Big companies often buy into celebrity endorsements. Whether through ads, personal appearances, or social media, they clearly think that the big name brings along an audience and association that helps their brands. But celebrity deals can be costly, which means now you need sharp and complex analysis to see if the difference they make is worth the money paid.

But what if you legitimately could get help from a name without going through managers, lawyers, or licensing companies? Arby’s had pulled it off by leveraging mockery from Jon Stewart on his departure from the Daily Show. It was clever, but, in a way, Stewart had made it easy by directly providing material over the years.

Eat24.com went one better. The Internet service that lets people have food delivered from restaurants managed to masterfully leverage the controversy and publicity machine known as Donald Trump. The Donald has never mentioned the company, so far as I know. Instead, some bright marketing person recognized that Trump’s previous remarks about Mexican citizens, combined with a scheduled appearance in the GOP presidential debates, could fuel a promotion to gain big attention online.

A couple of days before the event, the company said it would provide one free taco every time Trump said “Mexico” during the debates. Well, more specifically, each time Trump mentioned the country, Eat24 posted a $5 coupon code on its Twitter account.

The reaction among its customers was electric. There are dozens and dozens of tweets featuring the @Eat24 Twitter handle, most of which had pictures of the delivered food the people had ordered — at least among the messages that Eat24 retweeted.

Not only was it just customers, as media Twitter accounts like Newsweek’s chimed in to broaden the reach. Yelp, which seems to have some sort of partnership with Eat24, got involved. Websites like Mashable spread the news in advance.

This was pure brilliance. They got to use Trump’s name online, which would have been great for search engine optimization, and double down with mention of the debates. How much better could it get? Here are some lessons for those of us who don’t stride through the upper reaches of social marketing genius:

  • Find the right name. You don’t want to look like you’re beating up on someone or taking advantage. Trump’s truculence keeps him clearly out of the victim category.
  • Wait for the right circumstances. Eat24 could have tried something like this when Trump first make remarks about Mexico, but it wouldn’t have worked. There was no natural trigger to build interest and excitement. But assuming that he’d repeatedly say Mexico during nationally-televised debates was like betting that liquid water is wet.
  • Identify an organic connection. There are many things Eat24 could have assumed Trump would say. But Mexico was not just likely, but offered a natural bridge to a popular type of restaurant food.
  • Use humor. By keeping things light, the company revved up customers, appealed to a large portion of the public, all the while avoiding anything that could backfire.
Published on: Aug 7, 2015
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