Marketing to #RoyalBaby: Clever or overkill?



News of the royal birth sparked millions of tweets from around the world. Minutes after the official announcement that William and Kate's first child had been born, Twitter activity peaked at 25,300 tweets per minute.

Many of the messages were from well-wishers, those questioning the amount of hype surrounding the birth, and others trying to inject some humour into the occasion.

Then, there were the companies that used the royal birth as a Twitter-based marketing opportunity. It's not the first time this sort of real-time advertising has been attempted before. During the Superbowl blackout earlier this year, Oreo sent out a now-infamous tweet reminding that "You can still dunk in the dark."

But unlike that occasion, which was completely unexpected, marketing departments and brand developers have had months to prepare for the announcement of the royal birth.  

So what did they come up with? 

Oreo was back again with a tweet featuring a baby bottle on a fancy pillow with an Oreo cookie nearby.


Starbucks UK tweeted a photo of three coffee cups--one of them smaller than the others--to celebrate the royal birth.


Then there was Charmin, which created an ad featuring a golden throne and a roll of toilet paper

While some of the brands are receiving substantial praise for their timing and creativity, not everyone agrees the branded tweets hit the right note.  

When Oreo delivered its clever tweet during the Superbowl blackout, it was in rapid response to an event no one had seen coming. The fact the company was able to prepare a tweet that wasn't just timely, but actually was relevant to the situation, was no small feat.  

This time around, it seems that many brands were too eager to jump on the royal baby bandwagon. The result, according to reaction from the web, were tweets that seemed a little too contrived or lacking in creativity.


 For instance, Coca Cola tweeted a photo of two Coke bottles marked "Wills" and "Kate" and invited consumers to share a beverage with them. Hmm. Wonder how long it took to come up with that one?

In many cases, branded tweets about the royal birth come off as an attempt by companies to simply slap their name on a big news story, rather than a clever use of social media to help them participate in this event in a meaningful or entertaining way. 

So far, there's been a fair deal of criticism of the attempts by companies to capitalize on the royal birth. Adweek provides a comprehensive round-up of the negative reaction from Twitter users in response to the company's royal baby tweet.  

The Huffington Post seemed to summarize the collective feeling about the branded tweets in this article, which declared it to be "the end of an era. So R.I.P. fun post-news company tweets."

When they're clever and well-executed, branded tweets can have a major impact, prompting thousands of retweets and boosting the profile of the company in the process. In the case of the royal birth, however, many of the branded tweets missed the mark because they didn't add anything creative or relevant to the conversation. this the death knell for real-time marketing? Hardly. But companies looking to play in this space need to tread quickly, carefully and intelligently. A social media campaign that seems cute and clever in a boardroom may come off as tone deaf or just plain flat once it's released to the public. There's no magic formula for social media marketing. And the lackluster reaction to many of the attempts by companies to capitalize on the royal birth this week may help reinforce the fact that creating a truly great social media 'moment' is more difficult than it might seem.