Mobile Marketer: Juno’s marketing lesson--Do not use hysteria to drive a message

By Michael Barris

Winter storm Juno was an opportunity for connectivity and engagement through mobile for some, but also epitomized forced marketing to forced hysteria, as forecasters who predicted a crippling blizzard would paralyze the metropolitan New York area missed the mark by a mile.

With mobile’s immediacy fueling high-speed brand-consumer interaction, a torrent of special offers poured forth, many of them irrelevant to users specific needs. The blizzard that never was (at least in the New York region) may be remembered as an example of why hysteria should not be allowed to drive a message. 

“There was definitely forced marketing to forced hysteria,” said Jeff Malmad, head of mobile and life plus with Mindshare North America. “I was targeted with a toilet paper ad on Twitter reminding me to stock up for the blizzard at 11 p.m. at night.

“Not really relevant to me at that time, but I understand the intent,” he said. “If this message was targeted to me early in the day or the day before, great! Get groceries and toilet paper.

“Early in the day all the headlines were ‘historic blizzard’ that later became ‘potentially historic blizzard,’” he said.

Quick information

For Mr. Malmad, the blizzard that fizzled reinforced a belief about the beauty of mobile. 

“Mobile is about immediacy and quick information on the go,” he said. “ does a fantastic job at this, but I jumped from my mobile device to the weather desktop site to learn about the storm in greater detail.”

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“Don’t force anything, be natural and fun, don’t use mass hysteria to drive a message,” Mr. Malmad said.

Initially, the National Weather Service in New York called the potential for an epic snowfall historic. Three-day snow totals could reach 24 to 36 inches, good enough to rival the biggest Northeast snowstorms on record, NWS said. 

But ultimately, the storm that effectively shut down New York was downgraded from a blizzard to a winter storm.

Up in Boston, residents received what was promised – up to two feet of snow.

But in the Big Apple, Broadway shows were canceled ahead of what was expected to be an historic blizzard. Several productions canceled Tuesday performances. 

A state of emergency was declared in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as the blizzard bore down. Drivers were told to stay off the roads. The operation of subways, buses and other public conveyances was effectively brought to a standstill.

Lines stretched throughout grocery stores. 

Marketers were quick to put plans into place to stay in touch with customers and make them aware of valuable services or offers by leveraging the one device many kept nearby constantly – the smartphone.

Effective mobile marketing is often about reaching consumers during the right moments when they are engaging on their phones about a topic of interest, opening the door for marketers to deliver a relevant message. When done correctly, this can help marketers build goodwill and lasting relationships with consumers. 

On Monday, many marketers in the travel sector were posting messages on social media and leveraging the #juno hashtag to make consumers aware of cancelled flights. 

One industrious hotel in New York, Yotel, made anyone stuck in the city without a place to stay aware that it had rooms available. The message listed the hotel’s convenient location near Times Square and included a “Book now” button.

As Juno bore down, threatening to be remembered as one of the worst winter storms in New York history, brands from Ann Taylor to DSW to Henri Bendel to Lord & Taylor jumped on a real-time marketing opportunity.

Their aim: to shovel out the path to purchase for customers by offering them online sales or free shipping via mobile technology. 

Free shipping

A mobile AnnTaylor ad went: “Snowed in? Get free shipping today only!

A Lord and Taylor mobile ad began: Snow Day. To celebrate, we’re offering free shipping today only!


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