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What is rapid-response marketing and how should brands use it?


What is rapid-response marketing and how should brands use it?

Cutting through the digital clutter is difficult for brands, but on today’s internet, great marketing opportunities can fall into the laps of brands when they least expect it.

If they’re able to respond quickly enough, they can sometimes reap significant rewards.

Here’s what brands need to know about rapid-response marketing.

What is rapid-response marketing?

Rapid-response marketing is a form of real-time marketing in which brands create a marketing initiative or campaign on the fly in response to opportunities that arise.

Many of these opportunities arise on social platforms like Facebook [1], Twitter [2] and Instagram [3], where consumers are actively creating content and interacting with brands, and responding to events that are taking place in the world.

What are some examples of rapid-response marketing?

One of the most commonly-cited examples of rapid-response marketing is that of cookie brand Oreo. When the power went out during the Super Bowl in 2013, Oreo lit up Twitter and Facebook with a tweet that reminded viewers they “can still dunk in the dark.”

Obviously, Oreo’s social media team had no way of knowing that the Super Bowl was going to experience a blackout, so the clever tweet was the product of the type of on-the-fly thinking and decision making that rapid-response marketing requires.

Another example of rapid-response marketing is provided by IAC-owned dating app Tinder. Josh Avsec and Michelle Arendas matched on the app way back in 2014, but despite the fact they live in the state and even attend the same university, the two singles never got around to meeting up.

On July 7, Avsec posted screenshots of the digital messages he and Arendas had exchanged over the past three years to Twitter with the caption, “One day I’m going to meet this girl and it’s going to be epic.”

The tweet went viral, giving Tinder the opportunity to turn Avsec and Arendas’ humorous experience on its service into a marketing opportunity, one that it took advantage of in a grand way by extending a crazy offer to the pair: “You have 24 hrs to decide the city you want to have your first date in and we’ll send you there!”

But perhaps the best example of rapid-response marketing is the #NuggsForCarter campaign that organically grew out of a random interaction between fast food chain Wendy’s and a 16 year-old customer named Carter Wilkerson on Twitter.

In early April, Wilkerson tweeted a question to @Wendys: “how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?”

The same day, @Wendys responded: 18 million, a seemingly impossible number that would shatter the record for retweets held by celebrity Ellen DeGeneres, who dethroned prior retweet record-holder, former U.S. President Barack Obama.

Twitter rallied behind Wilkerson and while he didn’t receive 18 million retweets, he did break [11] DeGeneres’ record with more than 3.65 million retweets, leading Wendy’s to award him free chicken nuggets for a year and make a $100,000 donation to Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas’ foundation.

What are the potential benefits of rapid-response marketing?

Rapid-response marketing gives brands the chance to apply the old saying, “strike while the iron is hot”, and some of the brands that do have been able to take advantage of unexpected opportunities to generate considerable earned media.

Oreo’s 2013 Super Bowl Oreo tweet quickly generated tens of thousands of retweets and likes, and while “not quite Beyonce halftime show numbers” as Wired’s Angela Watercutter noted [12], many industry observers suggested that the opportunistic tweet was more effective than many of the Super Bowl ads that brands paid a whopping $4 million each to run.

In the case of #NuggsForCarter, a more recent example, the numbers were even more impressive. Wendy’s quickly saw its engagement skyrocket as the opportunistic campaign took off. According to [13] Campaign US, in the first 20 days, Wendy’s “earned 330 million social impressions and has gained 149,000 new followers on Twitter. Other tweets from the brand have also seen a lift in engagement, generating 280,900 retweets and 978,500 likes.”

By ad agency Ayzenberg Group’s estimate [14], Wendy’s stood to gain more than $34 million in earned media if Carter Wilkerson generated 18 million retweets. Even though he fell short, Wendy’s still realized an estimated $7 million in earned media on Twitter according to Ayzenberg Group, and this estimate doesn’t include earned media from press coverage of #NuggsForCarter, which was certainly worth millions of dollars more.

What are the challenges and risks?

Of course, rapid-response marketing is not without its challenges and risks.

On the challenge front, the largest challenge brands face is that it can be very difficult for brands to build rapid-response marketing capabilities and empower their teams to take advantage of them.

After all, nobody can predict what form these opportunities will take, and for obvious reasons, it might be difficult for brands to authorize their social media teams to extend big offers to consumers (i.e. “if you get 18 million retweets we’ll give you chicken nuggets for a year”).

Because of the challenges rapid-response marketing presents, some brands try to force the issue by planning posts or tweets for high-profile events beforehand. For example, year after year, a growing number of brands prepare tweets for popular media events like the Oscar’s [15]. While these might look opportunistic, they’re anything but, and this isn’t true rapid-response marketing.

On the risk front, the biggest risk posed by rapid-response marketing is that it could backfire. While Oreo, Tinder and Wendy’s offer examples of rapid-response marketing efforts that proved wildly successful, such success isn’t guaranteed. A brand’s response could come too soon or too late, be less-than-compelling, or, in a worst case scenario, backfire completely, making the brand a target for irritated consumers.

Even if rapid-response marketing doesn’t fall flat, there’s also the risk that brands won’t be able to maximize the opportunity. For example, if Wendy’s had told Carter Wilkerson that he only needed a million retweets instead of 18 million, it’s entirely possible the campaign built around #NuggsForCarter wouldn’t have been nearly as successful.

Related reading

Vector graphic depicting a pair of hands holding a cup of coffee and a smartphone, with various headshots and messaging bubbles emanating from the phone.


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