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Advice from Lisa Mann, who created one of the most memorable ad campaigns in recent history – and spent almost nothing to do it.

Lisa Mann, the marketer who pulled the trigger on the famous “dunk in the dark” Oreo tweet that appeared during the 2013 Superbowl blackout, spoke today at Brainfood 2016, a conference at the intersection of food tech, marketing and entrepreneurship. To be a great marketer, you have to do three things, she said:

  1. Really know your consumer.
  2. Understand the cultural zeitgeist in which your consumer is living.
  3. Define, build and defend your brand.

On knowing your consumer:

“Do you really listen to your consumer?” Mann asked. She described listening to focus group sessions during her years at Kraft and coming into contact with consumers who were downright passionate about something called the Velveeta Loaf. For them, the Velveeta Loaf was an irreplaceable product — they used it religiously when cooking for or entertaining their loved ones.

When you come into direct contact with consumers who love your product that fervently, you love your consumer, she said. And I’ll bet it’s a lot harder to do bad marketing when you have genuine affection for the people buying your product.

Related post: 5 Tools for Understanding Your Audience Better

On understanding the cultural zeitgeist:

Adults can’t be spontaneous, skip work, and go to the park, Mann observed. So how do you use a product like Orea to give them childlike delight? She understood that her consumer yearned for their “childhood of yesteryear,” and she used that intelligence to create marketing that resonated with them.

On defining, building and defending your brand:

For Oreo’s 100th anniversary, Mann’s team created 100 unique Oreo-themed ads that have since entered the annals of marketing history. One of these ads was an Oreo with a rainbow-colored filling, in honor of Pride month. The ad created huge buzz, and Mann’s team wondered if they could replicate that success by targeting another hot topic of the day: the passage of Obamacare.

Mann rejected the idea, explaining that the rainbow Oreo worked because it was about seeing everyone the same way — something that comes naturally to us when we are children. This was in keeping with Oreo’s brand, which is all about reliving childhood moments, Mann explained. A healthcare-themed Oreo, however, was not on-brand, even if it did reflect the cultural zeitgeist. That’s what she means by defending one’s brand. By the way, Mann said Oreo expected to send $2 million on the 100 days of Oreo campaign. Due to its popularity on social media, they ended up spending $0.

On the famous “dunk in the dark” tweet:

Mann said her team had been “practicing” two years for that tweet. I think what she meant by this was that they’d been carefully building, maintaining and defending the Oreo brand online for years — so by the time the Superbowl blacked out, their brand instincts were so sharply honed that they could create extraordinary content spontaneously.