What travel can learn from American cookie brand Oreo’s best tweet ever

The Super Bowl is always a fantastically hyped-up corporate branding machine – look only to the takeover of host cities by mega brands and the incessant fervor over the Big Game’s equally big commercial breaks.

The growth of social media has paralleled the growth in big brand chatter, providing a cacophonous backdrop to the various stories that emerge from each Super Bowl.

This precise focus on one mega event, especially in an endlessly more fragmented media market competing for limited attention spans, has led to the most expensive ad in Super Bowl history: $4 million. Outlets like Forbes are looking forward to the first ever $10 million ad. As Forbes points out, it’s the social media extension that has contributing to the increasing ad prices:

…much of the value in appearing derives from ongoing social media engagement. Brands post teasers of their ads and even the real thing early, hoping they go viral, and then work to continue the conversation once the game is over.

While “continuing the conversation” is perhaps the most overused guru-fied social media phrase, it points to the underlying point of all brand-related marketing: to maintain the top-of-mind status that leads to purchase. By combining the focused audience of the Super Bowl audience with a cohesive social media marketing campaign, a brand can reach beyond a 30-second ad and create a cultural moment.

Two cases in point, both triggered by the unfortunate blackout experienced in the Super Bowl’s second half.

The first quick-response case study came from Audi, who almost instantly tweeted the following cheeky missive: 

The tweet is fully on-message, proving the pugnacity of the Audi brand, and directly digging at the Mercedes-branded Super Dome’s apparent infrastructure failure. A solid success, with 9.707 retweets and 3,217 favorites.

The next tweet came only 8 minutes later – impressive given the fact that it included creative beyond just words – and arrived from the team at 360i, the agency managing Oreo’s social media presence.

Simple and straightforward, with an engaging image reinforcing the theme. The tweet was a runaway hit, with over 16,000 retweets, 6,00 favorites and a barrage of coverage from around the world. The media ate it up – which can be seen in the comments, where so many seemed to be impressed by the marketing-savvy of the tweet, rather than its on-message slogan and image.

So what can travel marketers learn from this social media coup, and how to most successfully create and implement a digital content strategy? Three key things, which fit especially well into the rubrik of the travel industry: timeliness, authenticity and emotional resonance.

Timeliness: it’s what fuels relevance

By providing such content amidst the context of the blackout, the teams behind these viral tweets hit the cultural moment right on the head.

Culture moves lightning fast, and social teams have to move fast as well.

As the comments above show, this sort of timely, culturally relevant content also has legs. People will share it widely, and talk about it in droves afterwards. It’s not just something that lives once – it’s something that is magnified and increased by a relevant piece of savvy content.

While most brands only dream of the continued press coverage this tweet has brought (just check out the stories from almost every corner of the earth online), Orea unfortunately had other plans.

The company nixed the interview Tnooz had attempted to secure with their agency of record. This is very strange, as the brand has not strayed from controversy before (how about gay pride Oreos?), and openness generally follows timeliness, as timely brands are general ones most open to the world around them.

Nonetheless, timeliness can lead to relevance, which is one of the key advantages to a travel brand looking to maintain top-of-mind status in a traveler’s ecosystem.

As 360i points out in their blog about Oreo,

Successful marketers today are culturephiles – obsessed with consumer behavior and the ways in which digital is shaping culture every day. Study how other brands are maintaining relevancy and using social listening to quickly identify emerging patterns, behaviors and opportunities.

Travel brands should be the ultimate culturephiles, as they are blessed with heaps of opportunities to be timely and relevant.

Customers travel to experience other cultures, and thus the endless selection of resonant content – sometimes something as subtle as capturing a feeling leading into summer, such as Expedia’s Find Yours, but sometimes more specific as targeting and messaging timely, culturally relevant content surrounding events and other experiences customers could participate in.

Here are some key questions to ask around timeliness:

  1. What is my audience?
  2. What do they absolutely love? What are their passions?
  3. What 2-3 events are must-dos on their calendars?
  4. What unique perspectives can the brand bring to the conversation surrounding these passions and events?

Start by exploring just how the brand fits into the world moment, and more often than not great ideas will emerge.

Authenticity: it’s all about brand truth

Authenticity – the vague-but-golden emotion of realness that splits strong brands from the chaff. Brands that maintain a strong voice that reflects the true core of their brand promise are the ones that thrive for years.

But what is “brand truth” and how is it achieved?

Brand truth is about the following:

  1. Focus: The brand has a complex understanding of its brand voice, and repeatedly delivers consistent content that epitomizes that voice. No rambling, no incoherence, no randomness. Focus.
  2. Audience: In order to create and sustain authenticity, a brand must completely understand their customer segments, and must clearly identify clearly the demographic(s) being addressed by each promotion, campaign or piece of content.
  3. Medium: Authenticity is not only fueled by focusing a message on a particular audience. That can work well for general marketing, but – as the tweets above reinforce – the medium matters. Focus your message on an audience, and then carefully choose which medium(s) work best for said message.

It’s important to realize that just because there are so many things to think about that determine a brand’s approach, sometimes it’s important to simply go for it.

Timeliness requires speed, and sometimes so does authenticity – an authentic, real response is never mediated through a dozen layers of bureaucracy or questioning. Often authenticity comes from creating free-form cultural response and acting from the gut.

The steps to disseminate this brand truth:

  1. Educate staff regarding brand voice – yes, create a document that lays it out in as much detail as possible.
  2. Create a response map – how will staff respond to customer comments in a consistent voice
  3. Monitor channels – watch and participate in discussions
  4. Create content – become a content creator, which generally will be a natural progression from the first three steps, as the team starts to embody the voice and be a part of the brand community.
This sort of consistent voice and cohesive community, especially prevalent with consumer products brands seeking top-of-mind in the competitive grocery aisle, also has long-term value to travel brands of all kinds. From airlines to tour companies to OTAs, travel brands can foster loyalty for life by cultivating a real, authentic presence that accurately represents a core value structure.

Emotional Resonance: it’s what gets shared

We talk about this constantly here at Tnooz – it’s essential to connect fundamentally at the emotional level with the audience being marketed to. Travel has endless chances to achieve this emotional resonance – travel encompasses so many human emotions, and offers countless opportunities to land an emotional hook in a targeted demographic.

By hooking into human emotions, brands can land a connection at the most basic human level. Beware: this does not mean melodramatic pandering or forced humor will work wonders. Said emotions need to be legitimate – but if the brand is working on producing timely, authentic content, then the emotion should come quite naturally.

Beyond clear emotional triggers that engender sharing – say, cute cat videos – there are four clear components to emotional resonance:

  1. Me first: These days, cultural cachet is derived from being a Culture Creator: those who share something first and are trendsetters within their digital communities. By creating something shareable, it will be shared – especially by those who want to be seen as sharing something before it’s already gone viral in the mainstream.
  2. The unexpected: Be surprising, as surprise is the most tried-and-true emotion to play into when it comes to online content and brand voice creation. The Man with a Golden Voice comes to mind here – do something that provides a surprise twist and it will be shared widely.
  3. Humor: Laughter, often combined with (or triggered by) the unexpected, is an easily communicable emotion that people love to share. Humor brightens people’s days and delivers a hit of seratonin that encourage people to share.
  4. A narrative arc: Content that tells a story can also get widely disseminated. The challenge here is to identify a community that the story will most resonate with, and structure the entire piece of content around that community and what needs to be done to get them to share.

Emotional resonance is one of the most sticky of all three digital content threads, as it is the one that can convert a newbie to a loyal customer for life. It’s the one that gets into the psyche, and can quickly become a lasting cultural item rather than a passing fad.  The Oreo “Dunk in the Dark” is not going to be something that lives forever; it is a small piece of an ongoing strategy that comes together as the Brand Oreo.

However, other campaigns enter the popular vernacular and become far more entrenches – such as the Priceline Negotiator or pretty much anything done by Geico.

By ensuring that each of these three threads have air to breathe and room to go in a digital content strategy, brand shepards are poised to see much more sustainable, long-term success that moves the brand forward.

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick helps brands blog better at Ghost Works, a boutique blog management service. Nick was previously the Director of Content for tnooz, where he oversaw the editorial and commercial content as well as producing/hosting tnoozLIVE.



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  1. Monique

    I would argue that the travel blogging community applied many of these lessons when women travelers responded to the death of the American in Turkey, labeling their posts #wegosolo.

  2. Michele Smith

    I think the Oreo and Audi set a great example! I tweet all the time and I really surprised at all the travel brands that dont tweet back in a timely manner to their customers. KLM is a great example of how Social Media is taking over customer service by providing updating information on cancelled flights and true customer interaction. I agree the travel industry can take a lesson from these two examples.

    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      And some brands, such as Christopher Elliot’s story of @LizOwenLA who tweeted about needed a wheelchair to Virgin America and got on immediately. These instant forms of customer service can have a great wow-factor, but take an inordinate amount of triage and response organization to get right consistently.



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