If you found yourself on Twitter at all during last weekend's Super Bowl, you likely heard about JCPenney. Over the course of the night the brand posted a number of incoherent tweets riddled with mistakes in an effort to draw attention. It was eventually revealed that JCPenney conceived the stunt to promote Olympic-themed "Go USA" mittens - but not before several other brands chimed in with pithy comments and hashtags for all to see.
Welcome to the Twitter Games, where brands compete for consumer attention with tweets. Following brand activity on Twitter has become something of a sport as we watch companies try to one-up each other with their posts. The competition is toughest around sporting and pop culture events that correspond with increased activity on Twitter: the Grammys, the Super Bowl, and the Sochi 2014 Winter Games all qualify. We're still talking about Oreo's impromptu tweet during last year's Super Bowl blackout. It's likely JCPenney's stunt will stay with us as well.
Recently, Time Magazine posted a list of the 13 "sassiest" brands on Twitter. The roster included such names as DiGiorno Pizza, Taco Bell, Orbitz, and British supermarket chain Sainsbury's - companies that are making a habit of amusing their followers by posting images, publicly engaging with fans, and producing hilarious brand vs. brand banter.
Time's list also featured Arby's, and points to the brand's now-famous Grammy Awards tweet about singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams' hat. According to Arby's, this single tweet garnered the brand more than 6,000 new Twitter followers within hours of its release. It was also retweeted more than 83,000 times, and favorited more than 49,000.
The pressure on brand social media managers must be huge. Not only are they required to deliver a near-endless stream of interesting and witty commentary on behalf of the corporations they represent, but there is no room for mistakes. Last month it was reported that MSNBC "dismissed" the person responsible for a politically charged tweet about a new Cheerios ad. A few years ago, the man behind Chrysler's Twitter feed was let go when, believing he was using his personal account, he tweeted an obscenity about Detroit drivers.
At the same time, the men and women who drive brand activity on Twitter are creating an entirely new source of entertainment. We may not await their tweets with the same level of anticipation as we do Super Bowl ads, but there's an art to brand tweeting that shouldn't go unobserved. These 140-character-or-less posts give us a current, culturally-relevant experience like no other. When good design, impeccable timing, and humor collide, everybody wins.
After its hat tweet, Arby's honored its social media manager with an all-inclusive trip to next year’s Grammy Awards and a hat-shaped cake. According to the brand, it wanted to recognize the work of the voice behind its "witty and hilarious" Twitter personality. Here's hoping brands keep up their antics...and that the people responsible get their just desserts.
Follow this blog on Facebook or subscribe below to keep up with digital media trends.