Reporter's Notebook

Oh no-no they didn't!

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In my conversations the past few weeks with people who work in online and social-media advertising, I mentioned that I was keeping an eye out for the first restaurant brand to attempt some real-time (or near-real-time) social-media marketing. Not half an hour after I told two account execs from Google’s restaurant practice that I hadn’t seen it yet from a foodservice company, Domino’s Pizza announced its “DomiNoNo” promotion with Major League Baseball that might just be this industry’s first attempt at real-time social marketing.

The best example of what folks are calling “real-time” social would be Oreo’s now-famous tweet during the blackout delay during the Super Bowl. When the lights went out at the New Orleans Superdome during the big game, like everybody I started refreshing my Twitter feed constantly. Like everybody, I loved Oreo’s quick thinking and its simple image and caption, “You can still dunk in the dark.”

It’s like the snarky hive-mind of social media that gave us @InvisibleObama during Clint Eastwood’s Republican National Convention speech or the “Binders Full of Women” meme after a presidential debate, but harnessed for the purpose of marketing a brand.

According to various reports like this one in Forbes, Oreo’s tweet was retweeted 15,000 times and garnered the brand 8,000 new Twitter followers, and a corresponding Facebook post was liked nearly 20,000 times. Oreo went from 2,000 Instagram followers before the Super Bowl kicked off to 36,000.

The brand was certainly opportunistic, but the “dunk in the dark” tweet’s success was no happy accident. Days after the Super Bowl at Expion’s Smart Social Summit in Raleigh, N.C., Oreo’s coup at the Super Bowl was a major topic, and one of the executives involved with it, Matt Wurst of 360i, said the idea came about in near real time at Oreo’s “social command center” set up just for the Super Bowl. Oreo had shelled out more than $3 million to buy a Super Bowl ad, so the brand gathered its marketing executives and folks from its agencies — 360i, Weber Shandwick, Mediavest and Wieden + Kennedy — to be in one place ready to respond to whatever buzz came about from the commercial.

Judging from the success of Oreo’s Super Bowl response, I’m sure more brands will think about how to set themselves up with rooms full of “social creatives” on call to produce and disseminate clever images, GIFs or hash tags when a viral moment breaks out.

So what’s Domino’s doing? It’s DomiNoNo promotion will offer a free two-topping medium Handmade Pan Pizza to the first 10,000 subscribers of MLB.TV who log in to MLB.com/dominos the day after any Major League pitcher throws a no-hitter. The order is for carryout only and can only be placed online.

The promotion ends after 10,000 promotional codes are given away and is valid after only the first two no-hitters that get tossed this season.

It’s a clever promotion for the chain’s partnership with MLB.TV. But what makes it real-time social? Maybe I’m stretching the definition a little bit, but throughout the baseball season, whenever there’s a no-no in progress, Domino’s and Major League Baseball will start promoting the offer with a #DomiNoNo hash tag on their Twitter handles, as well as with live video on MLB.com and the MLB.com At Bat smart-phone app.

Let’s say Justin Masterson has a no-hitter going through the sixth inning of any game this year, during what I’m predicting to be a dream season for my Cleveland Indians. Suddenly, the #DomiNoNo hash tag starts flying around Twitter, and fans of baseball and pizza alike will start following the game and talking socially about Domino’s as Masterson and the Tribe keep retiring batters.

It’s probably no coincidence that this real-time promotion and Oreo’s big social win were tied to sporting events, one of the last true appointment-viewing shows we prefer to watch live in this era of DVRs, online streaming and cord cutting. “Social command centers” or “social newsrooms” can be set up thoughtfully in advance of big events like a Super Bowl or NCAA men’s basketball tournament games — or, like Domino’s promotion, I’m sure, could convene on the fly when a pitcher has a no-hitter through six innings.

Eventually, I’m sure restaurant brands could ready themselves to respond socially in this way to lots of big events we see coming, like a State of the Union address or Game 7 of the World Series, or ones we couldn’t possibly predict — like the sheer bedlam in Cleveland when my beloved Indians finally win that big game.

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Reporter's Notebook is NRN's newsroom blog, where our editors give their points of view on news happening in the restaurant business.

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