Last week, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. And Ben & Jerry‘s brilliantly tweeted this on Thursday, January 2:
BREAKING NEWS: We're hearing reports of stores selling out of Ben & Jerry's in Colorado. What's up with that? pic.twitter.com/zBs8nyxZWn
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) January 2, 2014
The tweet has been retweeted 9,584 times and favorited 5,750 times, to date. There are either a lot of stoners on Twitter, or it’s a great example of how to be engaging on social platforms. Or maybe both.
“We didn’t plan to jump on Colorado’s news, but the idea came up during a meeting and we thought it was very funny,” says Mike Hayes, who handles social media for Ben & Jerry’s, based in Burlington, Vermont. “Because of the team we’ve developed here at Ben & Jerry’s over the last year, we were able to execute it within a few hours.”
It’s not just that the tweet is funny—though it is. Ben & Jerry’s won social media last week for a few other reasons, too. Here they are—and what you steal from their… uh, joint effort:
1. Voice and tone are content’s secret sauce
Voice and tone are hugely undervalued in content and social media. Together, they constitute the secret sauce of great content, and I expect more companies will pay attention to both in 2014.
What do I mean by “voice and tone”? Voice conveys the personality of a brand or a company, and tone convey’s the content’s “attitude.” You probably learned about both in literature class, but they apply equally well in a world where every one of us—not just professional writers—is publishing.
For example, why was Justine Sacco’s infamous tweet small-minded and insulting when it was a PR executive who tweeted it, but would’ve been considered merely edgy humor if, say, Sarah Silverman had tweeted it? Because while the tone (attitude) might be similarly edgy and sarcastic, the voice (the person’s identity or personality) is vastly different.
In Ben & Jerry’s case, the ice cream company has masterfully honed its voice and tone on social media. The legalization of weed sales might be too much a hot potato for most brands to comment on. But, despite being owned by Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s maintains a kind of don’t-worry-be-happy laid-back voice that allows it to weigh in on a potentially troublesome issue.
Its voice is not corporate-big, it’s Vermont-small: It’s playful, fun, humorous, and approachable. But it’s also intelligent.
Idea you can steal: Hone your own voice and tone to make it uniquely yours, based on who you are as a brand, and how you need to communicate with those you are trying to reach. Consider both your secret sauce in the content brisket.
2. Subtlety wins
I like the less-is-more nature of Ben & Jerry’s humor, both in this tweet and throughout its Twitter feed.
Instead of delivering one-liners (hard to do if you aren’t a comedian), Ben & Jerry’s often uses visual punchlines like this one to convey subtle humor. That style of humor is easier to do, and it’s also more cerebral—see point 1 here.
Idea you can steal: Graphics or photos can convey a point of view, as either the punchline to a joke or to extend any point you are making. Think of visual as an integral part of the story, not as a mere clip-art tag-along.
3. Tap into cultural trends that make sense for your brand
Like DiGiorno Pizza’s live-tweeting of The Sound of Music Live! or trash talking on NFL game days, Ben & Jerry’s weighed in on a less-than-obvious event. “We continually evaluate what’s going on around us and what is relevant to Ben & Jerry’s and our fans,” Mike Hayes said. “For us, our moments aren’t necessarily around the Emmy’s or the Superbowl, but instead when the Supreme Court rules on DOMA, when Half Baked surpasses Cherry Garcia in sales and even legislation in Colorado.”
Its tweet last Thursday was consistent with how the brand taps into cultural trends, in other words: It often releases new ice cream flavors based on pop culture and news headlines—again, to extend both its brand and personality. A few examples: Bonnarroo Buzz to celebrate the annual music and arts festival in Tennessee; Apple-y Ever After (in the UK) to celebrate same-sex marriage, and (most recently) Scotchy Scotch Scotch to honor Ron Burgundy’s second feature film, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
So last Thursday’s tweet is an example of porting that same approach into its social presence.
(And not for nothing, but Ben &Jerry’s last year partnered with the digital shop 360i. You know—the folks responsible for Oreo’s famous dunk in the dark tweet? Yeah. Them.)
Idea you can steal: Don’t try to be Oreo at the Super Bowl. Instead, consider what events or headlines your audience cares about that might give you an opportunity to contribute to the conversation. Think of it this way: Don’t try to get your audience to talk about you; talk—in your own unique voice and tone—about what your audience is already talking about.
Bonus, which has nothing to do with tweeting, but everything to do with content marketing fundamentals: Great content is packed with honest empathy, clear utility and inspiration. (Or, as a streamlined variation: Useful, enjoyable, inspired.)
Which is why I love this “Flavor Locator” tool and mobile app from Ben & Jerry’s that allows you to root out your favorite sometimes hard-to-find flavors. You know when you really want to try Liz Lemon Greek Frozen Yogurt because you are a huge Tina Fey fan and lemon yogurt is your favorite, but it’s frustrating because your local stupid-market doesn’t carry it, the jerks? Are we still talking about you?
Anyway, yeah. That. Problem solved. Great problem-solving for me… err, us. And great marketing, too.