A lesson in social engagement

brand connection

It’s refreshing to see brands working really hard to connect with their target audiences in original and creative ways, and recent campaigns by Walmart and Stella Artois in partnership with water.org certainly showed this commitment. Yet one was far more effective than the other by better harnessing multiple channels, from social to real world, and developing a cross-channel ‘portability’ that extended both reach and lifespan.

Retail giant, Walmart, showed it clearly understands the power of storytelling to inspire customers and employees with The Receipt campaign – a series of minute-long films shot by some of the best young directors around. The filmmakers Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw, The Magnificent Seven), Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, The Kite Runner), and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Neighbors) were commissioned to shoot films based on popular items found on Walmart receipts, Bananas, paper towels, batteries, etc. The only instructions Walmart gave the directors was for them to be storytellers. The films were scheduled to be shown as TV ads.

The below chart shows that although there was interest in the campaign and a spike in searches online, most likely coinciding with the campaign’s viewing slots, performance fell away rapidly after the ads were aired. It also reveals that there was very little traction on ‘The Receipt’ itself as a search term.

Google search trends data for the 24 hour period when the Oscars took place mapping US internet searches

Although a highly original approach, in terms of interest it was fairly short-lived, and more could have been done to extend engagement, as well as capitalising on the influencers involved – the directors. Although Walmart tweeted relentlessly throughout the Oscars, including tweeting at Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, they received minimal engagement. Their highest performing tweet achieved 2.7k likes for the Bananas Towns’ film. But sadly Seth Rogen did not even respond or share his own work – where Walmart have a following of 800k, Rogen has over five million!

With any campaign, especially if it is something that is going to break from tradition or what your audience expects of you as a brand, you need to build a conversation and buzz around it before the campaign is launched. The disconnect between the brand and the consumer can be seen from some of the comments on social media below.

Having such influential people involved in the project is great for wide-reaching impact and publicity, but do they connect with the Walmart’s core audience? Was there scope in Walmart’s brief to engage with influencers whose reach may not be as broad, but is much more targeted and relevant, meaning they can create additional content and with a much more highly engaged audience. Also, if you have a lower level of amplification running in the build-up to the launch, it then extends through and after the ‘BIG’ moment, not only giving your campaign a longer life span, but ensuring you widen your reach and continue the conversation for a longer period.

In contrast, the Buy A Lady A Drink campaign collaboration between Stella Artois and water.org, highlighting the critical need to provide clean water to people in the developing world, really hit the mark. It seems like every brand is embracing a purpose at the moment, and while Walmart turned its hands to storytelling, Stella Artois and water.org took advantage of the sheer topicality and global interest in the ‘Who are you wearing moment?’ on the Oscars’ red carpet.

Fashion House Marchesa created a dress made of crystals formed from the Stella Chalice to represent the water. It was worn by Oscars attendee actress Olivia Culpo generating lots of interest, including a number of interviews as she walked the famous red carpet.

The effectiveness of this collaboration was down to the selection of the right moment, the relevancy of the collaboration/partnership, and the delivery. The below graph demonstrates the power of ‘red carpet’ as a moment. By leveraging this, the brands knew there would be press and cameras everywhere, meaning there would be no need for a press launch, etc. This was a great strategic decision.

Google search trends data for the 24 hour period when the Oscars took place mapping US internet searches

Unlike Walmart’s campaign, all brands involved shared the campaign on their social channels. The results were fantastic!

Instagram @marchesafashionMarchesa posted two shots on Instagram, one image which achieved 15,851, and a video post which had 2,209,954! Olivia Culpo posted this on Twitter to her 200,000 followers and was interviewed by several journalists and on her own show, with TV figures for this year’s Oscars estimated to be 32 million. On Instagram, she posted four images and videos and achieved a total of 41,700 likes on the images and a total of 754,000 views! Stella Artois’ strategy on Twitter was also much more engaged compared to Walmart, they released a series of tweets about their collaboration, showing behind the scenes with Olivia Culpo in the lead up to the Oscars. On the night they answered questions from people regarding the collaboration and also retweeted people who had been sharing news items about the dress.

@stellaartois Pre Oscars

@stellaartois retweet

What’s more, to continue the conversation post Oscars, in partnership with E! News’ content studio, Stella Artois and Water.org is rolling out a three-part digital movie narrating the making of the dress – from Marchesa and Olivia’s first meeting to the story behind the glass beads.

This social campaign demonstrated clearly how having a clear strategy and strong partnership with your client and partners ensures success, while highlighting the opportunities Walmart missed.

Ally Biring, Digital and Social Director at real-world marketing agency Sense New York.


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Discover our latest guides to help brighten your brand experience strategy or amplify your shopper marketing moves. Get them here at The Futures Lab.


5th Floor Century House
100 Oxford Street

New York

243 E 14th
#2 C/O SQ
New York
NY 10003


Discover our latest guides to help brighten your brand experience strategy here at The Future Lab

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