Good marketing isn’t just about formulating a great strategy: it’s also about reacting to the opportunities and challenges your company is faced with. Sadly, many companies are unable to adapt to unorthodox opportunities that come their way. Read about these three viral moments – and what we can learn from how brands reacted to them.

1. The Ocean Spray guy

When Nathan Apodaca got into his car to head to work on October 8, his life was relatively ordinary. He’d worked the same job at a potato warehouse in Idaho Falls for 20 years, lived in an RV, and his car had 320,000 miles on it. After his car broke down a couple miles from his work, he decided to hop on his skateboard instead, and filmed a short video of himself drinking Ocean Spray cranberry juice straight out of the jug while cruising to Fleetwood Mac. He didn’t think much of the video, and almost didn’t post it at all.

But he did. And then his life changed.

According to NPR:

In its first hour on TikTok, the video gathered some 100,000 views. It now has more than 35 million. It has been crowned with meme status. According to figures from TikTok, 134,000 tribute videos have been made, inspired by Apodaca, totaling almost a half-billion views.

Following Apodaca’s rise to viral stardom, Ocean Spray was quick to get in on the action, and gifted Apodaca with a new car – with a truck-bed full of their cranberry drinks. They also have offered to send Apodaca and his fiancée on their dream honeymoon. “Ocean Spray has been awesome,” he says.

Apparently, enthused fans also set up a GoFundMe for Apodaca, who has recently bought a house.

What we can learn:

Though the company could have simply appreciated the extra attention garnered from the video, Ocean Spray seized the viral moment and used it as an opportunity to create further positive PR for their brand.

2. Tonester Paints and Sherwin-Williams

A part-time employee for paint store Sherwin-Williams, Tony Piloseno wasn’t satisfied with frittering away his down time at the job – so he started making TikTok videos showcasing different blendings of the paints. His mesmerizing mixing TikToks soon garnered popularity, and before he knew it, his account @Tonesterpaints had over 1.2 million followers. Piloseno thought that the account showed potential for the company to reach a younger audience, and even got together a pitch deck to present to the marketing division at the company, hoping to help expand its reach on social media.

However, what could have been an incredible marketing opportunity for the company was wasted. Management at the company investigated Piloseno and reprimanded him for “wasting properties [and] facilities,” and “seriously embarrass[ing] the Company or its products.” The company ultimately fired him for “gross misconduct.”

What we can learn:

Piloseno’s story has been making the rounds across news outlets and marketing blogs, who haven’t pulled any punches calling out the company for their drastic reaction – and the missed opportunity that resulted from it.

PR Week blasted the company, saying: “If someone can make viral videos about paint, he should be celebrated and given a senior marketing role. Instead @SherwinWilliams fires the guy,”

Now, Tony Piloseno has taken his skills – and million followers – elsewhere, after receiving an offer from Florida Paints, a brand competitor. Not only did Sherwin Williams garner negative attention and waste Piloseno’s potential, but now their competitor is harnessing his following to expand their marketing reach.

3. The Nordstrom 2020 bolero

Last week, a designer dress sold at Nordstrom began attracting attention for its bizarre design, and what one reviewer called its “serial-killer-chic vibe.” As of 10:30 am Pacific time on Monday, there were 50 reviews roasting the piece, and we spent a good 10 minutes laughing over them ourselves.

Nordstrom’s infamous bolero. Image retrieved from Nordstrom

“If 2020 were a dress. Straight from the pandemic to the gala. Easy peasy,” read one review.

“Oh my word yes! I’ve been looking for a statement piece that screams grandma’s sexy nighty meets nuclear reactor core technician for years! It’s like they read my mind! My wardrobe is finally complete!” said another.

And then our personal favorite, which we managed to screengrab before it vanished:

However, Nordstrom didn’t take the sarcasm in stride – mere minutes later, the site scrubbed all reviews from the product page. The trolls were not easily deterred however – additional reviews continue to pop up over the course of the days that followed – only to be removed by Nordstrom mere hours later.

Oh, and don’t forget about Twitter – Nordstrom can’t scrub that!

What we can learn:

But the bolero cannot escape the public eye – at the time of this piece’s writing, over 13,000 people are viewing the product. It’s a shame that Nordstrom is unable to appreciate the humor that has been created around the dress. Instead of trying to cover it up, they could have found a creative way to join the fun and capitalize on the inordinate amount of attention it has garnered.