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Does Trendjacking Work: And Should You Be Doing It?

Every few days it seems, a new buzzword is born into the world of content marketing. Like most good buzzwords, the term “trendjacking” comes with just enough variety of meaning to spark some old-fashioned controversy.

What is trendjacking?

In essence, trendjacking is simply the act of capitalizing on an existing trend in order to bolster one’s brand in the marketplace. Trendjacking can be fortuitous or horribly ill-advised. The outcome depends on how the message lands contextually in the view of the audience.

Does Trendjacking Work, And Should You Be Doing It?

Trendjacking can mean free publicity

It can even reinforce or define a brand identity. Take, for example, Las Vegas’ response to the viral explosion of Prince Harry’s unfortunately public Vegas escapade. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) posted a decree calling for a partying boycott on all people who exploited Prince Harry. The decree included the hashtag #knowthecode (the code, of course, being What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas).

The message, printed to look like a formal decree from the 19th century, playfully recontextualizes the well-known Las Vegas campaign while remaining completely consistent with the Las Vegas brand. What started as an ad in August has become a core message on the LVCVA website, Las Vegas.com.

Playing with culture

These days, people expect more from advertising. With brands so accessible to people through social media, audiences are responding to socially intelligent brands. A key element to trendjacking is playing with culture. By altering the meaning or significance of a trend, a brand stands to underscore its own distinct point of view inside the larger cultural context. This is the essence of brand positioning.

Trendjacking, as a term, has itself become a bit of a trend. But the truth is, the phenomenon has existed throughout the history of mass marketing. After all, the Boston Tea Party was never about the tea; it took a cultural trend (drinking tea), and integrated it into a profound political message: No taxation without representation.

Throughout history, people have reinvented cultural trends. You could argue that Andy Warhol was the king of trendjacking. He played with the repetition of popular cultural images, reinventing them in a way that defined both his unique position in the art world and his legacy via the Andy Warhol brand.

Should your brand be doing it?

Is trendjacking a smart move for you and your business? It depends on what you mean when you use the term.

If you plan on using trending hashtags to spam up the feed, then no, don’t do it. At best you’ll damage your own reputation; at worst, you’ll be blocked. If you aim to use trendjacking as a tool for making current trends more relevant to your B2B audience, to play with a trend to illuminate your position in the common culture, or to help your customers understand current marketplace trends, then trendjacking makes an awful lot of sense.

There is nothing wrong with capturing a trend and reinventing it as your own. Just make sure doing so adds value. The key lies in knowing your brand and (with a little luck) striking with impeccable timing.

Do your research

One more bit of advice before you put on your trendjacking pirate’s hat: do your research. In many cases, trends are a reflection of cultures and communities with rich back stories and beautiful nuances. Skull fashion, for example, is clearly influenced by the rich cultural heritage surrounding Dia de los Muertos.

Before you make any social media updates or send out postcards announcing a trend-based event, make sure you understand the trend’s origins, and public sentiment toward that trend.

Failing to understand a trend’s back story can not only lead to missed opportunities, but can also propagate cultural misunderstandings or make your brand come off as superficial. While trendjacking may not be new, the customer-centric world in which we live today requires you to pay close attention to the origins of trends and cultural references if you plan to make them part of your marketing toolkit.

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Images:  ”Illustration depicting a screen shot of an internet search bar containing a trending concept  / Shutterstock.com


Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. Chamber specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. As a small business expert, Megan specializes in reporting the latest business news, helpful tips and reliable resources, as well as providing small business advice. She has significant experience with the topic of small business marketing, and has spent several years exploring topics like copywriting, content marketing and social media. When she’s not publishing a weekly newsletter to educate small businesses on the vast importance of building up their web presence, she likes to keep her finger on the pulse of the latest small business products, services, apps and other reviews. She also keeps tabs on the foremost events for small business owners to attend. Megan spends much of her time building partnerships and establishing new relationships on behalf of ChamberofCommerce.com. With a strong suit for managing business partnerships and developing partner relations, she often cultivates topics around the partnerships she’s established by reviewing and highlighting what makes each business unique. She prides herself on keeping up with the diverse variety of services each business specializes in to spotlight new offerings. With her extensive repertoire, Megan regularly contributes to a growing number of publications, like Business.com, Disability.gov, Vistaprint, Yext, Infusionsoft, among many others. She can be reached at [email protected] http://www.chamberofcommerce.com

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Comments
  • Trendjacking can be advantageous because trends are always changing so you have a wide range of ideas on how you come up with your strategy. However, since people consider these trends funny and entertaining, they frown upon those who play badly. So be careful and don’t try too hard trendjacking or else it will reflect poorly on your business.

  • Megan:

    No form of hijacking will work according my view. I get bad vibes of the word, “trendjacking” coming from the word hijacking (of planes, web sites, etc.). The trend should be your friend and you should be ahead of the curve, but I don’t see any use of trying to game the system by doing shortcuts.

    The example of Andy Warhol is illustrative as a symbol of the hyped pop-culture.

    I don’t understand this passage could be linked to trendjacking:

    “After all, the Boston Tea Party was never about the tea; it took a cultural trend (drinking tea), and integrated it into a profound political message: No taxation without representation.”

    It was the tax (without representation) on tea that made the teakettle boil over once for all and made the colonies to break free from the King England. Could you say that it was a catalyst? The English had learned the citizens in the colonies to drink tea and then they took that away with the new tax. But of course it was a deeper meaning, based on the principle of Independence.




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