How to Rock the Super Bowl without a Million Dollar Budget

Whenever a big event happens I like to park myself on Twitter and read the live commentary. Imagine an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, with dozens of smart, funny riffers who serve up a LOL-funny line every minute and you’ve a good idea of what my Twitter feed is like during the State of the Union address or the premiere of Sharknado. The companies and organizations who have a presence on Twitter don’t disappoint either. Some of them, most of them, do badly, but a few really shine on big Twitter nights. 

This past Sunday, right in the middle of the pre-Super Bowl hype, J.C. Penney shone like the supernova-next-door. If you hadn’t seen how they turned what looked like a couple very bad tweets into social media gold, check out this Twitchy article. In short, J.C. Penney’s marketing team made themselves one of the few clear successes on the biggest sports advertising day of the year without spending a million bucks.

And you can do what they did. J.C. Penney’s marketing team didn’t luck into a social media win; they executed a simple but effective plan. (tweetable) You can take some of the elements of their plan and build them into your next social media venture. Here are three things to keep in mind.

1) Go where the people are. This may seem like a thing I shouldn’t have to say, but you’d be surprised how many marketing departments fall in love with a campaign and forget that their message needs to be in front of people who will be receptive to it. J.C. Penney’s marketers knew Twitter would be hopping on Super Bowl Sunday, so that’s where they went. Not only did they find tens of thousands of people who spread their message but they also found other companies who were there to sell their own stuff who ended up doing some of the work — for free! That wouldn’t have happened if someone higher up in the company had pulled the “We don’t have time to tweeter today!” claptrap I see all too often from political organizations and campaigns. People live on social media. Find out where the ones you really want to reach are, then get there. Today. Now. (tweetable)

2) Have fun. Did you get the distinct impression that the store’s last tweet went out with a huge smile? I sure did. I can’t imagine tweeting out that picture of mittens and a phone and not smiling big. J.C. Penney’s little campaign was fun. I don’t know about you, but I laughed when I realized I’d been had, when it hit me that they set me up for that final tweet. Make no mistake, the cause behind the tweets is serious, at least to the U.S. Olympians who will benefit from the sale of each pair of mittens, but that doesn’t mean the campaign to promote the cause has to be. Of course, the cause will sometimes dictate how much fun you have openly — you don’t want a whimsical campaign to promote a charity that works with abused children, for example — but if fun can be had, have it. We like smiling people way more than we like steely-eyed proselytizers. (tweetable)

3) Finish strong. For most folks who reported on J.C. Penney’s campaign, the story ended after the mittens tweet, but the marketing team didn’t stop there. They stayed on Twitter to talk with people who enjoyed what they had done. The team gave away a few sets of mittens, took little pokes at Snickers and Doritos for their earlier tweets, and got a picture back from Good Morning America. They had a plan to push just a little farther ahead and add to the success they had already built. Their finish was strong and put them in a much better position to sell not only their Olympic mittens but their brand. Now, when anyone who saw what they did thinks of J.C. Penney, they’ll think of a fun-loving, clever, engaged company. Their work of just a few hours on Sunday will translate into a better bottom line. Not a bad investment, eh?

You don’t have to have a million-dollar advertising budget to do clever, memorable things on social media, but you have to have a plan. (tweetable) Start with these three points and you’ll be miles ahead of the other guys, who are still trying to figure out how to sell themselves in all the old ways.