Poland Spring Missed A Realtime Social Media Splash, And It Doesn’t Matter


poland springTuesday night US Senator Marco Rubio (@MarcoRubio) delivered the Republican response to United States President Barack Obama’s (@BarackObama) State of the Union Address.

During his impassioned speech to the American People, Rubio must have gotten a little dry and awkwardly leaned over to get a drink of water. The moment was immediately a trending topic on Twitter and by far the most talked about part of Rubio’s response.

As part of the Twitter chatter were plenty of references to the brand of water Rubio chose, Poland Spring. And of course, since Oreo pulled a much celebrated realtime social media response during the Superbowl blackout, everyone waited to see what Poland Spring would do to capitalize on the moment.

Rubio had a simple acknowledgement on Twitter after he spoke, showing he has a sense of humor about his first meme.


Surely Poland Spring would respond as well with something awesome, right? They would realize this urgent opportunity and make us all laugh with a brilliant tweet I’m sure.

That’s a negative ghost rider.

Not only did Poland Spring not respond on Twitter, they have not been active on Twitter for over two years.

poland spring twitter

Clearly a huge social media opportunity was missed here, right?

Could Poland Spring have responded right away, in a clever and creative way, ignoring the politics and celebrating how bottled water is always there for you when you need that moment of refreshing H20?

Sure. But it doesn’t matter. And here’s why.

1. Poland Spring Is Already Killing It

Poland Spring is already the top spring water in the US at around 10% of the bottled water market. They are pretty close to the top bottled water period, PepsiCo’s Aquafina which has ~13% of the market. Anecdotally, I see Poland Spring everywhere, so it was not shocking to see Rubio reach for the brand last night.

So when we think about a “missed opportunity” let’s remember that Poland Spring is owned by Nestle, a Swiss multinational megabrand that has already lifted the natural water label to second place among the competition and social media had very little if anything to do with it.

Poland Spring is still winning.

2. Social Media Is Not About Big Splashes

Oreo got a lot of love with their realtime Superbowl moment. But they also have built up a huge audience through Facebook ads and a very intense 100 day Daily Twist campaign on Facebook. They have invested in a long term strategy of audience growth and consistent quality content creation. And they have built a realtime team with their various agency partners that can be assembled when needed.

Those last two words are important, when needed. Oreo was not sitting around with a realtime social media command center last night, waiting for Rubio or Obama to mention the the delicious cookie. They likely had a community manager that would have been able to respond in some way, but not in the full creative mode that they enjoyed during the superbowl, an event that they planned as an integrated campaign and realtime opportunity.

No one else took the spotlight. No other bottled water or energy drink or tea jumped in and sponsored Rubio’s trending topic. The animated gifs of Poland Spring being handed to the Senator will still feature the brand name, whether they replied within the hour or not. Poland Spring was still trending whether they replied or not. And plenty of news outlets still mentioned their brand name, whether they responded or not.

Poland Spring is still winning.

3. The State of The Union Is Not The Superbowl

Oreo’s big moment was made bigger because Oreo outshined dozens of big brands that were spending tens of millions of dollars to reach the largest engaged media audience in the US.

The State of the Union address did not have big sponsors, massive commercial budgets, or even many brands that cared to live tweet the event.

This means that Poland Spring is still at the top of the media story the next day. Their social media team or community manager could come in the next day, discuss with the PR team how to respond without pissing off Republicans or Democrats, get something rushed through creative, post it to Facebook, and still get a New York Times feature out of it.

Poland Spring Facebook

Poland Spring is still winning.

4. Not Every Brand Can Be A Tasty Cookie

Oreo is an inspiring social brand. The work that Weiden Kennedy and 360i have done with their creative and social media programs is worth raising up as a great example of social marketing.

But the little secret about Oreo’s success is they are a sugar filled, delicious cookie that most Americans associate with positive, happy memories in our lives. Not everyone can take what Oreo has done and replicate it with similar results.

Bottled water is a popular product, but not one we have many traditions or memories about. It simply is not as sexy of a product when half of people drink just as much water out of their tap as they do out of a prepackaged bottle.

It’s pretty easy to love and share a cookie. It takes a little more awareness building to get us to pick one plastic bottle full of water more often than another.

Poland Spring is still winning.

5. Real Time Is Overrated

Yes, it would be wonderful if every business had a realtime social media command center that was manned 24 hours a day by 5 community managers, 3 designers, 2 copywriters, a couple managers, an analytics lead, and someone from the PR team.

Reality is a little more stark. Even having one or two 24-hour staffing solutions for social is a large cost to have to sell to the higher ups, especially if they are just waiting around on Twitter waiting for Marco Rubio to get dry mouth.

Twitter is a great platform for customer service, media brands, and fan engagement. It allows brands to tap into an always-on internet culture that thrives on breaking news and the human touch. But it is not for every brand. I would advise Poland Spring to have SOME presence on Twitter, responding to service issues, engaging with fans, and amplifying messages when they can. A single community manager working a couple hours a day would more than cover this. But I also understand why they decided to abandon Twitter and focus on Facebook.

Poland Spring is still winning.

So, social media is not important?

I realize I am writing this on a blog that focuses on teaching better social media marketing. But for any business, small or large, a sound social media strategy starts with business objectives. And the truth is, social media is not going to be the best solution for every business objective. It can support almost any goal a marketer might have. But a business needs to look at everything, asking if advertising, content marketing, customer service, email marketing, PR, SEO and other options are a better first step.

Social media marketing is really great at loyalty. It is an excellent influencer marketing resource. It thrives at supporting customer service efforts and amplifying press mentions.

And integrating social media into other marketing efforts is something many businesses can do better.

Poland Spring could have definitely gotten more press by having an always-on social media staff ready to respond to this rare moment. But I cannot see the meeting where those resources are committed (with the reality I have outlined above). And I am not convinced the benefit of such resources would even be worth it for this specific brand.

It is important for marketers to understand the value AND the limitations of social media. Social media is important, but it is still one of several tools for businesses.


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