How Three Brands Latched on to the Viral Event That is “Storm Area 51”

At first glance, most brands wouldn’t want to be associated with a Facebook event calling on attendees to trespass onto a military base to “see them aliens.” However, when “Storm Area 51” went viral, brands hopped on board. The event’s creator, Matty Roberts, scheduled the event as a joke, yet just over 2 million people registered to attend.

Although only a small gathering of people ultimately attended the event, many more joined surrounding towns in celebration for their love of all things extraterrestrial. Many local businesses prospered, and well-known brands jumped on the bandwagon with their own Area 51 marketing efforts. Here are our top three picks for prime examples of how social and viral marketing can be used to add your brands voice to cultural (and intergalactic) conversations.

 

Arby’s

The popular fast food chain said in an official brand statement, “We can’t confirm if there are aliens at Area 51. But, if they do show up, they deserve the best meats on Earth. If not, Arby’s will still be there serving the planet’s best meats to everyone else attending this historic event.”

Why It Worked: Arby’s proclaiming itself as the unofficial caterers of the event draws on its brand personality. They even dedicated time to making a top-secret menu to be used at the event. If the aliens didn’t eat Arby’s, the brand made sure the rest of the event’s participants would.

 

Lego

LEGO, the toy company dedicated to helping everyone “imagine and create a better, brighter world for children to inherit” found that Storm Area 51 was trending in Australian, Malaysian, and Singaporean markets. In response to the trend, LEGO built its own adaptation of Area 51, complete with little green aliens, and posted the picture on its Facebook account.

 

Why It Worked: According to an interview with LEGO’s creative lead Primus Nair, “the social team, led by content strategist Samuel Lee, constantly monitors what is trending online and go from conception to posting within 24 hours.”

Staying on top of the trends ensured that LEGO knew which markets to target and showcase the creativity inherent in its products.

 

Kool-Aid 

Let’s not forget Kool-Aid or its mascot, the infamous Kool-Aid Man – a.k.a., the pitcher of punch that bursts through a brick wall and exclaims, “Oh, yeah!” That mascot got the spotlight when the brand was trending for this tweet.

 

Kool-Aid’s tweet was instantly loved and shared, and the brand did a remarkable job engaging.

Kool-Aid didn’t stop just at sharing its love for the extraterrestrial on Twitter – it created an entirely new flavor, called UFO-YEAH Intergalactic Green, to capitalize on the hype. However, the release of the flavor is limited. Only 900 cannisters were made, and people were lining up to purchase the drink. Many customers have debated what the flavor would taste like – lime, apple, or something else?

Why It Worked: Kool-Aid counted on its consumers’ sense of humor. Its iconic Kool-Aid man is remembered in the minds of many, and many television networks have either featured or poked fun at the caricature over the years. Its participation in the trend was timely and a hit with consumers. Additionally, creating an entirely new, limited-edition flavor enticed old and new customers alike.

For all three brands, staying on top of the trends and knowing their target markets was key to their success. It is important that brands – large, small, near, far, on earth, or otherwise – are careful to choose appropriate trends and outlets and be timely for/in their marketing.

This article was written by Ava St. Laurent.

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