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25 Oct

You literally didn't see this coming.

Stoa Daily Challenge #8

Step into the shoes of Anukool Kumar, India Marketing Head for Tinder, and plan a pivoting strategy to compete against Bumble, the current market leaders.

Play the challenge here.

Now, to today's issue.


After spending a few years on Twitter, I’ve realised how important it is for one to become meme-worthy. If you can achieve that your brand recall is just one meme revival away.

When speaking of brand recall, memes, and Twitter, it is difficult to not associate all three with Elon Musk. Whatever our personal opinion about him may be, we can’t ignore him.

Some factors that make it difficult to indulge him certainly have to do with the credibility he has built for himself in the business and tech world. But on a slightly different note, here are two things that make his comments and “brand” stick on the internet that is otherwise too noisy:

1. It's unpredictable

There isn’t a predictable method to what catches his fancy. Unlike most influential people in the world, his communication style is rarely preachy. The fact that he makes mistakes on the fly, and in public view makes it easy to imagine that he has some traits common to all of us.

Musk has become somewhat infamous in the cryptocurrency community due to his oft-wavering support of the tech leading to tremendous currency crashes. In a similar vein, in May 2020, he tweeted that Tesla's stock was, in his opinion, too high, and it soon took a noticeable tumble.

This goes to show that Musk's cavalier attitudes may seem like fun and games, but, in some circumstances, they can have a genuine impact on the real world.

The unpredictability also makes one wonder what his true intentions are because most of them seem too radical to be believed at first.

2. It's ephemeral

Regardless of how impactful and unpredictable his takes, they have an ephemeral equality which makes it easy to get away with some of the things lots of other people would get cancelled for. That fine balance between being taken at face value and being taken seriously is what Elon Musk has cracked.

But why are we discussing Elon Musk in today’s piece?

I think there isn’t a contemporary brand or business that has cracked ambush marketing as well as Elon Musk.

If you scour the internet, the few instances when ambush marketing was successful will show up but they’re limited to sports events, which draw a huge viewership as well as official sponsors.

Ambush marketing or ambush advertising is a marketing strategy in which an advertiser "ambushes" an event to compete for exposure against other advertisers.

The term was coined by marketing strategist Jerry Welsh, while he was working as the manager of global marketing efforts for American Express in the 1980s. Most ambush marketing campaigns aim to associate a brand with the prominence of a major event, without actually being an "official" partner or sponsor of said event.

Because of how infrequent the big events are, the likelihood of brands engaging in ambush marketing is also less. Secondly, ambush marketing directly affects the official sponsors who’ve paid to feature on the marketing collateral. Moreover, the after-effect of such a marketing tactic is short-lived. It could boost sales figures or increase curiosity about a certain brand for the time being but it can never guarantee brand recall or create loyalty.

If there’s only one thing more brands could emulate from Elon Musk, it is the ability to ambush, and actually make it count. But ambush marketing continues to be dominated by businesses with deep pockets. It is not a strategy that a fledgling start-up can take up because it is expensive and there is a considerable amount of risk associated with the strategy.

Are there alternatives to ambush marketing for startups?

Yes. I think social media has created a level playing field to copy the tactics of ambush marketing without spending the big bucks.

I often notice brands create engagement on Twitter by commenting on each other’s posts and challenging a competitor’s launch using smart copywriting or visuals.

In the tweet above, I love how simply Godrej has taken on Ikea. It may not directly impact the sales for Godrej Interio but it sends out a clear message about consumer mindsets in India that Ikea wouldn’t have known from the get-go.

However, I feel more than creativity what ambush marketing requires is a stellar understanding of the industry you operate in, and an awareness of how you differentiate yourself from competitors.

The end goal for ambush marketing goes against all that we’ve come to value in the modern day — data, RoI, insights, and predictions. The strategy offers the most unlikely way to think of a brand: hijack an ongoing conversation and grab eyeballs riding on an existing content tailwind.

It seems counter-intuitive at first, but that’s exactly why having a go at this branding strategy could churn results you didn't see coming.

Related read:Why shitposting works for Elon Musk

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