The Myth of the Perfect Tweet
Skip to content
Oct 16, 2015

The Myth of the Per­fect Tweet

By Kellogg Insight | Based on the insights of Derek Rucker

In many ways, digital media have revolutionized marketing communications. Consumer insights—previously restricted to focus groups—can now be gleaned from social media, and the relationship between brands and customers is more fluid than ever. In this landscape, it is easy to assume that one stroke of genius—a clever tweet, a timely spot, or a well-placed online ad—is the single event your company needs to create a successful marketing campaign.

But according to Derek Rucker, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School, relying on execution alone to sustain your brand may often be wishful thinking. “There’s a myth held by some that marketing communications is all creative puffery, not strategy,” he says. “And the rise of digital media sometimes encourages that myth. The reality is, success is a combination of core strategy and creative tactics. The tactics have changed—and will continue to evolve—but the foundational strategic principles remain as important as ever.”

Even in the digital age, marketing campaigns will benefit from a sound creative brief that lays out exactly what the campaign is supposed to accomplish. “For one, the creative brief prevents you from engaging in ad hoc rationalization,” Rucker says. “Whatever form the campaign takes, it needs to abide by a core branding strategy.”

The best branding strategy, in turn, is guided by clear consumer insights. Although rich social media data may now rival the questionnaire as the core source of consumer insight, translating that data into effective brand messaging presents a considerable strategic challenge.

Rucker points to a handful of well-known brands that have exemplified the strategic marketing approach. Old Spice is one company that has won by translating data into messaging. “Once they had a clear insight—in their case it was a focus on imbuing consumers with a sense of confidence—the brand engaged the consumer in a holistic campaign around that insight.” For example, the campaign for its Swagger scent demonstrated how Old Spice helped transform individuals from young boys who lacked confidence to adult men who had confidence in full supply. To illustrate the point, they showed the transformational journey of LL Cool J, Brian Urlacher, and Tony Stewart.

But before firing up the Twitter account or buying ad space on Google, Old Spice’s marketing team still asked itself the fundamental questions: What do we want to accomplish with our advertising, who do we target, and what’s our position? Answering those questions gave them an idea about how holistic the approach should be—and which platforms might most effectively convey that messaging. With that in place, they were able to work in conjunction with the creative minds of Wieden + Kennedy to produce a blockbuster campaign.

Even what might look like serendipity or a flash of inspiration is often the result of rigorous strategy. Consider Tide’s social media efforts during the 2013 Super Bowl, when the brand memorably tweeted during a power outage that halted the game: “We can’t get your blackout. But we can get your stains out.” The wherewithal to pull off such clever, on-brand social media responses was not coincidental. “Tide created an entire team to monitor that event,” Rucker says.

It is true that social media can make it easier for brands to participate in national or global conversations, responding to news events on Twitter is no substitute for strategy when it comes to defining a brand’s purpose. Social media is another platform on which to showcase that purpose. “It’s not purely about being clever in front of customers,” Rucker says. “Both Old Spice and Tide grounded their executions is strategy. They chose ideas that fit their brand.”

Tough Mudder, a company that organizes extreme obstacle-course races through mud, focused its first marketing efforts on social media. They spent their tiny budget targeting fireman, policemen, and former military personnel. But what made its campaign effective in the long run was the company’s strategic positioning: they’ve built an identity for their brand that has helped them enlarge their customer base.

“When it comes to social media, people are looking for a magic bullet. It’s a bit like Ponce de Leon’s quest for the Fountain of Youth—it just isn’t there,” Rucker says. “Social media is an evolving tool, and the most successful brands will be the ones that evolve with it. But in the end it’s just a platform. What you first need is a strategy.”

For more on marketing, see Kellogg Executive Education’s Strategic Marketing Communications and Kellogg on Branding programs.

Editor’s Picks

A mentor puts capes on proteges.

Pod­cast: How to Be a Great Mentor

Plus, some valu­able career advice that applies to just about everyone.

Kids decide whether to buy water or soda.

A New Way to Per­suade Kids to Drink More Water and Less Soda

Get­ting chil­dren to make healthy choic­es is tricky — and the wrong mes­sage can backfire.

Computational Social Scientists discuss solutions.

How Can Social Sci­ence Become More Solutions-Oriented?

A con­ver­sa­tion between researchers at Kel­logg and Microsoft explores how behav­ioral sci­ence can best be applied.

An entrepreneur enters an established company.

Buy­ing a Com­pa­ny for Its Tal­ent? Beware of Hid­den Legal Risks.

Acquir­ing anoth­er firm’s trade secrets — even unin­ten­tion­al­ly — could prove costly.


Take 5: Tips for Widen­ing — and Improv­ing — Your Can­di­date Pool

Com­mon bias­es can cause com­pa­nies to over­look a wealth of top talent.

Drug innovation at a pharmaceutical company

Every­one Wants Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Break­throughs. What Dri­ves Drug Com­pa­nies to Pur­sue Them?

A new study sug­gests that firms are at their most inno­v­a­tive after a finan­cial windfall.


4 Key Steps to Prepar­ing for a Busi­ness Presentation

Don’t let a lack of prep work sab­o­tage your great ideas.

Healthcare workers meet in a hospital corridor.

Video: How Open Lines of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Can Improve Health­care Outcomes

Train­ing physi­cians to be bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tors builds trust with patients and their loved ones.

A man tries to improve OR scheduling.

Here’s a Bet­ter Way to Sched­ule Surgeries

A new tool could dri­ve sav­ings of 20 per­cent while still keep­ing sur­geons happy.

Voters who do not trust each other.
Politics & Elections

Why Eco­nom­ic Crises Trig­ger Polit­i­cal Turnover in Some Coun­tries but Not Others

The fall­out can hinge on how much a country’s peo­ple trust each other.

A clerk scans brand trademarks.

Build­ing Strong Brands: The Inside Scoop on Brand­ing in the Real World

Tim Calkins’s blog draws lessons from brand mis­steps and triumphs.

two coffee growers harvest beans

How the Cof­fee Indus­try Is Build­ing a Sus­tain­able Sup­ply Chain in an Unsta­ble Region

Three experts dis­cuss the chal­lenges and rewards of sourc­ing cof­fee from the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Repub­lic of Congo.