What is Newsjacking in Content Marketing?

Shortly after McDonald’s lost its ‘Big Mac’ trademark case to the Irish chain Supermac in 2019, Burger King seized the opportunity to turn heads with a clever marketing campaign. They cheekily introduced “Big Mac-ish” sandwiches in their European menus, claiming these were “Not Big Macs” but juicier and tastier.

But this interesting marketing campaign isn’t the only example of a brand leveraging a major news event to gain attention. This is newsjacking, an interesting strategy used by brands worldwide.

What is Newsjacking?

Newsjacking is a marketing strategy where brands leverage trending news stories or events to promote their products or services. Coined by marketing strategist David Meerman Scott in 2011, newsjacking involves putting your brand’s message out there during the current news cycle to attract a bigger audience. It’s a way to jump on the media bandwagon and align your brand with what’s happening in the world.

“Newsjacking is a gift for professional services firms as it provides a hook that will capture your target audience’s attention – especially when there’s a lot of noise around,” says Jacqueline Burns, a B2B marketing specialist. “It is one of the easiest ways to generate earned media. It builds brand awareness and gives subject matter experts a chance to position themselves as thought leaders.”

But how exactly do you put newsjacking into practice? Business consultant Peter Boolkah suggests four simple steps to nail this:

1. Picking the Right Story

The first step to running a successful newsjacking campaign is selecting the right story. Look for news that aligns with your brand’s values and is relevant to your audience. Boolkah recommends avoiding stories that are outside your area of expertise and can offend your audience.

2. Be Different

To stand out in a crowded news landscape, you need creativity and originality. While many brands jump on the same trending topic, it’s important to find a fresh angle that differentiates your content from others. Use humour, wit, or a clever twist to make your content memorable and shareable.

3. Promote Your Post

Creating relatable content is just half the battle won. The next step is to promote it effectively. Share your content on social media platforms, send it to your email subscribers, and use paid promotions to reach a wider audience. This will boost your reach and grab more eyeballs, driving engagement with your audience.

4. Track Engagement and Responses

Once your newsjacking post is live, the last step is to monitor its performance. Track key engagement metrics such as likes, shares, comments, and overall reach to understand what resonated with your audience and what didn’t. You can use tools like Google Analytics, social media insights, or any other marketing analytics platform to get detailed insights.

Newsjacking in Action

Here are 8 leading brands that have nailed the art of newsjacking:

1. Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark”

Dunk in The Dark." A single tweet is all this brand needed to win the Big  Game! [Fridays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing] - Valens Research

Source: Valens Research

During the 2013 Super Bowl, Oreo pulled off one of the most memorable newsjacking examples in recent marketing history. When a power outage caused a significant delay during the game, plunging the stadium into darkness, Oreo’s team acted swiftly.

They created a simple yet effective post featuring an image of an Oreo cookie with the caption, “You can still dunk in the dark.” It was timely, witty, and perfectly captured the moment. The result? Almost 20,000 likes on Facebook and over 15,000 retweets on Twitter.

Source: Google

Google’s “Year in Search” is a yearly round-up that looks back on the biggest events, trends, and memorable moments based on the year’s top search queries. It not only highlights Google’s extensive data capabilities but also serves as a great example of newsjacking.

By doing this, Google reinforces its unique position as the go-to search engine used by people to seek information and find the information they need in their day-to-day lives.

3. Southwest Airlines’ “Touchdown”


Source: Semrush

Newsjacking doesn’t necessarily mean sharing a trending story. Southwest Airlines, known for its witty and engaging social media presence, leveraged the football playoffs to connect with its audience. 

During the intense playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks, Southwest Airlines seized the moment with a clever social media post featuring a touchdown aeroplane on a runway. It attracted a lot of eyeballs on social media, with football fans enthusiastically interacting with the humorous content.

4. Aviation Gin and the Peloton Ad

In December 2019, Peloton faced intense backlash over its ad campaign featuring a husband gifting his wife an exercise bike. Amidst the backlash, Ryan Reynolds-owned spirits brand Aviation Gin seized the opportunity to create a witty and timely response.

The brand immediately cast Monica Ruiz, the actress from the Peloton ad, to appear in their commercial, poking fun at the original ad and addressing the message it conveyed. The ad was cleverly titled “The Gift That Doesn’t Give Back,” effectively using humour and satire to address the cultural conversation.

Aviation Gin’s response garnered widespread praise and attention across social media platforms, boosting the brand’s visibility and creating a positive buzz for the company.

5. Dunkin’s “Blue and Gold Dress”

4 Ways Brands Can Get Involved in Trending Topics on Twitter

Source: Mention

Remember back in 2015 when the internet went wild over a picture of a dress that appeared blue and black to some viewers and white and gold to others? Dunkin’ swiftly leveraged the debate to promote its doughnuts. 

It shared an image featuring two doughnuts, one with blue and black icing and the other with white and gold icing, with a caption that humorously stated, “Doesn’t matter if it’s blue/black or white/gold, they still taste delicious.”

By doing so, Dunkin’ not only playfully engaged with the viral trend but also promoted its products, boosting visibility and engagement on social media platforms.

6. Uber’s “Thank You for Not Riding”

As the COVID-19 pandemic altered lives worldwide, many businesses had to adapt to the evolving situation. Uber, the global ride-hailing company, responded to the pandemic with a creative and thoughtful advertising campaign titled “Thank You for Not Riding.” 

Understanding the need to prioritize public health and safety, Uber launched a series of ads thanking customers for staying home and not using their services during the crisis. By doing this, Uber showed its commitment to putting people’s well-being before profits, resonating well with the audience and highlighting the company’s safety and responsibility values.

7. Microsoft Team’s “Deal with the NBA”

microsoft teams together mode at an nba game

Source: HubSpot

Microsoft is another brand that jumped on the pandemic bandwagon. When sports organizations were rethinking how they engage with fans and players, Microsoft Teams took advantage of the situation by showcasing its “Together Mode” feature in partnership with the NBA.

It introduced a virtual fan experience, allowing viewers to virtually pop up in the stands during broadcasts. This was done to capture the energy of live events in a virtual setting. Through its collaboration with the NBA, Microsoft Teams gained significant exposure to a global audience of sports enthusiasts. 

8. KitKat and the iPhone 6

Source: Outreach Monks

When Apple dropped the iPhone 6 back in 2014, many users complained that the phone would bend when kept in their back pockets. The issue blew up on the internet pretty fast. However, despite the complaints, Apple maintained that the iPhone 6 was one of the most robust models ever. Amidst this chaos, KitKat cleverly jumped on the bandwagon to poke some fun and promote their brand.

The chocolate company swiftly tweeted, “We don’t bend, we #break.” This witty comment played off their iconic slogan, “Have a break, have a KitKat,” sarcastically pointing out how their chocolate bars break easily, unlike the bendy iPhone 6. The tweet was a hit with the public, racking up over 26,000 retweets and 13,000 likes.

Newsjack Your Way to Success

When done right, newsjacking can be a powerful tool to stay relevant, engage with your audience, and boost brand visibility. But remember, successful newsjacking is more than just sharing quick reactions on social media. You need to select the right story, add your own unique twist, and understand your audience’s preferences. And who knows, you might just be the next viral hit.

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