3 tips for creating topical marketing campaigns

Creating topical marketing campaigns can be tough. In what is often a multi-faceted process involving emails and meetings a plenty, a team of designers and managers and copywriters, and of course a lot of decision making, it is little wonder that most brands rarely have the opportunity to capitalise on quickly unfolding events.

But perhaps they should. Richard Elwell, owner of Birmingham-based creative agency One Black Bear and contributor to The Drum Network, states that ‘being topical can give your campaigns an extra push into the spotlight that they would otherwise lack’.

Elwell argues that when the aim of a creative marketing campaign is to spark a conversation among your target audience, topical advertising can provide an opportunity to ‘join a conversation that’s already taking place [rather] than to start from scratch and try to engage people in a brand new conversation.’

But how can you put practical steps in place to create a topical marketing campaign?

1. Be ready

It may sound obvious, but keeping an eye on the latest trends across social media and the news is vital to spotting a good opportunity for a topical campaign.

Although many marketers use social media for their own purposes or focus exclusively on their  relevant markets, exploring the wider social world for trends that could offer the chance to get creative is an important step towards creating something current.

In Elwell’s case, his recent campaign for National Express in response to the ‘traingate’ scandal surrounding Jeremy Corbyn and Virgin Trains was ‘an absolute gift’. By watching the drama unfold on Twitter, spotting an opportunity for his client, and being quick to fit this to the brand’s key message, Elwell successfully created a timely campaign with minimal fuss.

2. Learn from those who got it right

There have been a number of brands who have successfully responded to unfolding stories in recent years, and learning where they got it right can provide good insights for your future campaign.

Back in 2012 CampaignLive pointed to the rise of ‘newsjacking’ by brands and demonstrated how Unilever’s Lynx and Specsavers were clear winners when it came to topical advertising.

For Unilever, it was Prince Harry’s 2012 Las Vegas antics that provided the perfect opportunity to create an on-message ad. With the tabloid press whipping up a storm over the photos, Lynx cleverly released a take on the ‘Keep calm and carry on’ posters with the line ‘Sorry Harry if it had anything to do with us’.

By sticking to Lynx’ iconic ‘Lynx effect’ theme, creating a simple yet humorous advert and tapping into the interests of their key buyers, Unilever generated a successful topical campaign that can act as a good marker for those looking to follow suit.

3. Remember to be tasteful

Perhaps the bottom line of topical marketing is to pick the right moment, and also know when jokes are not going to win you popularity.

Some of the best topical marketing campaigns have been released in good humour (think Paddy Power’s horse recipe book or BurgerKing’s now classic left-handed burger April fools), and have carefully chosen to release campaigns that will be taken as mischievous, rather than crass and inappropriate.

Staying on the right side of the line is important – as Forbes noted there have been a number of cases where topical marketing has gone awry and proved unpopular with consumers as a result. By picking topics that are already subject to jokes, brands can benefit from the kudos that topical marketing can bring.

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