How These ‘Second-Best’ Brands Capitalized On Chance the Rapper’s SNL Shoutout

And what other brands can learn from their fast-acting

Inspiration meets innovation at Brandweek, the ultimate marketing experience. Join industry luminaries, rising talent and strategic experts in Phoenix, Arizona this September 23–26 to assess challenges, develop solutions and create new pathways for growth. Register early to save.

With brands always searching for a big moment, how do they respond when that big moment is served up on national television, albeit in a playfully pejorative context?

Chance the Rapper’s opening monologue on Saturday Night Live presented brands with a taste of the spotlight, to which brands responded to in different ways—or not all.

Ever since Oreo’s Super Bowl tweet in 2013, brands have been more aware of opportunities to capitalize on real-time marketing by finding a relevant voice in the dialogue surrounding whatever trend, meme or news item that captures the internet’s attention.

This has led to war rooms surrounding marquee events and massive digital teams prepared to respond in real-time to events that have everyone talking. In January, had a digital team of 40 people working during the Super Bowl, ready to deliver brand messaging and look for the chance to engage.

Chance the Rapper, a Chicago native, celebrated being “second best” in a song he sang (with help from Kyle Mooney) to kick off the fourth episode of Season 45 of the iconic late-night comedy show. He professed his love of brands with presumably more famous and well-liked rivals. In many cases, the brand’s logo appeared on screen during a show that averages seven million views.

This posed two problems for brands to consider. On Saturday night at 11:30 p.m. ET, what sort of social coverage did they have to handle a totally unexpected mention on one of television’s most popular shows? And given that the show mentioned the brands as second best, is acknowledging the mention a tacit admission that their chief competitor is, in fact, superior?

Given the high-profile nature of the mention, brands may have felt pressure to seize the opportunity. If their fans were watching, wouldn’t they expect at least an acknowledgment?

Fourteen brands were mentioned as second best during the monologue, more than half of which totally ignored the moment. Six engaged at various points. Here is a breakdown of responses, as of Monday afternoon:

chart of brands responding to Chance the Rapper's SNL skit

So, what lessons can brands take away from the past 72 hours?

Timeliness is still important

Brands can still capitalize on big, relevant moments if they act decisively. Redbox and Qdoba were the first two brands to respond, and both brands seemed to enjoy relatively strong engagement. Redbox even adopted the hashtag “#SecondBest,” showing that embracing the label with self-deprecating humor can assuage the awkwardness of being mentioned alongside a fierce rival.

By Sunday morning, the moment had already passed. Brands that were late to engage saw virtually no traction. Chili’s Sunday afternoon tweet underperformed, and Caribou’s barely gained traction on Monday. The Sunday afternoon tweet from the White Sox performed well, but that likely had to do with the fact that Chance the Rapper wore the team’s hat on stage.

Focus on one’s own brand, not a competitor

Would Redbox probably have preferred not having Netflix mentioned just seconds before its own mention? Sure, but that didn’t deter the brand from embracing Chance’s positive mention and reaping timely engagement with its customer base. It also allowed for Redbox to enjoy some cross-pollination with Pepsi’s account, which has 10 times the followers:

It’s sometimes easy to forget that real people with real lives handle social media accounts, and an unexpected viral mention at almost midnight on Saturday night is a tough curveball for any brand. The small percentage of brands that were able to weigh in promptly capitalized. For the others, though, the window closed quickly and the payoff dropped significantly.

That sums up real-time marketing heading into 2020: If a brand can’t strike when the proverbial iron is hot, it’s probably best not to strike at all.