Reactive Marketing: Stand-out On the Ball Campaigns

24.08.21 | by Sophie Connolly

In the same way that the public reacts to big news or trends by sharing them and their opinions on social media, many brands take it upon themselves to use these hooks as inspiration for their own campaigns. 

Companies are becoming more observant and reactive than ever and by picking causes they know their audiences are passionate about or are trending around the country or world, they aim to form even stronger connections with customers. 

These news hook campaigns still take some careful consideration, despite the limited timeframe. Before we deep dive into some stand-out examples, these are the key points we recommend here from the central brand team when it comes to reactive content:

  • Stay neutral when addressing external topics and keep it fun to avoid any negative attention; make your product the focus and let current events highlight it  
  • Keep ahead of competitors; act quickly so you can be the first company connected with the situation or event
  • Be ready – launch smoothly. You can’t predict tomorrow’s news, but as you would plan a seasonal calendar, research big events throughout the year in anticipation of something popping up
  • Keep up with trends. Browse social media and websites daily to get a good and immediate indication of what’s newsworthy

With that covered, let’s check out some brands that smashed it in this area.


A great example of staying neutral and putting the product at the centre of attention was IKEA Greece’s reaction to the U.S. Senator Bernie Saunders’ unique look at the inauguration of Joe Biden back in January 2021. 

The politician became an instant meme with his mittens and fold-up chair, appearing in all sorts of images from The Simpsons sofa to the Game of Thrones chair. Together with local agency Ogilvy, within 24 hours of the event IKEA created a simple, effective ‘ad’ connecting the items to their own collection – and at a discount price too!  

“​​Bernie Sanders’ simple and practical inauguration look became an instant meme. And since IKEA is the simple and practical expert, this was a perfect opportunity to create a branded meme about how to get the Bernie look in two simple steps,” Ogilvy writes on its website.

Yemeksepeti Banabi

In February 2021, the music world received a shock when electronic duo Daft Punk announced they were splitting after 28 years of creating hit track after hit track. The news spread quick and fast – and Delivery Hero’s own Yemeksepeti Banadi were hot on the heels of this huge revelation. 

Utilizing their own cool riders with helmets obscuring the identity, one simple snapshot with a clever caption gained the brand mass attention. 

Across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn, users read: “They did not split up. They just switched industries.”

Uploaded within 48 hours of Daft Punk’s dramatic video sharing the news, Banabi’s post quickly spread; in fact, it reached 4M+ impressions in total plus 660K+ engagement. One user even commented on the reactive approach the brand took!


Back in 2013, Oreo garnered the attention of the press and people around the world when it used a famous power cut to its advantage in what many still name to this day as one of the most successful real-time marketing efforts. 

During the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII a power outage caused total darkness in New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome stadium, which lasted for over half an hour. Oreo’s quick-thinking team took advantage of this event and with one simple, clever tweet at the right moment, created with the help of agency 360i, they went down in history.

The straight-talking, memorable tagline, ‘You Can Still Dunk in the Dark’, combined with the dramatic imagery showing the sandwich cookie in all its glory quickly went viral with thousands of likes on Twitter and Facebook in as little as no time. 

As mentioned above in the tips on how to nail reactive marketing, Oreo didn’t just wing this post. In fact, its 15-strong social media team were joined by copywriters, designers and strategists poised and ready to respond in record time during the game – no matter what the moment. On top of that, Oreo and 360i had already planned final posts depending on which team won, ready to share as soon as the game ended. 

“The new world order of communications today incorporates the whole of the way people are interacting with brands right now,” Sarah Hofstetter, from 360i, told Wired shortly after it was published. “Once the blackout happened, no one was distracted – there was nothing going on. The combination of speed and cultural relevance propelled it to the forefront.”

foodora Norway

Our brand in Norway went pink in one of its boldest moves to-date in August 2019. When it was announced that 2,500 parking spaces in Oslo city centre would be removed to make more space for cyclists, FRP (Progress Party) politician Christian Tybring-Gjedde expressed his anger. 

“We do not want it that way, we want our parking spaces,” he told the country’s 2 News. “We need the car to get to work and to shop. Honestly, you go down to Glassmagasinet to buy a huge vase. Are you going to have it in your backpack and ride home with it? That’s not how the world is.”

Picking up on the most specific details of his quote, foodora didn’t hold back in addressing Christian’s complaint – and took it close to home (literally). Picking a location on the street he lives, where spaces outside his apartment were due to be replaced, the brand launched this head-turning ad. 

Using its simple new illustration style, the caption above the vase reads: “News! Now we deliver a large vase from Glassmagasinet to Gyldenløves gate,” accompanied with the conditions, “Applies only to parliamentary representatives residing in Frogner”. Pushing the service as the selling point, and putting its smart humour and wit in the spotlight, the brand made a real impact.

foodora shared the poster on social media pages with the caption, “Let me know if you need help delivering a vase, Christian Tybring-Gjedde. We’ll ride it to you 🙂”, it received nearly 3K reactions on Facebook (including many laughing emojis) and hundreds of comments. Even the deputy mayor of Oslo at the time, Kamzy Gunaratnam, shared the post and wrote: “Haha, foodora, important to have humor in everyday life,” while many local news outlets covered the move. 

While it did receive some negative reactions over the brand appearing to take a political stance, head of marketing Lise Aarstrand was quick to defend the idea, telling outlet Kampanje, “We are not political in any way. Good bicycle offers are important for everyone who lives in Oslo and everyone who works with us. We have 350 cyclists in Oslo who depend on good cycle paths to work safely… I think most of our customers understand that it is allowed to have a little humour.” 

“An important part of foodora’s brand is the pink cyclists, and cycling is obviously an essential part of the business, and then it is natural that they get involved in this topic,” added Simen Frogner of We Are Live agency, who just so happens to share the same surname as the area. “After the play from Tybring-Gjedde, we immediately thought we should do something for foodora, so we sent them a suggestion. They chuckled and nodded, so then we cycled to Frogner and mounted the board.”


All it took was simply rearranging the iconic three letters of KFC to get the world’s attention in 2018.

When the fast food chain ran low on its key ingredient in the UK, causing hundreds of restaurants to close, people were left furious. Reactions were so extreme that news outlets from around the globe covered customers’ angry rants, including moaning about having to eat at Burger King instead, and the hashtags #ChickenCrisis and #KFCcrisis began trending on Twitter.

From an outside perspective, it looked like an issue the brand couldn’t recover from. However, determined to connect and empathize with the lovers of finger licking good chicken, KFC piggy backed off the news reports. With help from its agency Mother, the brand released one of its most memorable campaigns to date.

“We knew it was very serious,” Mother London’s executive creative director Hermeti Balarin told AdWeek. “So by that moment, when we locked ourselves in a room to coming up with it, was literally 24 hours.”

On a red backdrop, an empty chicken bucket lies sadly on the ground – but the distinct difference is that the letters boldly spell out ‘FCK’ rather than the brand name. Beneath it is a down to earth, open apology to customers, admitting the chicken shortage at a chain serving just that is “not ideal.”

Despite Meg Farren, KFC UK and Ireland’s CMO, not being sure about how it would go down, the public were quick to praise the honesty and appreciate the humour – just check out the reactions and hugely impressive numbers below.

Another great example of acting quickly, but thinking wisely; the brand ran the idea past their lawyer first to ensure it was sound and safe, and they certainly kept it fun. Of course, in this case they couldn’t keep it neutral as the issue was focused on them, and they took full responsibility by being the ones to apologise to customers. This brutally honest ad won them several big awards, including three golds and a silver at the 2018 Cannes Lions.

So as you can see, by following simple guidelines and ensuring the boxes are ticked, even simple ideas can win the hearts of the public. 

We hope you feel inspired after reading this article, and that you have taken away some key points when ‘planning’ a reactive campaign.

24.08.21 | by Sophie Connolly