Real-Time Marketing During the Government Shutdown

Real-Time Marketing During the Government Shutdown

Certain brands have been known to capitalize on timely situations, whether good or bad, in order to gain exposure for themselves. Arguably the most notable brand to do this was Oreo, who famously tweeted its “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” real-time response to the 2013 Super Bowl blackout. Since then, the tweet has been retweeted almost 16,000 times, indicating the success that an organic and timely tweet can have.


The power of Oreo’s tweet is strengthened when compared to other companies who spent millions of dollars for commercials. While those may have had larger audiences, Oreo’s free tweet certainly had a larger impact.


We’re seeing brands, large and small, trying to replicate the same level of publicity success during the government shutdown. Cap’n Crunch, Denny’s and Redbull (among others) have taken to social media, with cleaver quip and photo responses to what’s happening in D.C.


Here is RedBull‘s take on the issue. The photo suggests that they (and maybe by a larger token “we”) can probably fix the budget issue better and sooner than the government can. The photo and caption are funny and a little snarky, both fit into the brands image perfectly. The photo has received more than 34,000 likes.

Cap’n Crunch keeps true to its Twitter voice in response to a Twitter inquiry from fan:

Obstacle competition Spartan Race made a huge splash with their Facebook response, which perfectly embodied their brand:

But where should we draw the line between good-humored fun and bad-taste? During this era of 24/7 media monitoring, one error can stay with a company forever, no matter how well-intentioned the attempt.


Case in point, AT&T, whose 9/11 remembrance tweet was offensive to many:

So, what makes such a thing work? Well, it seems to be a few factors.

  1. The response capitalizing on a timely situation should, as always, fit the brand’s image.
  2. The public should be in on the joke.


While the government shutdown is a very serious matter, the public is making fun of (and blaming) the DC officials for being unable to compromise. The web is currently filled with memes and lists of budget-cut failures. This, in a sense, is a go-ahead for many brands to publicly make fun of the government as a means of gaining publicity as well. However, at what point will this hot issue lose its momentum and become old news for brands?

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