Most of us like to think we’re immune to marketing. We roll our eyes at subway posters flaunting exaggerated joys, righteously tune out targeted YouTube ads and skip past the promos on our favorite podcasts. We won’t be delivered unto temptation so easily.
Sometimes a brand calls us out. They point the flashlight at some unseen crevice in our psyche, and we bashfully concede that yes, we would like to have skin like that. On a micro level, that’s just good marketing—knowing your personas, their preferred channels, their home addresses etc.—textbook stuff.
But every so often, the creative marketing gurus at Big Thing Inc. go big. They know their market so well, their value so clearly, that they inspire movement and chatter throughout their industry. They build brand moments that leave a lasting impression, and a lengthy digital paper trail.
A brand moment is a period of sustained consumer resonance with a brand. They come in all shapes and sizes, but they’re characterized by their ability to draw an emotional connection with an audience on a mass scale (relative to their status in their industry).
There’s not an office in San Francisco, nor an auto shop in Nebraska untouched by Spotify’s year-end “Wrapped”. Those 60 million-plus shares weren’t celebrating the streaming service’s packed library or jarring ad breaks—they were celebrations of each user’s identity. Spotify’s marketing team understood how deeply their users identify with their taste, and gave them the incentive to wear it proudly with flashy, rule-breaking creative that made it hard to look away.
Despite its relative simplicity, it stuck around for weeks. Even your mom showed you hers. Brand moments happen when your marketing team pairs a deep knowledge of its consumers with a fun, creative brand decision.
Here are a select few brand moments from the near and distant past, each paired with a lesson you can apply to your own marketing misadventures.
Airbnb is all about comfort in less than comfortable settings. To that end, Airbnb’s marketing team connected the dots between comfort and community to great effect: They gave consumers an inside look at their hosts worldwide, helping potential travelers feel safe in their hands. Some years back, they started carefully selecting and documenting the finer aspects of their services at the hands and homes of their most marketable hosts. In 2017, they made an effort to showcase them on YouTube, where they quickly became popular with almost anyone looking to travel.
These “superhosts” (as you may recall from your own ventures with the service) have only gotten more airplay in the company’s marketing as time goes on. They upload these stories to YouTube to the tune of 427K subscribers—the brand moment keeps on giving.
Video storytelling is a secret weapon in the hands of the marketer. It’s the most visually stimulating form of content available, and can be a key component to your brand moment.
Salesforce is one of few brands that successfully launched with a brand moment. It’s no easy feat, but they did so by announcing the end of software in the early 2000s; with a lengthy campaign that’s since paid any debts several million times over. Amidst the crowded CRM space, they distinguished themselves with a bold stance that served as their mission statement.
Salesforce protesting against software is a famous brand moment.
The burgeoning CRM’s marketing team staged an “End of Software” protest in front of Siebel Systems’ (a rival CRM) user conference. Protestors hired by Salesforce carried large signs with anti-software messages, chanting anti-software slogans to the attendees as they walked by. This was followed shortly thereafter with a military-themed ball that further harkened the death of software. Both of these caused a stir in the CRM space, provoking press coverage and ensuing conversation from the tech industry at large.
It didn’t even matter that software didn’t technically go anywhere. Folks took notice of the CRM’s creative brand messaging, and Salesforce shot through the roof.
Salesforce recognized their relative simplicity as their distinguishing trait, and something prospects cared about when sifting through clunkier options for CRMs. They staked their claim with guerrilla-style campaigns built around a three-word message that could be understood by anyone with a cursory knowledge of the space.
Think about how your message distinguishes you in your space. Can prospects understand what you’re about instantly?
The company once known only as Facebook made tidal waves when they rebranded to “Meta” in 2021. A megalith rebranding is almost an automatic brand moment, but it wasn’t just about spicing things up: CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a more ambitious vision for what the tech company could offer in its increasing suite of platforms/acquisitions, and the marketing team was tasked with aligning the brand with its new mission.
They leaned into the growing conversation around the possibilities of the metaverse, of which Zuckerberg had expressed most interest. They centered their rebrand on big tech’s potential to connect itself to every part of our lives, and Meta (a client of ours, we'll add) was born.
Brands change to stay competitive, or to reflect a change in identity. It’s a daunting task for most, but there are ways to greatly reduce the effort and resources needed. Many brands have rebranded (or refreshed) their creative messaging to great effect. Consider whether your brand may benefit from either.
A brand moment can also be dependent on a literal moment in time. Oreo was quick on its feet during a 30-minute long power outage during the 2013 Super Bowl, quipping back at the circumstances on Twitter with social media creative that was retweeted over 20,000 times within hours—quickly becoming a viral talking point across the world.
Not only did they inspire several thousands of retweets (that was a really big deal in 2013, okay), but several publications dubbed them the “true winner of the Super Bowl”. It’s a lot of conversation for an image and slogan that probably took 20 seconds to think of, and a couple minutes to whip together with some (likely templatized) Oreo marketing creative.
On a moment-to-moment basis, there’s no better tool for fast response than your brand’s socials. Is your creative marketing team capable of turning out market-ready social creative on a dime? The brands with the strongest social game are typically those with good-looking, easy to customize, branded social creative in their back pocket.
While the brand moment isn't the be all/end all of your brand, we'd be remiss not to mention that it's a key part of what we do. We work with ambitious brands to set the stage for their moment, whatever it looks like. When your brand is ready for its moment, it should look stunning.
Billboard design we did for Runway.
That means more than assigning them a single graphic designer with a million clients competing for priority. We put your brand in a position to thrive with a dedicated creative team, unequivocally focused on using their veteran creative experience to elevate your creative marketing output.
Our partners use their teams in different ways. Many use their purpose-built team to supplement and support their existing creative marketing output; others with smaller teams lean heavy on them for both strategy and output. In every case, they're able to scale and sharpen the brand in a way that makes it easy to connect with those who might otherwise scroll by.
If you’re a marketer worth their salt, you know your audience’s “why” factor—the thing that separates you from your competitors in their eyes. If that’s the case, you’re already halfway to a brand moment. The other half involves applying that factor to a novel campaign like the ones listed above.
There is, of course, no manual on how to create a brand moment. It’s highly sought because it’s elusive, demanding the utmost resourcefulness from your creative marketing team to coax it into the light. We can tell you how to start, though.
For reasons outlined above, the secret ingredient here is creativity. It takes exceptional ingenuity to design a campaign or creative asset that will tilt the algorithms in your favor. And it requires more than one mind working on it.
For most creative marketing teams, this is a huge ask. Oh, they’re more than capable of innovation—if you give them a few weeks off their regular workload to ideate, research and hone the perfect slice of marketing; repeating this process every time such new assets/campaigns are desired. Giving these teams the space that innovation demands isn’t something most business leaders can square with their balance sheet.
Capable though these teams are, efforts like these often materialize through support from dedicated design teams (like those from Superside) that take on the overflow from overstretched creative teams. Sometimes it’s managing the multitude of lower priority marketing asks, other times it’s lending eyes and hands to the high priority ones. In either case, this support gives creative teams the bandwidth to create brand moments.
The brand moments that get the most airtime are the runaway successes. Don’t let those define your brand moment. Even on its best marketing day, your enterprise fintech isn’t going to be pulling in Spotify numbers.
A brand moment for this type of business could be a slurry of positive press in industry publications; starting conversations in places the fintech may not normally reach. It could be a couple months of high engagement on key socials; boosting your signal on channels you already frequent. Both are enormous feats, attracting sustained attention at a time when attention is scarce. Both are invaluable to marketing’s bottom line.
Think about what constitutes success for your business at its current stage, and plan accordingly.
Every business wants to wake up to a stream of shares, likes and retweets that only end when the phone needs a charge. It’s enticing to see company X’s modest following explode overnight. And if your business’ marketing gap is in awareness, it may be worth your time to allocate some of your effort to those big, all-eyes-on-me campaigns.
But don’t get so caught up trying to bottle that lightning that you deprioritize other, more crucial segments of your marketing funnel. Properly tracked, the modern consumer’s marketing journey looks like Jackson Pollock painting: A couple drips of timely email and webinar here, three globs of blog there, a bunch of white space where they dropped off the map for 6 months, followed by a smattering of guides, a case study and a call. This convoluted, beautiful mess is where the consumer becomes a customer, and it’s where most of the effort should be going.
Be selective about how much time you allocate to more generalized marketing tactics. More eyes doesn’t always mean more buys.
What connects all of the moment-makers mentioned above is a dedication to creativity in marketing. From the clever ad with high social engagement to the big-time industry disruptions, every one of these businesses gave marketing the time, money, pieces and players they needed to steal attention from the right people.
Think about what your creative marketing team needs. Do you have the space, or even the resources required to move mountains with your brand? Don’t feel bad. Outside of the commercial heavyweights, you’d be one of very few. If you want to find what your brand moment looks like, getting creative the support it needs is a 10k sprint in the right direction.
David is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at Superside. A former journalist with bylines too numerous to enumerate, he brings his love of storytelling and semantics to the marketing world. Recognizing the sizable gaps in the creative-as-a-service (CaaS) sector, he jumped at the chance to fill the creative void for ambitious brands. In his off hours, he enjoys loud music, making vegan meals and being made fun of for making vegan meals. He’ll gladly talk to you about any of the above on LinkedIn.