Brands that Rocked Reactive Marketing in 2021

Timing is everything when it comes to reactive marketing, and one well-timed, well-turned tweet is all it takes to go viral. At CMA, we love a disruptive creative campaign so, let’s throw a spotlight on some of our favourites from this year.

But first, what even is reactive marketing? It’s when brands respond to news, events, talking points and trends in real time. The perfect opportunity to show personality, reactive marketing can be risky and hard to pull off.

With barely any time to consider, create and publish the content, the right tone must be struck to be sure it is well-received. No brand wants to seem desperate, alienating or insensitive, so it can be easier to stay silent.

But done right, reactive marketing is a clever strategy to appear relevant and relatable, and may be talked about for weeks, months or years to come. Here’s our selection of four instances of social media marketing teams at the top of their reactive marketing A-game.

#1 Weetabix

It may not have been Halloween, but Weetabix stirred up utter horror when they posted a unique breakfast combination back in February. Encouraging followers to try their very own cereal topped with baked beans (yes, you read that right), Weetabix tagged Heinz in this stellar social stunt.

 With the team behind the campaign safe in the knowledge that food will always divide opinion (think Marmite, chocolate and chilli, or McDonalds milkshake-dunked fries), shock, laughter and outright disgust ensued. Take a look at how brands in the industry took to Twitter, to have their say on this bizarre British banter.

But it wasn’t just those you’d expect to see that responded. In fact, some profiles just couldn’t stop themselves from getting involved in Weetabix’s quirky, controversial convo. From the likes of the NHS to Christian Aid, social teams were in a prime position to get creative, and they didn’t disappoint.

#2 Aldi

When Aldi found themselves in a legal dispute over a chocolate caterpillar-shaped cake (of all things), they turned a negative into a positive. Instead of shying away from the accusations that their Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake was too similar to Marks & Spencer’s original Colin the Caterpillar, they took the story into their own hands

In a series of social posts with an ingenious #FreeCuthbert hashtag dedicated to the cause, they sought support from their followers and successfully pivoted public opinion. Not holding back, Aldi were clever to poke fun at the situation, using infamous M&S taglines and second-to-none legal puns.

Nothing but direct, Aldi brought up similar supermarket caterpillars to coax competitors into the conflict. And while Marks & Spencer could’ve remained corporately quiet, they deserve some kudos for their meme reply in a defeated social media situation. Court cases may be a serious matter, but the subject was simply silly and lent itself to this clever campaign.

#3 Ikea

Ikea are often ahead of the game when it comes to reactive marketing, and they scored a corker of a campaign following a viral incident at the Euros. Their Canadian page was on the ball in announcing a ‘Cristiano’ bottle which they insisted was purely for water, following a dramatic press conference that saw footballer Cristiano Ronaldo offended by the appearance of two Coca-Cola bottles.

Cristiano’s cries for ‘agua’ were emphasised in their renamed product, labelled ‘for water only’. But it’s not just their Canadian team who have been championing viral opportunities. Just a few months earlier, Ikea Greece jumped on the ‘Bernie bandwagon’ and got creative with the most popular meme of 2021.

If you missed the many memes of Bernie Sanders across the internet in January, congrats on having a life! But also, here’s some context. An image of the bored-looking US senator, wearing a winter jacket, mittens and face mask on a folded chair at Joe Biden’s inauguration became a January mood.

Ikea Bernie Chair Reactive Marketing

The Swedish furniture retailer took advantage of this viral moment and invited its followers to channel their inner Bernie Sanders with two of their products – a folding chair and an oven glove. The simplicity of both campaigns saw high praise, with people calling for their marketing team to get a pay rise.

#4 Innocent Drinks

Last but not least, let’s hear it for the reactive marketing champions. This isn’t the first time we’ve admired Innocent Drinks’ ingenious marketing, but their trademark humour deserves a place at the table. 

Not only does the smoothie company break the fourth wall when it comes to brand social, with meta posts that make them human and relatable, their reactivity is first-class. Responding to events, TV programmes, news and – in true British style – the weather, Innocent Drinks feel like a familiar friend. 

Below is just a small collection of their reactive marketing finery. The posts speak for themselves… Innocent’s social is smooth, and we’re not afraid to say it.

The best brands aren’t just pitching products, they’re pitching personality. To be seen, they’re on top of their reactive marketing game and making campaigns that will be truly remembered.