Top of Mind: In Gord (and Baseball) We Trust

November 2, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

When people’s attention is captured, they’re typically one of two things: engaged or distracted.

Engaged is the kind of focus where people chose to spare their precious minutes on consuming content that means something to them or contributes something valuable to them.

Distractions are usually the opposite: we don’t choose to spend our time on them but ultimately stumble across a piece of content and get pulled from our everyday worlds for a minute or two.

Either way, engaging or distracting, both are occupying our minutes. Both are Top of Mind.

This past week, there were two things in particular that got consumers’ attention.

The first was the passing of Gord Downie.

Canadians coast-to-coast were very emotionally invested in this. Why? Because Downie was truly (and correctly dubbed) Canada’s “most honest historian.”

His deep lyricism elevated our county’s stories so much that he became a unique symbol of national pride for us. Downie, and The Tragically Hip, were exclusively ours.

Even when his songs’ narratives were painful, telling truths we’d rather not hear, his work never strayed from his goal of uplifting the true heroes of our country – from residential school escapees to hockey players.

His way of pulling everyone in our country together created a very special moment over this past week. So, everyone was posting about him. And (mostly) rightly so.

While most brands posted photos of Downie from some of his most iconic performances, Spotify dedicated playlists to him. There was even a sing-along at Nathan Phillips Square.

So, what were the best reactions? Truthfully, the people who simply said some nice words and left it at that. This is not the time to cash in (ahem, HBC). Often, and especially as marketers, it takes more effort to do nothing. After all, jumping in on the momentum of topical events seems like a win-win situation.

However, when people have really invested their emotions in something like this, brands need to be the bigger person and let the moment ride out. 

Then again, our neighbours to the south found themselves distracted by something that seemed to ruin the moment for them: YouTube and The World Series.

Whether or not YouTube meant to do it, its ad behind home plate seemed to very strategically place its iconic red play button right in the center of the screen.

This case was essentially the complete opposite of the first. Here we have the unique moment of LA versus Houston, the latter who has never won a World Series. But instead of a moment where brands shouldn’t jump in, YouTube did, and despite the angry feedback, was highly successful in getting the attention it wanted.

Makes you just want to reach out and hit play, right? Exactly.

Was it a coincidence or planned? Still undecided as no official comment has been made. That said, YouTube did tweet out the following which leaves us with our suspicions.

At the end of the day, the difference between these two moments is really just context.

In order to make a good move on a good opportunity, brands should first understand the setting of that opportunity.

It seems simple, but that kind of awareness is the fine line between content that wins people’s time and content that is completely out of touch.


This post was produced in partnership with The Canadian Marketing Association. Want to know what else is right up there, Top of Mind? Sign up for a MyCMA profile to receive CMA’s Top 5 Picks newsletter. 

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