the most important principles of making a “boring” brand interesting in social happen to be some of the same fundamentals that make any brand interesting in any medium:

Know your brand. Appliances aren’t something most people go nuts about on social media. Yet in the case of Maytag (disclosure: a client), there happens to be a prominent character—the Maytag Man—who brings to life the spirit of hardworking dependability that Maytag stands for. Maytag also has a well-known annual promotional period in May: “May Is Maytag Month.”

So it made perfect sense when Maytag jumped on the It’s Gonna Be May meme with a music video starring the Maytag Man himself.  A clever use of a trending topic? Yes, but more important, one that fit perfectly with the brand’s assets and coincided with the company’s having something timely to say.

Know your audience. Corporate real estate: not exactly what comes to mind when you think of super-engaging social media content, the sort that garners 18,000 “likes” per post, right?

WeWork understands that the product it provides (convenient, enjoyable coworking spaces) is really about the people it serves: unconventional, highly motivated, independent young professionals who take their careers seriously but have had to forge their own paths the entire way.

All of its social content speaks to and celebrates this audience. Seeing a post from WeWork reminds people, every time, that they are the type of person who works at a WeWork space.

Be bold. Honestly, though, my favorite brand on social media is the TSA.

Yes, that TSA—the Transportation Security Administration.

Why? Because it does basically exactly what you wish the TSA would do on its social media channels, but wouldn’t expect it to: talk candidly about its everyday work. It patiently answers questions about air travel regulations. It has an entire YouTube playlist called “They Brought What?” dedicated to showcasing the strangest things people try to bring on airplanes.

It’s unexpected, it’s entertaining, and it works to both educate travelers and build the agency’s credibility. Its willingness to engage is surprising and fascinating.

Sometimes, a “low interest” category is just one where we haven’t given people enough legitimate reasons to be interested. There aren’t any easy shortcuts, but there are great ideas to be found if we dig in and do the work.

A version of this post first appeared on MediaPost.


One Response to “3 ‘boring’ brands that have made a social media splash”

    Bizadmark says:

    Very Insightful article. If you know your audience, and you design a campaign keeping in mind what works for your core customers even a boring brand can generate a high tide of buzz around the digital media environment.

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