Abhishek Borah, PhD, Sourindra Banerjee, PhD, Yu-Ting Lin, PhD, Apurv Jain, and Andreas B. Eisingerich, PhD
Super Bowl XLVII is infamously known as the ‘Blackout Bowl.’ When the entire Mercedes-Benz Superdome lost power for over thirty minutes, football fans across the country took to social media to pass time. Unexpectedly, it was Oreo, milk’s favorite cookie, that filled the void; Oreo posted a tweet reading “No Power? No Problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” This timely tweet was immensely impactful for Oreo’s social media presence and firm value. Further, it left marketers across the globe pondering the impact of similar social media actions, formally known as improvised marketing interventions (IMIs).
The Nature of IMIs
We define IMIs as social media actions that are composed and executed in real time proximal to an external event. That is, improvised marketing interventions are a simple concept. They are highly effective social media actions because they utilize quick wit in real time in response to a situation or event. Quick wit is situational humor that depends on timeliness and unanticipation.1,2 Humor is a universal concept that has been utilized throughout history to decrease tension, enhance a leader’s relatability and likeability, and generate an encouraging atmosphere. Thus, quick wit is specifically dependent upon timeliness, proximate response to an external event, and unanticipation, the unexpected way in which someone responds to this event. The final component of an impactful IMI is improvisation—the social media action that cannot be planned.
Recent research indicates that due to the rise of digital communications (including Internet and social media advertisements), consumers are faced with more advertisements than ever, ultimately leading to consumer fatigue and ineffective marketing strategies.3 Upon evaluating the success of Oreo’s Superbowl XL VII tweet, our team took an interest in IMI’s potential for brand enhancement. Due to the unpredictable and witty nature of IMIs, our team believes IMI messages will enhance virality and ultimately firm value.
Do IMIs Actually Work?
We understand that improvised marketing interventions are unique and exciting for consumers, but will they generate a tangible competitive advantage? Our team conducted a series of five studies to evaluate IMI’s potential for gain.
First, our team declared the need to ensure IMI messages lead to greater virality than non-IMI messages. Upon conducting statistical analysis of Oreo’s tweet during the Blackout Bowl, as compared to their previous non-IMI posts, we discovered significant evidence of IMI’s potential to increase firm virality. Further, our second study revealed that timeliness boosted virality by a significant level. IMIs best capture their potential for virality when humorous posts occur within a close timeframe to the external event. Next, our third, fourth, and fifth studies further developed the significant impact of humor and timeliness, as well as humor and virality, and firm value. We gained significant reason to believe IMI’s are more effective than non-IMI messages, and, when they consist of humor and timeliness and humor and unanticipation, firm virality will increase.
To determine if this virality results in a tangible advantage, our team evaluated firm value following the posting of an IMI message. Utilizing the concept of the efficient market hypothesis, any change in stock price should reflect the arrival of new information, including an effective IMI.4,5 Thus, in part two of our third, fourth, and fifth studies, our team utilized varying methods to examine firm stock prices, as stock prices reflect firm value. Ultimately, we discovered a significant relationship between IMIs and firm value. Thus, it is clear that improvised marketing interventions are effective means of attaining a competitive advantage, even in an overly saturated environment like social media.
Real Estate Implications
It is no surprise that social media is a resource vital to an agent’s success. Research indicates social media is the preeminent source of high-quality leads for real estate agents.6 Further, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Internet use is at an all-time high. Specifically, web browsing has increased by 70%, TV viewing increased by 63%, and social media engagement increased by 61%.7 As such, agents must understand the nature of digital marketing and capitalize on any opportunity for advances. Our research strongly suggests the use of improvised marketing interventions will lead to increased virality and firm value. Thus, agents and firms must capitalize on opportunity for growth.
Due to IMI’s need for spontaneity, agents (or their firm’s marketing team) must monitor their external environment and react to external events promptly. Those managing social media accounts should have significant workplace autonomy. Further, agents need to be aware of current events and understand which external events are good opportunities for an IMI. Our team declares the need for future research regarding which types of events will be the most impactful IMIs. However, we currently believe the best IMI opportunities involve messages related to regularly occurring tentpole events (e.g., the Super Bowl or the Grammys), specific events with details that remain uncertain (e.g., which character will be killed in a popular television show), specific, well-known events (e.g., messages about the birth of a royal baby), and messages relating to trending topics (e.g., #YannyorLaurel or #TheDress). As of now, our team advises against the use of IMIs regarding events maintaining a very negative valence (e.g., earthquakes), due to uncertainty of results. Lastly, real estate agents must understand that IMI’s maintain a ten-hour window of influence before becoming largely irrelevant.
Oreo’s Blackout Bowl tweet cost the company nothing on a day where advertisements cost an average of $4.5 million.3 Improvised marketing interventions maintain an enormous opportunity at a fraction of traditional advertising expenses. Ultimately, through the respectful use of quick wit, IMIs enhance virality and firm value, almost immediately, at essentially no cost.
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Borah, Abhishek, Sourindra Banerjee, Yu-Ting Lin, Apurv Jain, and Andreas B. Eisingerich (2020), “Improvised Marketing Interventions in Social Media,” Journal of Marketing, 84(2), 69-91, https://doi.org/10.1177/0022242919899383.
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- Brant, Charles S. (1948), “On Joking Relationships,” American Anthropologist, 50(1), 160-62.
- Freud, Sigmund (1928), “Humour,” International Journal of Psycho- analysis, 9(1), 1-6.
- Wu, Tim (2016), The Attention Merchants. New York: Penguin. Wyer, Robert S., Jr., and Collins II (1992), “A Theory of Humor Elicitation,” Psychological Review, 99(4), 663-88.
- Fama, Eugene F. (1998), “Market Efficiency, Long-Term Returns, and Behavioral Finance,” Journal of Financial Economics, 49(3), 283-306.
- Sharpe, William F. (1964), “Capital Asset Prices: A Theory of Market Equilibrium Under Conditions of Risk,” Journal of Finance, 19(3), 425-42.
- National Association of Realtors Research Group (2019), “Real Estate in a Digital Age,” https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2019-real-estate-in-a-digital-age-08-22-2019.pdf
- Kantar (2020), “COVID-19 Barometer: Consumer Attitudes, Media Habits and Expectations,” https://www.kantar.com/Inspiration/Coronavirus/COVID-19-Barometer-Consumer-attitudes-media-habits-and-expectations
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About the Authors
Abhishek Borah, PhD
Assistant Professor of Marketing, INSEAD
Dr. Abhishek Borah’s (PhD – University of Southern California) research areas include the use of language in the marketplace, managing brand crisis, and computational linguistics. His research has appeared in leading academic journals such as Journal of Marketing, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Customer Needs and Solutions, Harvard Business Review, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Marketing Research, and Marketing Science. Moreover, his research has been featured or highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, Ad Age, Forbes, Nature, Fast Company, and numerous others. Due to his extensive contributions to research Dr. Borah was named a 2019 Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar. Prior to his academic career, Borah worked for McKinsey & Company, India to provide strategy and consulting services to businesses.
Sourindra Banerjee, PhD
Associate Professor of Marketing, University of Leeds
Dr. Sourindra Banerjee’s (PhD – University of Cambridge) research interests include intentional marketing, innovation, sales management, and social media dynamics by applying cutting edge econometric models on large empirical datasets. His research has appeared in leading academic journals such as Journal of Marketing, Journal of Product Innovation Management, International Marketing Review, Journal of Management Inquiry, and Journal of Business Research. Additionally, his research has received mentions from sources across the world including Economic Times, Business Standard, Science Daily, India Empire, Cambridge Business Magazine, and several others. Dr. Banerjee was also named a finalist for the prestigious 2016 Marketing Science Institute/H. Paul Root Award and 2020 Sheth Foundation Journal of Marketing Award, along with many other academic awards and recognitions. Prior to entering the academic world, Banerjee served as the Deputy Manager of Sales for Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd.
Yu-Ting Lin, PhD
Teaching and Research Associate in Marketing, Imperial College London
Dr. Yu-Ting Lin’s (PhD – Imperial College London) research interests involve the intersection of human mind and digital technology including emotions, data-driven marketing, and service innovation. Her research has appeared in several significant academic journals including Journal of Marketing, European Journal of Marketing, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, Simulation Modelling Practice and Theory, and many others. Additionally, Dr. Lin has four patents on software including interactive a-publishing templates, sharing data through mobile apparatus, conversion methods of mobile applications and an integrated platform with personalized experience. She has also participated in a residency program at IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where she had a joint study on the mobile application use case.
Visiting Researcher at Harvard University, CEO and Co-Founder of MacroXstudio
Researcher and Entrepreneur Apurv Jain’s latest venture MacroXstudio seeks to generate socially and commercially impactful α (outperformance) by combining domain expertise with technology to utilize thousands of new alternative data. Previously, Apurv was the co-founder of a 10- person team at Microsoft that specialized in applying alternative data towards predicting macroeconomic and behavioral trends to profitably manage a $100 million portfolio for 5 years. His practical experience includes managing a $3B credit portfolio as a portfolio manager, a senior researcher role at the global macro hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, and options trading at Deutsche Bank. His academic appointments were as a senior data scientist at Microsoft Research (MSR) and as a visiting researcher at Harvard Business School (HBS) where he published a book chapter and various academic articles in top computational social science conferences, economics journals and the Journal of Marketing. He is an advisory committee member of the Financial Data Professional Institute (FDPI) and a mentor at HBS Field X.
Andreas B. Eisingerich, PhD
Head of the Analytics, Marketing and Operations Department and Professor of Marketing at Imperial College London
Dr. Andreas Eisingerich (PhD – University of Cambridge) is best known for his research regarding brand attachment, consumer engagement, service innovation, and relationship marketing strategies. His research has appeared in several important academic journals including the Journal of Marketing, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Service Research, Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal, Journal of Medical Internet Research, and many others.Further, Dr. Eisingerich acts as a reviewer for the Journal of Marketing, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Service Research, and Research Policy, and has worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, UNAIDS, World Health Organization, WWF, and many others.