This week was all about brands jumping on trending topics, which sometimes ends up being funny/interesting/successful, but far too often ends up in awkward silence, or worse.

The first big trend was Game of Thrones, but since I haven’t seen the end of the episode that everyone keeps talking about (everywhere – without spoiler warnings) I refuse to do even the minimum amount of research required to include it in this email, so instead we’ll focus on the second, and even bigger trend: The Great Mooning of 2017.

That’s right, we live in a world where an astronomical event is somehow an opportunity to sell gum. The bigger question, however, and why I’m writing about it is: When is it a good idea to jump on trends as a content opportunity?

Today, we saw lots of examples of great stuff, and others that were, not so much – the common thread of the positive: It fits in with what you’d typically expect to see from the brand. They didn’t jump way outside of their content plan in order to hop on board with a trend.

Examples of the great stuff:

  • AirBnb and National Geographic teamed up to put up a winner in a dome in the middle of Oregon and told the story through social: AirBnB Link
  • Denny’s is the King of creating ridiculous content (check out and this time was no different, plus they linked it to a promo: YouTube Link
  • Edu-tainment from a company that’s always in the business of eye protection: YouTube Link
  • And Moon Pie was all of us calling out the ridiculousness: Twitter Link

The not-so-much:

  • Dunkin Donuts. Not nearly funny enough for the length of the video: Vimeo Link. Also, just not good.
  • Krispy Kreme (tough day for donuts) introduced a chocolate donut, because eclipses are, dark? And chocolate is also dark. I guess? YouTube Link
  • DiGiorno tried throwing some Twitter shade, and… they’re definitely no Wendy’s Twitter Link
  • White Castle takes the awkward silence prize this time around: Twitter Link
  • And finally, the “who thought this was a good idea?” award goes to Toblerone: Twitter Link

Also, the weird

  • Chiquita made a video called The Banana Sun Cometh. If you get it, let me know: YouTube Link

So what?

Notice that good vs bad isn’t just who was selling stuff vs who wasn’t – the real determining factor was whether the content was interesting whether it came from a brand or not, and when that sync’d up with the brand’s products, that’s where the magic happens (ie. AirBnb).

The next time that a trend comes up and you wonder: Can we jump on this? Ask yourself: Can you create something that will legitimately be interesting/funny/educational regardless of the thing that you’re trying to sell. If you imagine yourself as a publisher, instead of as a brand, you can more easily filter out dumb ideas (cough Toblerone).

The reason that I care about this stuff so much is because I love great brand content, and it hurts me deep down in my social-loving-soul when we create garbage that turns more people off to brands on the internet.

Every week I pull together what’s been happening in social & digital including local stories, global news and specific updates and offer my un-edited opinion in an email called the Social Brief. To get it in your inbox every Monday, enter your address below.