Maybe paying tribute to MLK on Twitter really did work for brands

Brands capitalizing on holidays. It’s been happening now since Oreo posted the now-famous–and brilliant–visual highlighting its support of Gay Pride.

But, I think many people (present company included) think brands are making a big mistake trying to piggyback on holidays–even the made-up holidays like “National Ice Cream Day.”

Sure, some brands go a bit over-the-top with the whole holiday thing–witness this post by ZzzQuil yesterday:


But, what about the lion’s share of the brands who really were just trying to pay tribute to a great man yesterday? Does making a post on Martin Luther King Day really make sense from a brand point of view? Why even bother?

That’s the question I’m constantly asking. So, I thought I’d start doing a little research–however crude.

I took a look at three major brands–three brands that made, what I believe to be, a thoughtful post in support of MLK day. I looked only at the metrics I could “see”–numbers of RTs and Favorites. Surface-level? Yes. But, certainly indicators of success when it comes to reach on Twitter and most likely engagement stats the brand is at least monitoring.

So, I reviewed Google, Starbucks and Delta. Here’s what I found.  


 The previous seven posts made by Google prior to Monday’s post featuring MLK day garnered the following number of RTs/Favorites:

* 108/84

* 334/195

* 31/34

* 77/69

* 592/217

* 62/57

* 155/110    




The previous seven posts made by Starbucks garnered the following number of RTs/Favorites:

* 313/794

* 2,899/2,929

* 830/2,045

* 248/421

* 565/1,521

* 485/1,395

* 905/1



The previous seven posts made by Delta garnered the following number of RTs/Favorites:

* 59/87

* 8/15

* 6/9

* 3/8

* 6/13

* 10/16

* 30/45


So, I’m no math major, but by my count, there were only two tweets among the three brands that had more RTs or Favorites than the MLK tweets yesterday.

And, in some cases, it wasn’t close.

Starbucks’ MLK tweet had 3,463 retweets and 2,613 favorites. Now, Starbucks did have one other tweet in the last seven with 2,899 RTs and 2,929 Favorites, but other than that, no tweet in the last seven had more than 1,000 RTs OR Favorites.

Delta’s MLK tweet had 148 RTs and 122 Favorites. No other tweet in the last seven had more than 59 retweets or 87 Favorites (and five had 10 or less RTs and four had 15 or fewer Favorites).

Google’s MLK tweet had 419 RTs and 303 Favorites. Google did have one tweet with 592 RTs and 217 Favorites, and another with 334 RTs and 195 Favorites. But, the rest had fewer than 155 RTs and 110 Favorites.

So yes, it was a very small sample size. And no, the research is far from scientific. But this quick analysis goes against what I had initially thought: MLK posts by brands may have generally out-performed recent brand posts on Twitter.

I know, right?

Let’s look at a few more:





The previous seven posts made by Macy’s garnered the following number of RTs/Favorites:

* 18/29

* 10/22

* 7/21

* 16/25

* 12/17

* 22/31

* 5/13





The previous seven posts made by JetBlue garnered the following number of RTs/Favorites:

* 14/18

* 24/30

* 8/12

* 5/10

* 1/10

* 12/24

* 0/2


American Express



The previous seven posts made by American Express garnered the following number of RTs/Favorites:

* 7/4

* 7/15

* 2/4

* 7/11

* 2/1

* 2/2

* 7/6


So again, American Express’ MLK tweet had  74 RTs and 38 Favorites. No other tweet in the last seven had more than seven RTs and 15 Favorites.

JetBlue’s MLK tweet had 38 RTs and 44 Favorites. No tweet in the last seven had more than 24 RTs and 30 Favorites (with four having fewer than 8 RTs and 12 Favorites).

And Macy’s MLK tweet had 154 RTs and 108 Favorites. No other tweet in the last seven had more than 22 RTs and 31 Favorites.

Clearly, tweets in support of MLK resonated with fans. In some cases, hugely more than an average branded tweet.

What does that tell us?

A few possibilities come to mind:

* Branded holiday tweets may not be as ill-advised as we thought. Or, at least, as this guy thought 🙂

* MLK Day may be an anomaly. We just don’t know. My gut tells me MLK Day is one of those unique days–there’s widespread support and passion for a man who changed our nation. Will a tweet in support of Columbus Day solicit the same kind of results? I’m not so sure.

* Brands are getting smarter. We saw very few brand gaffes with MLK Day yesterday. Yes, the ZzzQuil’s of the world were out there, but they were few and far between. At least compared to prior holidays and events (think Oscars last year). I get the sense that many brands are getting the hang of this internet thing 😉

What do you think? I mean, you can’t really argue with the numbers above. But, do you think brands are doing the right thing in posting about holidays like MLK Day?


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10 comments on “Maybe paying tribute to MLK on Twitter really did work for brands

  1. dferrari says:

    Any type of tribute/quote is fine by me, but the brands like Zzzquil that played off “I have a dream” to sell their product? Awful. Also, I know these numbers are good but brands should keep in mind that they don’t ALWAYS have to chime in about pop culture. Just when it’s relevant to their audience. AARP talking about Betty White’s birthday? Perfect. But Oreo making an MLK cookie? NO. (By the way the last example I totally made up!) And then there’s this: I have no words.

  2. kmatthews says:

    I think @dferrari is spot on. In each of these cases, the content was simple, sincere and not (like ZzzQuil) creating a turn of phrase to tie into its own branding and sell a product.
    And, Arik, for real, how can you not tweet on National Ice Cream Day! What kind of social media manager are you? 😉

  3. MattLaCasse says:

    I’m with kmatthewsand dferrari. As long as the post is about honoring MLK, then there’s no issue. Try to tie in “brand awareness” or whatever, and you’re off the rails. It all comes down to using taste and common sense.

  4. SydneyOwen says:

    I’d be interested to see what the kind of sentiment was coming through on the RT’s. Sure, it’s awesome if you have a ton of RT’s, but if the majority is coupled with negative comments, then is it really all that great? The examples you showed are good ones, and didn’t induce vomiting upon reading. For the brands who are trying to sell products and half-ass a connection with a special day, I wouldn’t be prancing around shouting about the engagement, because the sentiment is probably shit.

  5. arikhanson says:

    SydneyOwen That’s exactly why I chose these brands though, SydneyOwen. When I scanned through some of the RTs, most were positive. RTs/Favs are definitely not the best metric in the world here, but they are the one I can see. i’d be interested to hear how brands are measuring the effectiveness of these “holiday” posts, too. VERY interested.

  6. arikhanson says:

    dferrari That Global Village thing–yeah, that was in Duluth, Minn. Proud Minnesotan today!

  7. MikeSchaffer says:

    There is no denying the numbers – the MLK Day posts sure got more on-network interaction. But did they DO anything for the brands? Kudos to JetBlue for being the only brand covered here to actually DO something to honor MLK above and beyond a quote and/or hashtag. I still feel…icky…about holiday-driven content that doesn’t have a clear tie to your business. It feels like RT-bating pandering.