Little Yadav
May 13, 2024

Moment marketing: Get it wrong, and the moment is gone

SOUNDING BOARD: When it comes to jumping on viral trends, cultural moments, and tapping the zeitgeist, how should brands choose their moment? And what happens if you pick the wrong one? Campaign asks industry experts.

Moment marketing: Get it wrong, and the moment is gone

Advertising is an essential tool, but like anything else in the world, the timing must be perfect and the message strong, for it to have any real influence. More importantly, it should also connect with the audience. A small glitch in this mix, and you can find yourself heading for disaster.

After all, an advertisement, no matter how big the budget, can fall flat if the moment is not right.

A case in point involves Bombae, a sister brand of Bombay Shaving Company, which is currently under investigation by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). The ad featured Prachi Nigam, an Uttar Pradesh Board's Class 10 topper who became the subject of social media trolling about her physical appearance after her photos circulated widely. The brand published a full-page ad that stated, "Dear Prachi, they are trolling your HAIR today, they will applaud your A.I.R tomorrow."

The ad received immediate widespread criticism for its insensitivity and reinforcing negative stereotypes about women's facial hair. ASCI's CEO, Manisha Kapoor stated that the ad is being scrutinised for potentially violating ASCI's code, which protects children from advertising that could harm them physically, mentally, or morally, or exploit their vulnerabilities. 

Campaign reached out to experts in marketing and advertising to gather their views on this response, and the pros and cons of moment marketing.

Pratik Mazumder
Chief marketing officer
Mahindra Holidays and Resorts India Ltd.

Brands have enthusiastically embraced moment marketing, a trend that is likely to continue. However, for this strategy to succeed, brands must have a deep understanding of their audience's emotions and expectations. Before capitalising on a trending event or moment, marketers need to assess its relevance to their brand and the preferences of their target audience. Marketers must be cautious, as a well-executed moment marketing plan can be highly effective when riding the topical wave, but it also has the potential to backfire if not thoroughly considered. Moreover, the brand always needs to be sensitive and never appear to be taking advantage of someone’s misfortune.

Vandana Sethhi
Founder and CEO
Earth Films and Water Communications

Moment marketing is a buzzword in these social media-driven times. It existed long ago—perhaps known as 'topicals' back then—something that Amul has used with outstanding effect over the decades. Of course, moment marketing raises the bar infinitely higher because, as the term suggests, it is in the ‘moment’—immediate, quick, current!

Amul is the king of moment marketing and showed us how to go about moment marketing. It’s an extremely impactful route of communication, however, only if handled intelligently, responsibly, and with sensitivity. Hence, the big pro of moment marketing is that it can have an immediate positive rub-off on the brand. It can endear the brand to readers/viewers; it can make the brand look intelligent, smart, and up-to-date only if done creatively, intelligently, and with sensitivity.

However, it's also a double-edged sword. If done with insensitivity and a terrible sense of timing, it can boomerang on the brand and leave it in a negative light, which can take a long time to repair. A classic example is the case of Poonam Pandey’s fake death news for Cancer Awareness Day. It was in bad taste and backfired so badly, they had to issue an all-round apology.

Another case from 2021 was when badminton champion PV Sindhu, winner of two Olympic medals, became a part of several brand stories (congratulating her) on social media without her consent. She retorted by filing a legal suit against these brands.

Oh, and this terrible recent example of The Bombay Shaving Company's attempt at capitalising on Prachi Nigam's story exemplifies the perils of poorly executed moment marketing. Their campaign, intended to be a fleeting response to a current event, strayed into territory that felt exploitative and disingenuous.

Prachi, a teenager who achieved academic excellence, was unfortunately targeted by online trolls for her facial hair. The Bombay Shaving Company's ad campaign, instead of genuinely supporting Prachi, inserted itself into the narrative in a way that felt self-serving. By linking their razors to Prachi's situation, they trivialised the issue of bullying and overshadowed her academic feat. Ultimately, the campaign damaged the Bombay Shaving Company's image by portraying them as insensitive and opportunistic.

Before indulging in moment marketing, a brand and its agency must play devil’s advocate and examine scrupulously if what they are putting out has any chance of hurting any kind of sensitivity. 

Anand Damani
Behavioural scientist and global speaker 

Such campaigns are akin to going for a six in cricket; it's a high-risk move. There are three possible outcomes: Hitting a six, missing, or getting out. The likelihood of hitting a six is low, while the chance of getting out is high. However, connecting with the audience (hitting a six) results in a fantastic outcome. Few marketers achieve this consistently—Amul comes to mind. But if you create campaigns like the recent one involving Prachi, you're likely to get out because it's in poor taste. By using this analogy, I'm taking a similar risk in explaining my views. If people understand it, I've hit a six; if not, you can guess the outcome.

Shalini Rawla
Founder and CEO
The Key

What was 'Yolo' (you only live once) for millennials is LIMO (live in the moment) for Zoomers. Yes, Gen Z believes in living in the moment, making moment marketing seemingly perfect for them. Their Instagram reels showcase the coolest travel and culinary hotspots. So, what’s wrong if brands want to be part of the trending, lit events or moments to spark spontaneous conversations with their customers? I would say, go for it. Remember Oreo’s moment marketing masterstroke during the Super Bowl outage? “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” The tweet went viral, generating 23 million conversations, brought smiles to many, established the brand's quick-witted personality, and cost nothing! It's a short window of opportunity with maximum impact, if done right.

However, Bombay Shaving Company did not get it right. Prachi Nigam, the UP Class X boards topper, became more famous for her facial hair than her academic achievement. Bombay Shaving Company’s message, urging her not to let bullying drive her to use their razor, backfired, leaving the company's CEO puzzled about where they went wrong.

Customer loyalty has evolved into customer intimacy in the digital landscape. While topical advertising has become known as moment marketing or real-time brand engagement, there is a nuanced difference. Intimacy involves building relationships through personalisation. Customers now expect customised interactions, a brand that speaks their language, celebrates their joys, and creates surprising and delightful experiences. Unfortunately for Bombay Shaving Company, they chose the wrong personal moment of Prachi—focusing on trolling rather than her success.

The brand was slammed for its insensitivity. The only consolation for the CEO is that, like all moment campaigns, this misstep is short-lived. The brand has the opportunity to do better in the next “moment.”

Campaign India

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