Poland Spring Shows Us How to Take Advantage of Viral Status

Poland Spring RubioFor agencies and businesses alike, creating content that goes viral is the pinnacle of online marketing. Some companies are lucky to have it happen once, others manage to create content multiple times that reaches viral (or close to it) status. Going viral isn’t an easy task – there’s quite a bit of luck to it as well as the importance of all parties knowing how to react to a situation. If one thing is off, it might not go viral. Recently the internet has witnessed a strange story grow from Twitter to viral in less than a day.

Poland Spring and the State of the Union

As is customary, the opposing party to the President’s will give a response to the State of the Union speech. Everything was going to plan, and the speaker for the Republican party, Marco Rubio began his speech as normal. But then people started to notice a problem of sorts – Rubio had a serious dry mouth problem. Then, as Ben Popken at NBC writes, “As the world watched, Rubio dodged off to the side of the camera, took a slug from a half-pint Poland Spring bottle, and continued reading from the teleprompter.”

This story slowly caught on attention late Tuesday night. The first to start the viral train moving were users on Twitter who realized how bizarre, ridiculous, and hilarious the whole situation was. Throughout Wednesday of this week it went viral, gaining traction in blogs, social media, and the mainstream press. It probably peaked in popularity late Wednesday and into today, but you can bet others will write about it for a while longer.

Beneficial for Poland Spring?

This is a great example of how the unexpected can turn into the sought-after viral marketing content. Even Rubio realized this when he brilliantly tweeted a picture of the famed Poland Spring bottle, acknowledging the popularity of the whole situation and demonstrating his light-heartedness about it. This was a wise move by Rubio.

Not long after, Poland Spring decided to jump on the social media popularity aka “the biggest surprise product placement the water company could hope for” as Laura Stampler reports for Business Insider. Poland Spring posted a funny picture of a Poland Spring water bottle admiring itself in a celebrity’s prep room. Good stuff, Poland Spring.

Poland Spring Made One Mistake

Unfortunately, Poland Spring could have capitalized even more on the unexpected and viral attention it received. How? As Ryu Spaeth wrote yesterday on The Week, Poland Spring’s reaction was “far, far too late. Tweets that included the words “Rubio” and “water” peaked between 10 p.m. and midnight.”

I like to give Poland Spring some credit here: this is a little bizarre of a story to go viral. But then again it’s important to keep an eye on Twitter during any national event or events related to it. You really never know what could happen. Poland Spring was caught by surprise, for sure! They have still received a great deal of press, even though it wasn’t optimal use of their viral opportunity.

What’s the Takeaway?

Viral content can appear out of nowhere. Poland Spring just realized this fact. They did their best to make the most of it. But it’s important to recognize, as agencies and businesses, that paying attention to big events as they happen and as people react in real-time on Twitter is vital to capitalizing on opportunities.

What do you think about Poland Spring’s handling of this viral event? Did they do enough? What more should they have done?


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Patrick currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is studying for a Master's Degree in Intercultural Relations. Upon graduation from Penn State in 2008, he spent two years overseas in Kyrgyzstan with the U.S. Peace Corps. While writing is currently his chosen way to put food on the table, he loves fitness and exercise, which he believes makes up for his avid computer gaming habit.

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