The Carrot Blog

It's no secret that Twitter is known as the "real-time marketing" platform. As an individual, I find myself checking my Twitter feed whenever I want to see the latest conversations around current news or a specific event. This is what has led Twitter to relevancy and also explains why many brands and agencies have pushed for things like a "social media war room" during the Super Bowl or Oscars (thanks Oreo). The problem is that being relevant in real-time often comes as a detriment to the brand's voice. Recently, however, a new approach has turned this challenge into an opportunity. Some brands have started to "hack" Twitter.

In advance of 2014 NBA All-Star weekend, Nike Basketball changed their Twitter name and avatar to "Li'l Penny." Their username @NikeBasketball remained the same, but the bolded "name" that appears first on the Twitter feed was Li'l Penny. For those of you unfamiliar with Li'l Penny, he was a talking doll (voiced by Chris Rock) created in the '90s as part of a Nike ad campaign for former NBA superstar Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway. While Nike is not the official sponsor of the NBA, many of their athletes wore shoes specifically created for All-Star Weekend. In an effort to leverage All-Star weekend as much as possible, Li'l Penny led followers of the @NikeBasketball Twitter (and Instagram) feeds on a tour around NOLA and provided incredible access to Nike athletes. The campaign was a success as the Nike "Gumbo League" versions of the KD VI, Lebron 11 and Kobe 9 Elite all sold out immediately.

So what was it about this campaign that led it to success? Beyond the blend of real-time marketing around a relevant event and leveraging of a familiar voice, Nike also purchased promoted Tweets which ensured @NikeBasketball followers would see the Li'l Penny content. By changing its name to Li'l Penny, Nike was able to change their Twitter personality overnight. Suddenly Li'l Penny was given a mouthpiece to a million fans, and after the weekend, Nike wasn't left with "yet another brand account" to create content for. As a matter of fact, the Monday after the game, Nike reverted its avatar and name to Nike Basketball and Li'l Penny said goodbye. Brands like Oscar Mayer with #TransparentGrandpa and HBO/Game of Thrones with #RoastJoffrey have also experienced success using this hack.

As the social web continues to disperse across different platforms it will become harder and harder for brands to apply a consistent voice that applies to everything. Instead of diluting the brand, consider taking over an entirely new personality next time. As a result, you might find your brand actually has something worth listening to.