Looking closer at Arby’s social media conversation with Pharrell

Jun 27, 2014
Abraham Villegas

Boxless Media examines Arby's at the Grammy's

It’s been a while since we covered a social media case study. In having to listen to every radio network’s systematic playing of Pharrell’s song ‘Happy’, I was reminded of the Grammy’s when Arby’s seized a perfect opportunity on Social Media. Most of you are aware that in January of 2014, Pharrell showed up to the red carpet wearing a vintage Smokey the Bear Buffalo hat. As viewers of the Grammy’s began tweeting about Pharrell’s choice of fashion, Arby’s started noticing comparisons being made between his hat and their logo. The tweet generated an amazing 81,000 retweets and 48,000 favorites. If that sounds impressive, let’s analyze how Arby’s social media explosion was done using two basic concepts.

Arby’s seized the opportunity by listening

Social media is very dependent on timing. When executed properly, timing can make the difference of having something go viral or being the last to post about it. Because Arby’s thought quick on their feet, their brand was able to expose themselves to a larger conversation that held fans from Pharrel, other brands, and the Grammy’s. Since other brands were listening too, a good amount of them took the opportunity to join the conversation and get some social exposure. This bandwagon of brands included QuackerOats, Hyundai USA, and even Pepsi. Quacker Oats took this as a chance to make their own hat reference towards Madonna, while Hyundai nominated Arby’s for the best “I wish our logo was a hat so we could’ve tweeted it” tweet.

Arby’s kept their message to Pharrell simple

Sometimes, the best ideas are thought of on the spot. We don’t always have to have a plan or strategy for the greatest things we do, although they do tend to make things easier. With time being a sensitive issue on social media platforms like Twitter, Arby’s didn’t have an opportunity to think of a campaign. They simply listened to the conversation, made a few simple connections and executed direct contact with Pharrell. The result of this was an open conversation with millions of fans across Twitter and Facebook.

What can I learn from this?

The lesson is clear with this case, as it is a reminder of how important social listening really is. While it may feel like we spend a lot of time sorting through the noise on social platforms, there are golden nuggets of opportunity when we look in the right places. The key is to listen to relevant topics while finding ways to connect them back to your brand. The other lesson is to keep it simple. There’s too much content on social media now for people to want to scan through everything. The more complicated something is, the harder it is to attract a crowd. If you are direct and keep it somewhat simple, your results will treat you better than creating an entire campaign that may fall through by the time it is executed.

There’s a lot of interesting ways that social media has made news around the world. What are some other case studies you’ve seen lately? Share your comments below, or converse with us on Facebook and Twitter!

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