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Situational Marketing: How Brands Use It and How You Should Too

Everything you need to know about situational marketing.

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By Ana Simova
content writer at Ranking Press

Marketing is a process that’s constantly evolving. Where brands used to advertise their products with big, broad, and expensive marketing campaigns, nowadays advertising is much more personal and affordable. This is where situational marketing comes into play.

In this internet era of digital marketing with a plethora of advertising opportunities and a continuously growing competition, it’s hard for brands to stay relevant. This is why the latest marketing technique, known as situational marketing, helps brands to not only stay relevant, but to also acquire new customers and with that, make more sales. 

In this guide, we’ll go over everything that has to do with situational marketing. From the benefits it’ll bring your brand and the different situations used for this type of marketing, to what tools you can use to look for the latest trends. We’ll also give you some examples by well-known brands so you can get inspired, but first, let’s see what situational marketing actually is.

What is Situational Marketing

Social events such as holidays, pop culture events, sporting events, sudden trends and so on are more often than not relevant for a mass audience. When brands respond to these events in order to promote a service or a product, or to simply raise brand awareness, we call this situational marketing.

Simply put, situational marketing is when companies use popular social events to draw attention to a product or service in order to sell it, and promote their brand in the meantime.

 These events range from a release of a popular movie such as Star Wars, a holiday like Halloween, a pop culture event like the Oscars, a sporting event like the Super Bowl, even viral internet phenomena such as “storm Area 51”. Anything that is relevant for a mass audience that has the potential to go viral, really.

Now that you know what situational marketing is, you might wonder about the benefits it can bring to your business. We selected the four most important ones, so let’s go over each.

Benefits That Situational Marketing Can Bring to Your Business

Brand Awareness 

First and foremost, situational marketing raises brand awareness. Besides selling their products and services, this is every brand’s ultimate goal. By utilizing a popular event and creating a marketing campaign around it, or by simply publishing one post that has the potential to go viral, you can grab the attention of your social media followers and potential customers and establish your position on the market. 

Post Reach

Over the past few years, organic reach on social media has significantly plummeted. Brands nowadays have to invest in social media advertising so their posts reach their target audience, so how does situational marketing fit here you might wonder? Well, situational content is usually fun, engaging, and shareable. By having these three qualities, situational content has the potential to be so shareable that it becomes viral. But even if that doesn’t happen, a good social media manager will ensure that the content is seen by enough people in order to make the desired impact. If not, you’ll at least know what to change and improve in your other situational marketing campaigns.

New Followers

By creating shareable situational marketing content that has the potential to go viral, brands not only get closer to their audience but easily reach new audiences as well. Situational content is usually so relatable that your current followers and some pages and groups will want to share it with their friends and audiences, and that’s the best way in which you can acquire new social media followers without spending a buck.

More Sales

Given that situational marketing has the potential to raise awareness of your brand, increase your organic reach, and bring you new followers, it’s safe to say that it’ll bring you more sales as well. Since situational content is usually used for promoting a new product or service, you can always include a link to what you sell in the description of the post, and with that increase the chances of making a sale. 

Situations and Events You Can Use for Situational Marketing 

Let’s briefly go over some components of situational marketing and what they entail so you know what type of situations and events to look out for.

News Events 

While it’s usually not a good idea for brands to be involved in politics due to alienating, even upsetting parts of their audience, it can be done if spreading a positive message. In fact, nowadays if companies distance themselves from important political and social issues, it can be seen as if they’re disconnected from current events, and with that, from their audience. This is confirmed in Cone Communications’ research where 9 out of 10 Americans believe that companies should address important social and environmental issues.

In order for this disconnect not to happen, you should have a point of view and take a stance on something that’s really important to you that’ll benefit society as well. Just make sure that your message aligns with both your brand’s values and your target audience’s interests and passions. 


Supporting a cause has become a big part of many brands’ marketing campaigns. People want to support companies who care about social causes and have a purpose, so integrating a cause into your marketing campaign is a win-win situation for everyone. Just take a look below where we give a few examples of brands that used situational marketing to their advantage to see how Iceland Foods raised awareness of their brand by raising awareness of the Amazon rainforest’s destruction.

Holidays and Calendar Dates

When it comes to situational marketing, you can always use special holidays and other calendar dates as an inspiration. Using international holidays can be a bit difficult because of the simple reason that everyone else is doing the same thing. However, there are some other minor holidays that are great for advertising purposes. Which ones you’ll choose depends on what your company is about. 

For example, if you’re selling coffee and coffee products, International Coffee Day is something you shouldn’t miss. There are other fun ones like National Pizza Day, Cuddle Up Day, Dress Up Your Pet Day, Opposite Day, Compliment Day, and many more that you can use as a part of your situational marketing campaign and surprise your customers and potential customers with your creativity.

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Pop Culture Events

Award shows like the Oscars or the Golden Globes, a major movie premiere like that of Star Wars, a show business news like Leonardo DiCaprio winning the Oscar, and so on, are events that fit perfectly in situational marketing. By using these events you can create interesting and engaging ads and posts where you can promote your products or services. Just don’t forget to prepare in advance when it comes to big events that happen every year.

Sporting Events

The World Cup, the Summer Olympics, Tour de France, and the Super Bowl are the four most watched sporting events in the world. Generating content from these events will give you attention and engagement, but don’t forget about your local sporting events that will potentially have the same effect with your local audience.

Sudden Trends

Online trends come and go, but despite their impermanence, you can capitalize if you get involved. Remember the ice bucket challenge? Created to raise awareness of ALS, it suddenly became an online viral trend which is when some saw the opportunity to expose themselves or their brands. So, look out for online trends like the Cinnamon Challenge or the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge, just make sure not to support uncontrolled trends that can quickly go bad, like the Bird Box challenge for example. Do your research first and if it’s safe and interesting to your target audience, you can think about getting involved.

Is your content marketing working? Check out our content marketing guide to learn the latest tips and strategies.

3 Tools to Learn the Latest Trends for Situational Marketing

So, how do you look for trends which you can use in your situational marketing campaign? Check out the following tools which can help you out.

Google Trends

Google Trends is one of the best tools when it comes to exploring and finding what is trending at this moment. With this tool you can not only find worldwide trend, but you can also search for trends in a specific regions.

You can look for different topics and compare them based on their popularity, like which musical artist or football team is the most talked and search right now, but also in the past months and years.

By using Google Trends, you can find some trending topics in your country that you can use to create an advertisement for your company. While writing this article, the most trending topic in the United States is the Earthquake that happened in Los Angeles.

So, if your business happens to be there, you can compassionately create a tweet that educates people on what to do and how to act during an earthquake, that’ll probably be shared and engaged with.

This is a quite simple and straightforward tool that you can use to find the most discussed topics in the last 24 hours on Twitter. Trends24 will give you the trending topics based on the country you select. With that information, you can then go on to create an advertisement that might have a chance to become viral.

With Trends24 you can also find worldwide trending topics and see what the most talked topics for each hour from the last 24 hours are. For those businesses that use Twitter as their main social media platform to advertise their brand and engage their potential customers, this tool can help them find the currently trending hashtags and discussions quite quickly.


Reddit is a website where people can post content in different user-created boards (subreddits), open a discussion in the comment section for each post, and rank posts by giving them a positive or negative vote.

This is the perfect place for you to find trending topics, given that the way in which Reddit works is giving attention to the most popular (most upvoted and discussed) posts in the last 24 hours. When using Reddit, you can also search for older popular posts or find the most upvoted posts in a given subreddit.

This social news aggregation platform can help you create a great situational marketing campaign, not only by finding trending topics but also by reading people’s opinions in the comment section of those trending posts.

4 Examples of Brands that Used Situational Marketing to Their Advantage 

Now that you know what situational marketing is, what events you can use for your situational marketing campaign, and how to find trending topics, let’s give you some successful examples that might inspire you.

Oreo – You Can Still Dunk In The Dark

Thinking fast and acting quickly is a brilliant way to promote your products or services that can sometimes get you a lot of attention. One such example is the Oreo commercial that was published on their social media accounts during the Super Bowl XLVII.

During the Super Bowl in 2013, while millions of people watched the game, a huge power outage happened which stopped the game for a half an hour. While the power was out, Oreo acted quickly and capitalized on the opportunity.

Their creative team created a simple yet powerful ad image that they published on their Twitter profile. As soon as this happened, many people started talking about it and some online news outlets even shared this funny ad.

This is a great example of how situational marketing can benefit your business, especially if you think and act fast. With one simple tweet, Oreo has created a more popular ad than all the other ads that aired during the Super Bowl which cost millions of dollars.

Bud Light – Area 51

Area 51 is a very mysterious place and many people love to guess what exactly happens there. The most popular theory for quite some time is that Area 51 is the place where all the caught aliens are kept.

After a Facebook event was created that quickly turned viral, Bud Light decided to use this popular conspiracy theory in a fun and exciting way, and create social media posts, video ads, alien-themed merch, and limited-edition cans to celebrate the aliens from other planets that are here on Earth.

The main tagline of this advertising campaign was that any alien who escapes from Area 51 will get a free beer. Quite original and funny, isn’t it? Many people thought so, and that’s why this ad campaign was a great success for Bud Light.

Iceland Foods – Rainforest Awareness

In a highly emotional video ad, Iceland Foods shared a story of an orangutan and the horrible way in which the palm oil industry destroyed his home. By educating people and creating awareness of the horrors that occur in the rainforest, this supermarket chain created a viral ad overnight.

Although this ad was banned for some very bizarre reasons and didn’t air on TV, it prospered and thrived online. The increasing worry and discussion about the destruction of our rivers, forests, and oceans made this idea possible.

Iceland Foods quite brilliantly used the ugly truth to show us the worst part of the process of how palm oil is created. In a moving and heartbreaking way they educated the public about the rainforest destruction and the orangutan deaths, and in the meantime promoted their company. They also vowed to stop using palm oil in their products, at least until its manufacturing process stops being the reason for rainforest destruction.

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Tecate – Beer Wall

Tecate’s Beer Wall commercial is another great example of situational marketing. This popular beer company in Mexico decided to use one of the hottest and most discussed topics in the 2016 US presidential debates by creating a clever ad.

They created a video ad where a couple of guys gather on the 3 feet border wall to hang out and drink beer. The ad was launched on the night of the presidential debate between the two presidential candidates from the last US elections.

The ad immediately went viral. People started talking online, shared it on social media, and even the mass media didn’t miss the opportunity to talk about it.

In many cases when brainstorming for an idea, it’s smart to avoid hot and divisive political topics since they can easily backfire. However, in this case, Tecate did a good job and made a successful commercial with the help of situational marketing.

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