by Michael O'Neill
January 27th, 2014

Following the viral success of last year’s Oreo ‘Blackout’ tweet, brand social media teams will be chomping at the bit during next Sunday’s NFL Superbowl, eager to be this year’s real-time marketing sensation.

Well, they may be already too late.

Earlier today, at the annual Grammy awards, an innocuous tweet from US-based sandwich chain Arby’s became an instant viral Twitter hit. With singer Pharrell Williams appearing at the event in an oversized hat, not dissimilar to the one used Arby’s logo, the brand quickly took advantage, tweeting “Hey Pharrell, can we have our hat back”.

The response was quite breathtaking. Last year’s Oreo tweet – now the go-to case study for real-time marketing presentations – currently has 15,854 tweets. That is over a 12-month period. The Arby’s tweet at the time of writing is three hours old and had 58,000 retweets and rising. Fast.

So what has made the Arby’s tweet so popular?

Unlike the Oreo Tweet, Arby’s contribution has no clever creative execution. In this instance though, it wasn’t needed. It was a simple, throwaway line. It spoke to its audience through humour, connecting its highly-recognisable brand identity with something that was already beginning to trend on social media: Pharrell’s hat.  The singer’s choice of head wear was OTT, but in a very knowing way. Arby’s simply caught the mood and rode its luck.

Does the number of retweets matter? In terms of sales, time will tell. Visibility, though, is another matter. As we saw from the Oreo example, a smart bit of social content can create a whole load of free media. In Arby’s case, on Twitter at least, the Pharrell tweet takes the brand into the stratosphere. Arby’s Twitter posts rarely break out of double figures. By the end of today, it could be in possession of a six-figure Tweet. And with Pharrell boasting 2.7 million followers on Twitter, more than ten times the number following Arby’s, that’s a lot more potentisl exposure for the sandwich chain.

Michael O’Neill is digital managing editor, Asia Pacific, at Weber Shandwick

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