Hijack Marketing: How to do it Right

October 17, 2018 - Reading Time: 5 minutes

Social media is a 24/7 job and one of the best illustrations of that is the rise of hijack marketing.

Hijack marketing happens when brands attempt to leverage on the publicity of a current event or issue in their marketing. Perhaps one of the most well-known and lauded examples would be Oreo’s tweet (“You can still dunk in the dark”) in response to the half-hour blackout that happened during the 2013 Super Bowl.



When done right, hijack marketing can do wonders for your brand image as well as boost awareness for your brand. But it’s risky business; one wrong move could get you a massive amount of backlash.

So how do you do hijack marketing right? Here are some tips for those who are game for the challenge.

Timing is everything

Timeliness refers to how quickly you respond to the event and since social media allows it to be instantaneous, the standards are high. Oreo’s lightning-fast response to the Super Bowl blackout was due to the fact that they had a team on standby during the event – representatives from the brand as well as their agencies were all present. Even though they were gathered together for other reasons (they’d bought an advertising spot in the Super Bowl and were monitoring social media response to it), when the blackout hit, they saw an opportunity and took it. The result was an unforgettable tweet that some would argue was the highlight of the game.

So what can we learn from this? The key to a timely response is to be prepared.

Granted, in reality many of us wouldn’t be able to respond as quickly as Oreo did. Unless you’re in the same room as your agency or client, it’s difficult to pump out content within the span of 30 minutes. But hijack marketing is time-sensitive and that means if you’re planning to respond, you need to do so ASAP. Trends get old very quickly in the age of real-time communication; if you’re trying to come up with something after everyone else has already moved on, you’re better off not saying anything at all. So if you don’t have a plan in place to keep up with and respond to these events, you’ll find yourself lagging behind.

Do your research

Always do your research on the event or issue you’re planning to respond to before posting anything. We don’t just mean find out what happened but the nuances of it, like how people are interpreting or talking about it.

We can’t emphasise this enough – never talk about something you don’t understand. Topics that are sensitive in nature require a more tactful response. Some brands learnt that the hard way.

Iuiga, a Singaporean homeware retailer, received backlash after it tried to market a line of teapots named after a polar bear at the Singapore Zoo that had just recently passed away. This upset many who saw this as a company trying to profit off what was supposed to be a tragic event.


The United States Air Force also had to apologise for its poor attempt at jumping on the bandwagon of the “Yanny or Laurel” internet debate. It put out a tweet that said: “The Taliban forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard #Yanny or #Laurel than the deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10.” You should never joke about people dying. Ever.

In general, avoid commenting on issues surrounding race, religion, politics and death. They are delicate subjects and shouldn’t be spoken about in a frivolous manner.

This leads us to our next point.

Double- and triple-check your response

There are many ways to interpret a tweet or a Facebook post. Hence, when crafting your response, make sure it cannot be interpreted in a way that could hurt your brand.

This, again, comes down to planning.

You should always assess your planned response and do a cost-benefit analysis, especially if you’re going to post about one of those aforementioned sensitive topics. A good way to do that is to put yourself in your public’s shoes and ask yourself these questions:

1. Is it appropriate for your brand to be commenting on this issue/event? Think about your brand image.

2. What are the possible ways to interpret your planned response?

3. What sort of potential backlash could you get?

4. Should you still go ahead with the response?

An example of a response that could’ve been better thought out was Starbucks’ “Race Together” campaign which was conducted in the US. The campaign was done in response to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner as a result of police brutality. Starbucks’ CEO encouraged baristas to engage customers in conversations about race by writing the words “race together” on their coffee cups. The gesture was labelled as superficial and was widely ridiculed. If Starbucks had considered its brand image as a gourmet coffee corporation vis-à-vis the race issue in US, perhaps the red flags would’ve been clearer.


Furthermore, asking a barista to talk to a customer about an issue that has a long, deep-rooted history in the country over a cup of coffee made Starbucks look like they were trivializing the issue.

As in the case of Starbucks, sometimes brands shoot and they miss. So it’s good to have a contingency arrangement in case your attempt at hijack marketing doesn’t go according to plan. This includes having a statement prepared to deal with potential backlash; you might want to consider hiring a PR team to help you out.


Hijack marketing might sound tough but the reward that comes with its success is significant. Hijack marketing isn’t just an effective way for your brand to build a more positive image through earned media, you also stand to gain a larger following on social media which translates to greater reach. In conclusion, when it comes to hijack marketing, do your research, tread carefully and you’ll be less likely to step on toes.


Why You Shouldn’t Rely Too Much on Stock Footage and Images

October 12, 2018 - Reading Time: 4 minutes

Stock images and videos are everywhere. Even on this blog.

What’s not to love about stock content? They’re easily accessible at your fingertips, especially if you have a subscription. Need a visual to accompany your written content? Just go on Getty Images and pick one out of the myriad of visual content on the site.

As convenient as that sounds, brands should be careful about using stock images and footage.

Here’s why.

Stock images/footage dilute your branding

Stock images and videos are easily available. It’s what makes them so desirable…and dangerous. If you can get your hands on them that easily, so can other brands. To illustrate, look at how this image from Unsplash has been used in both Contently, Medium, and many other sites.

So what happens when you rely too much on stock images? You run the risk of diluting your brand. What happens is that brands are going to produce things that look the same.

And consumers will notice.

Check out this video by Dissolve, a stock image and footage site, meant to mock how similar ads have become. The entire video is made out of stock footage.

If scenes in the video look familiar to you it’s because too many brands have used similar stock footage in their videos. Brands should be producing content that cut through the clutter, not become the clutter.

There are also Facebook pages set up with the sole purpose of documenting how overused some of the subjects in stock photos are. The following images are taken from Ariane – The Overexposed Stock Image Model, a Facebook page that documents the sightings of a particular stock image model. She’s been spotted all over the world.

A little creeped out yet?

The moral of the story: don’t use stock images or footage for branding purposes. This means whatever that is on your corporate website shouldn’t be taken from another website. It might be pricier to hire a photographer or videographer to produce custom visual content but it’ll be money well spent. Remember: you want your brand to be unique – that’s the whole point of branding. It’s hard to do that if your visual content can be found on countless other sites.


Stock images have the tendency to look staged and really unnatural. Most of them feature immaculately-dressed men or women with picture-perfect smiles.

If only salads gave us this much euphoria.

The problem is no one is this perfect in real life. You want to give your brand a personality so that you feel relatable to your target audience. Using too many stock photos and videos is not a good way to showcase that personality. It makes your brand feel cold and distant.

Don’t be forgettable when you can be memorable

Images and videos are touchpoints in your marketing communications – opportunities to impress your customers. Stock content aren’t developed with your brand specifically in mind – they don’t help you strengthen your branding. Hence, relying too much on them doesn’t allow you take full advantage of what visuals could potentially do for your brand.

In fact, there’s something called the Picture Superiority Effect. Research has shown that pictures are more memorable than words. Brands should invest in custom visuals to take advantage of this phenomenon. Stock images and footage don’t stick in anyone’s mind for long but an interesting visual with a strong connection to your brand can help your target audience remember you.

However, stock images are still usable in some contexts that are not intrinsic to your branding. Blog posts, for example, are primarily meant to educate and share insights instead of represent your brand per se.

Here are some things to take note if you want to use stock images:

Make sure your image matches the content

This goes without saying. Images aren’t just there for aesthetic purposes. They give your audience a quick overview of what your content is about. It’s a bit odd if your chosen image is unrelated.

Try to pick images that look more authentic

We’re all familiar with the eerie perfection of stock images; subjects look too perfect and are always smiling at the camera.

Not all stock images are this unnerving though.

Sites like Unsplash and Death to Stock have collections of beautiful and more “candid” photographs to choose from. These photos tend to have real people as subjects and are thus a lot more relatable.

left: iStock, right: Unsplash

Try not to use too much of it

Even though stock content are perfectly fine when used in certain contexts, we would still recommend not relying too much on them. Stock content, while convenient, are someone else’s representation of a situation or an emotion. It might not illustrate what you want to say perfectly. To do this, creating your own visuals would be best.

For example, even though we use stock photos in our blog, you can also find visuals we’ve created from scratch in our articles. We usually design our own visuals to aid with the explanation of more challenging concepts. It’s easier than trying to find a suitable stock image and it also gives us full control over how we would like to approach the topic.


So the next time you pull up your web browser to search for stock images or stock footage, think about what that image or footage could potentially do for your brand. Anything your brand puts out that your target audience will interact with should build up or maintain your brand image. What better way to do that than create your own visual content?


How to Get the Most Out of Your Creative Agency

October 5, 2018 - Reading Time: 6 minutes
Category: Tips & Tricks

If you’ve ever worked in a creative agency or worked with one, you’ve probably come across at least one of those internet lists summarising the ridiculous things clients and agencies say to each other. These lists may be made in jest but you know what they say – behind every joke is a grain of truth (and, in this case, a hint of animosity).

via Beewits
via Unbelted

All this drama isn’t good for productivity – we can’t do good work if we loathe each other. If you’re planning on working with an agency for the first time, here are some ways you can build a relationship of trust and respect with your agency, and to get the most out of it. It also makes sure you don’t spend your ad dollars torturing yourself.

1. Ensure your brief has all the essentials

Every project with an agency starts with a creative brief. This document is provided by the client and it contains all the essential information that the agency should know about your business as well as the objective of the project.

Here’s what a typical brief should have:

Project Overview

Summarise what this project is meant to do and provide some context.

E.g. A Facebook advertising campaign to boost brand awareness.


This is also the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that you want your agency to hit at the end of the project. Goals should contain:

  • What you would like to measure
  • A specific number you wish to achieve
  • A deadline to achieve those numbers

E.g. To achieve 1,000 impressions for the ad by 14 October 2018.

Target Audience

Every marketing campaign needs a target audience. You wouldn’t want to waste ad dollars trying to reach out to individuals who have no use for your product or service. For example, if you are selling baby diapers, your target group would probably be parents of infants or couples who are expecting, and not singles. Specifying a target group is important because your agency needs to create ads that speak to and resonate with that particular group of people in order for the ads to be effective.


These are the specific things you expect your agency to produce. One example of an expected deliverable for a Facebook ad would be a visual and an accompanying copy.

Brand Guidelines

Every brand has a unique personality and tone of voice. Do share your brand guidelines with your agency so that they can adhere to it when they’re developing the deliverables. This is to ensure that your branding is consistent across all forms of communication.

2. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone

It’s nice to go the tried and tested way. Watching your competitor market their product so successfully and wanting to do something similar is natural. It might not be the best idea though. If you want to gain attention, you have to veer away from conventions and do something bolder. Or at least something different. A good creative agency should be able to take the lead in thinking of wacky but feasible ideas. So if they nudge you out of your comfort zone a little, try to keep an open mind.

3. Set realistic expectations

In an ideal world, work can be done fast, still be of high-quality and be cheap. Unfortunately, this is the real world where these three things don’t overlap. There are very real restraints when resources, be it in terms of time, manpower or funds, are in short supply. Polished work will take more time to complete as well as a bigger budget. In other words, you get what you pay for.

This is why we’d recommend spending a little more on your marketing if your budget allows. We aren’t just saying this because we are an agency and we want your money; your budget directly influences the quality of ads your agency will be able to produce. Quality is important as it will affect your target audience’s perception of your brand. Just put yourself in the shoes of your consumers – would you be more inclined to check out a brand whose ads look professionally done or a brand whose ads look shoddy and untrustworthy? A better ad will leave a better impression and will be more effective at persuading your audience to carry out an action.

4. Have faith in your agency’s expertise

A lot of tension between agency and clients arise due to creative differences. It’s true that you know your business best but your agency probably knows the advertising medium better. They would also know the most efficient way to cut through the clutter to get your brand noticed. That is why you hired them after all – for their expertise. So help them help you by trusting their know-how and heeding some of their advice. They’re your partners in this – they’ve got your back.

5. Give feedback in a timely manner

Nobody likes to drag out a project longer than necessary. Your agency should work to meet deadlines but for the project to be completed on time, it also means you should give your feedback in a timely manner. If both sides are efficient in replying each other and getting things done on time, the process will be much smoother and more enjoyable.

You should also discuss feedback on drafts internally before contacting your agency with a list of changes to be made. Feedback that is given piece by piece at different times might confuse your agency, especially if some of these comments contradict each other. This would result in more back-and-forth which reduces efficiency. So remember to collate all the feedback before sending it over at one go.

6. Keep communications open

A good relationship is built on trust and one way to build trust is by keeping communications open. If you are unsure about anything, feel free to talk to your agency about it. Similarly, your agency might need your help clarifying certain things about your business. You should also make yourself contactable to answer any of their queries, even if some of these queries might require more digging on your end. Don’t worry, your hard work will pay off; your agency can produce better work if they are more familiar with your business.


It goes without saying that you should take a look at an agency’s past works to gauge their capabilities and see if they’re a good fit for your business. However, this doesn’t mean that if they haven’t had any experience with certain industries they won’t be able to do a good job. Try talking to them about it, they might surprise you with good ideas.

Having a good relationship with your agency doesn’t just make things more pleasant for both parties, it also manifests in the final product. Agencies and clients who work well together are able to produce effective and even groundbreaking advertising strategies. But of course, it takes two hands to clap. If your agency isn’t being upfront with you or if they seem to have difficulty adhering to deadlines, then perhaps you should consider switching to another.