Brands as Stories

The iPhone 6, #Bendgate and publishing at the speed of culture

Heard the one about the bendy iPhone? Yeah, me too. Despite it not being quite so factually correct as last week’s Twitter storm may have had you believe, it was still an embarrassment for Apple and an opportunity for all sorts of brands to capitalise on their bad luck.

As soon as rumours began to circulate about the much-anticipated new iPhone 6’s issues with ‘bendability’, the hashtag #Bendgate started trending on Twitter and brands of all stripes began piggy-backing on the hashtag with varying degrees of success.

Oreo had previously been the benchmark for this kind of reactive social media activity with their rightly famous and terrifically simple ‘Dunk in the Dark’ tweet reacting to the floodlight failure at the 2013 Superbowl.

Their ability to capitalise on a breaking event with creativity, flair and, most importantly, speed offered a lesson to other brands on the importance of being equipped to react at the pace of culture as it happens, especially on social media.

#Bendgate gave Kit Kat the opportunity to steal their crown, at least in terms of numbers anyway. While other mobile phone brands were piling in with fairly uninspired responses and digs at Apple, Kit Kat took the Oreo route – a simple, clever execution that spoke both to the cultural moment and also their key brand values.

Their “We don’t bend, we #break” tweet smashed Oreo’s record for the most retweeted 

brand ad of all time on Twitter.

With more than 28,000 retweets and 13,000 favourites, Kit Kat were the big winners from #Bendgate. They didn’t stop there though. Taking another leaf out of Oreo’s book, they were quick to follow up the next day with another tweet on a similar theme and a rapidly deployed Tumblr page asking fans to get involved and tell them what else would Bend or Break

The lesson to be learned here is the value of having in place the processes and flexibility to allow brands to react to breaking events and publish at the speed of culture. This requires a mindset more akin to a newsroom than a boardroom with increased emphasis on reactivity.

This shift presents brands with a particular set of problems. Even those who were quick to see the power of social media only initially embraced it on their own terms; the brand manager and brand bible still reigned, content was whittled down from the original creative by approvals committees, you didn’t post without sign-off and content calendars set a publishing schedule that could run months in advance.

But this all misses the point; for a brand to be truly engaged and culturally legitimate it must follow the unique rhythms of culture itself and keep pace with them.