This Company Went Viral Without Offending Anyone (And How You Can Too) | Hacker Noon

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@orengreenbergOren Greenberg

I create predictable growth engines for tech companies leveraging my signature data-driven approach.

After four years of extreme political polarization, who would have thought it would take a landscape gardening company to reach across the divide and unite America through apolitical humor?

This is precisely what happened, following the recent Rudy Giuliani press conference debacle, a press conference which was to be held outside the Four Seasons as announced by President Trump via Twitter.

Trump announced on Twitter that the press conference was to be held at the Four Seasons, Philadelphia, implying that it would be held outside the prestigious “Four Seasons” hotel. 

But, after the Four Seasons put out an official statement denying any affiliation with the Trump campaign, the internet was confused.

To the public’s delight, clarification soon followed. The conference would not be held outside the four seasons hotel. Instead, it would occur outside the premises of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, a family-owned business located in Northeast Philadelphia, nestled between an adult book store and a crematorium.

Nobody has confirmed why the press conference was held where it was. It’s assumed that it was a mistake made by someone at the Trump campaign, possibly an intern or tired staffer. The public wasted no time enjoying both the mix-up and the location.

Seize Every Opportunity

A high-profile political event is a chance to do some creative marketing. What became fodder for the media and Trump’s opponents was quickly spun into a business opportunity by the landscaping company.

The Four Seasons Landscaping Company didn’t ignore the politics and go on with business as usual; they acknowledged and recognized the press conference in front of their business and capitalized on it with new merch all while staying neutral and finding common ground with all Americans. In fact, they were was quick to dispel any suspicions of political alliance on their Facebook page, stating:

“Our team at Four Seasons would have proudly hosted any presidential candidate’s campaign … we strongly believe in America and in democracy. We hope our fellow Americans can join together and support all local small businesses during this time.”

Flexibility is key to a small business’s chances of survival. Things will change, and companies need to be able to change with them

Four Seasons demonstrated their ability to be flexible and respond to rapid change. By Sunday night, the business had released a line of hoodies, T-shirts, hats, and stickers cheekily featuring “Make America Rake Again” and “Lawn and Order” slogans. The next day they released “Lawn and Order” face masks. 

By Tuesday, they were out of stock.

According to data from SemRush, the number of visitors to the website went up by over 180% since the press conference. Google searches score in the United States for both “four seasons” and “four seasons landscaping” leaped, from 1 to 50 out of a 100 point scoring system.

FSTL got two things very right. Firstly, they utilized their sudden fame as hosts to a Giuliani press conference. They then looked for creative ways to ride their viral moment by hiring a social media manager, creating merch, and building an online community where none existed before. To trend is one thing, but taking advantage of it requires imagination and the ability to take action and make decisions quickly. 

Avoid Playing Politics

Whatever the owners’ political leanings might be, a landscape gardening company is likely to have customers on both sides of the aisle. They recognized the importance of having a marketing strategy that took into account all their customer segments.

Four Seasons toyed with Trump slogans without debasing them, cleverly retrofitting them to promote their work line.

The chord they struck was one of a company enjoying its moment in the sun and playing along with the day’s theme. It would be difficult to imagine either liberals or conservatives getting offended by the light teasing shown in FSTL’s new merch.

To Republicans, it may read as an innocent hat-tip to the president. To Democrats, it could be interpreted as gentle mockery. Either way, Four Seasons Total Landscaping created a win-win strategy, bringing in new customers and making sure to not alienate any of their clients all while staying true to their brand. 

The Risks of Playing Politics

In the age of political polarization and social media, taking a political stance can be risky for companies. Research suggests taking a stand on an issue can hurt a company’s reputation more than its bottom line. And while there are numerous examples of companies that benefited from having their political views aired, it is a path the few have seen profits from in the long run.

After The Washington Post revealed Stephen Ross, an owner of SoulCycle, would be hosting a fundraising event for President Trump, the fitness company faced a threat of boycotts. According to one analyst, the company saw “a plunge in class sign-ups” over the following month that was unprecedented in its history.

SoulCycle customers are typically young, urban, and environmentally conscious. Favorably Democrat-leaning, in other words.

To protest the Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance asked drivers to avoid taking rides from JFK airport for an hour.

Uber switched off surge pricing to help transport stranded passengers. In doing so, it faced the ire of the #deleteuber campaign and alienated many of its drivers. CEO Travis Kalanick was forced to stand down from Trump’s economic advisory council.

Uber’s miscalculation was to step into the fray with definitive action. It switched off surge pricing. Motives aside, the decision was interpreted as political.

Be Authentic-and Use Current Events to Your Advantage

Using current events for marketing purposes without alienating customers means linking your brand with what’s happening authentically. 

Oreo took advantage of the power outage at the 2013 Super Bowl with its now-famous tweet:

Four Seasons didn’t ask for a presidential press conference outside its garage door. But it got one. Having distanced itself from any party affiliation, it called on with the business of doing business by embracing the moment. 

And it did so in a way that leveraged the recognizably political Trump brand while weaving its own identity into the merchandise it designed. The company played along with the prevailing narrative.

The MAGA narrative.

The press conference mix-up narrative.

Everybody was already talking about it. Four Seasons Total Landscape merely mowed the lawn in the same direction.  

Going Viral

Going viral is every marketer’s dream. Viral marketing is leveraging the networking effects of social media platforms to widely and quickly spread a promotion or brand.

One way to go viral is to encourage user-generated content. The strategy is to get social media users to express themselves through the lens of your brand. 

Straight Outta Compton, the biopic about NWA, launched a “Straight Outta” meme generator. NWA fans would create their own memes, share them on social media, and bring attention to the film.

Going viral is hard, but a carefully created campaign that connects with your target market stays authentic to your brand and is timely gives you a good chance of grabbing that sought-after moment of virality.

But whether you leverage some excellent luck or execute a well-planned campaign, authenticity is always vital.

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