According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, “69% of the public uses some type of social media” today (“Social Media Fact Sheet,” 2018). Because the majority of Americans are on social networking sites, social media campaigns have become an extremely valuable promotional tool for companies to advertise their brand. From traditional print, advertising has evolved over time so that brands can continue to be relevant in the digital age. In this paper, I will examine a creative social media campaign, a campaign with the potential to be more creative, and the elements that make up an effective social media campaign.
In 2018, IHOP launched its ‘IHOb’ campaign. On Twitter, IHOP tweeted their intentions to flip the “P” in IHOP to a “b” and allowed users to guess what the “b” would stand for. They got 30,000 responses along with many more retweets, which created active engagement between the brand and Twitter users. Eventually, IHOP revealed what the “b” stood for and that they were no longer the International House of Pancakes, but the International House of Burgers.
Twitter erupted, and the campaign produced over 30 billion earned media impressions and it was featured in approximately 20,000 news reports.
After a month passed, ‘IHOb’ changed its name back to IHOP, exposing that the name change was fake and a ploy to promote IHOP’s burgers. This campaign was successful because it got people talking about IHOP again after a period of low engagement. IHOP’s word-of-mouth score, calculated by YouGov, rose from “19 percent to 30 percent in the week following the announcement” (Tobin, 2018).
The goal of the campaign was to create buzz, but also to bring more customers in for lunch and dinner, instead of only for breakfast. According to IHOP CEO, Darren Rebelez, the company saw “4-7% increase in burger sales within the first few days of the campaign” (Wohl, 2018). The campaign was not only an original idea, but it was an unusual and shocking way to make IHOP a part of the social media conversation. The creative move was also very risky for the brand, with the company receiving a lot of backlash following the announcement of IHOP’s name change.
The criticism came from people’s fierce loyalty to the brand’s pancakes and famous breakfast foods, but also from users wanting the brand to stick to its roots. At the end of the day, despite the backlash, IHOP’s objective was to create buzz, whether the comments were positive or negative, ultimately making the social media campaign a success. In contrast, a social media campaign that lacked creativity was the Audi’s #PaidMyDues campaign. Launched in 2014, Audi decided to switch up their social media, moving from their posts of their luxury vehicles in front of spectacular backdrops to posts spotlighting Audi drivers that have overcome adversity and their stories. Audi probably thought they were being creative and even playing it safe, but users were outraged with Audi’s posts of drivers rather than their usual car posts. Users became concerned that if Audi was sharing stories about people who bought their cars that their priorities were less on producing quality performance vehicles and more on trying to prove that they’re a brand of the people.
In contrast to the ‘IHOb’ campaign, Crowdbabble’s daily engagement tool was able to find that Audi’s user engagement was “much lower during the #PaidMyDues campaign compared to before the campaign was launched” (Meyer, 2015). Instead of pulling the campaign from their social media accounts and starting a better or more creative campaign, Audi continued with the #PaidMyDues campaign and suffered through the consequences of lowered engagement across their social media accounts, from Instagram to Facebook. Once Audi stopped the #PaidMyDues campaign and returned to their typical, normal car posts, their ‘likes’ on their profiles were higher again, similar to how they were before the campaign launched. There was a lot that Audi could’ve done to make their social media campaign more creative and less disliked. First of all, their mistake was branching too far from their tried and true theme of posting car pictures. They could have done a campaign showing off their newest model of car with backdrops in different places around the world, highlighting a new feature of the new car in every post.
If they still wanted to incorporate people into their campaign, they could’ve kept the first picture in the post as a picture of the car, but when users swiped they could have seen a person in the picture with the car in the second picture. However, if Audi is going to have people in their campaign, the people need to fit the representation of their brand or what type of people the audience would prefer to see with the cars. Audi has a very specific image, presenting as sleek and white collar, business-like. Their quirky and artistic photos in the #PaidMyDues might have been better received on another automobile brand’s social media account. In sum, the most important elements of an effective social media campaign are having an objective for the campaign, reaching the target audience, knowing the target audience and appealing to the audience’s emotions. Setting an objective gives the advertisers a goal to shoot for, a measure to see whether this type of advertising is beneficial for the brand, and to see if their campaign reached the mark. The ‘IHOb’ campaign reached their objective of creating buzz and increasing burger sales, while Audi’s #PaidMyDues campaign only lowered their social media engagement, clearly not reaching any objective.
Reaching the target audience is important because if a brand doesn’t reach their intended audience, then a campaign is basically useless to their objective. In the case of the ‘IHOb’ campaign, IHOP not only reached their target audience, but had the potential to reach billions of impressions. While Audi reached their target audience, they didn’t really know what their target audience wanted to see from them. Knowing the target audience is even more important because if they reach them, but their message is too confusing or unrelatable to them, the message is still useless. IHOP definitely took a risk with ‘IHOb’ but it ended up paying off, because whether they guessed how their audience would react or not, it ended up working in their favor with an increase in engagement and their sales growing. Appealing to user’s emotions is important so that users make an emotional connection to the brand, establishing brand loyalty. ‘IHOb’ hit this element by creating strong reactions in the people who did end up interacting with their campaign and Audi tried to appeal to their audience’s emotions through stories of overcoming adversity, but again, didn’t know their audience well enough to pull it off. With most of the public using social media sites, social media campaigns are extremely vital to integrated brand promotion in 2018. Brands have been forced to adapt to this newer form of advertising and go through trial and error runs as they navigate the change. As demonstrated through these two social media campaigns, the promotional tool and trying to be creative can be hit or miss without proper planning and without the key elements needed for an effective social media campaign.