I love brands – large and small. And, I love to see how marketers portray brand names in the marketplace – including their gaffs and successes. Like most people, I expect big brands to have the best presentations and marketing ploys. Why? Because, those companies typically have massive budgets and powerhouse marketing teams and agencies. Every so often, I’ll see a brand do something else – be themselves, or better yet, act like its audience.

What do I mean by this?

Take for instance the recent LA Kings Twitter activity during the NHL playoffs. I’m more of a highlight reel hockey fan, but the numbers that the team put up on Twitter deserve some recognition. Instead of tweeting just play by plays, the tweeter left the team box seats and jumped right into the crowd. Let’s face it, after your team wins, the first thing you want to do is explain to the losing fans exactly how inferior they are. From one sports fan to another, this was kind:

Sports fans have no shame, but for a brand to act like a true fan – well that took some guts. To most brands, this would be a PR nightmare. The knee jerk reaction would be to delete the message and send out a mundane apology. The Kings issued the latter, but they continued with the momentum of one tweet shared 19,000 times. Unless you have an album out, are President Obama, or are raising money for children in foster care – you should find that impressive.

In traditional marketing, what they did would be considered irresponsible. But, we’re talking about social media here. It has been rewriting the rules for years. I can only hope that the teams I love and follow were paying attention to the LA Kings.

I’m not saying there is no line that shouldn’t be crossed. If you need proof, dial back to the beginning of the year to the Belvedere Vodka ad. I get the urge to face-palm every time I see it. Respect the line of decency and good taste, and your image will survive.

The smaller ‘brands’ out there can do interesting things, too. I came across the Austin Police Department Facebook page and thought three things:

1.  The police have a Facebook page?

2.  Wow, it actually has engaging content.

3. Wait, it has 1,189 likes? People like the police?

An institution that strikes fear in drivers everywhere has managed to get people to engage with them socially. I wanted to make sure this wasn’t an isolated case, so I checked out the pages for other departments throughout Texas. Sure enough, other departments have found the value in social media just like major brands, and they know how to use it.  From posting pictures of criminals, safety notifications and community events – they’re making great use of their Facebook page.

Take for instance the recent fan posts and recommendations on the Dallas Police Department page. Just two days ago a news story broke of a Dallas officer caught on tape in a questionable arrest of a motorcyclist. Instead of creating picket lines and protesting in the heat, people voiced their complaints on the department’s Facebook page.

The response could have been a little clearer about the difference between the City of Dallas Police Department (DPD) and the Dallas County Sherriff’s Office (DSO,) but when it comes to the police, even a little transparency goes a long way sometimes.  I think they have a healthy balance between providing a service to the community and being a member of the community.

People want that community connection. And, who better to validate this idea than my own mother? I had no idea she liked her local police department page.

 Now, for the small big guys. No, not that you perverts – the smart car guys. Back at Oklahoma State University, the office I worked for switched to an orange smart car from a Chevy Impala. The transition was awkward at first, but it was great seeing the reactions of spectators and testing the limits. I can honestly say I’m no longer a skeptic of very small cars.

I feel the same way about smart’s social media presence. Compared to Ford, General Motors and Lexus, smart car is the little guy in more ways than one. And, with the Fiat’s sexy entrance into the market, the competition is tough. So how does the little guy compete? They take advantage of opportunities like the one Clayton Hove (@adtothebone) gave them.

Social media folks, are you done hyperventilating, yet? Yes, it is a crap-tastic infographic proving why the smart’s tridion safety cell can withstand a few – or 4.5 million – bird craps. It may have taken smart two days to get back to Hove, but the delivery was worth the wait. What’s the lesson here? I can think of two:

  1. There’s an opportunity in nearly every tweet to launch your brand name forward.
  2. Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty (minus the crap), and do the work to create something that not only gets the message across but is also shareable.

Hove, who is a creative director and advertising enthusiast, created a post on the tweet that’s been shared 238 times and has nearly 30 comments on Facebook. Not bad for a couple days work.

Yes, there are ifs, ands and buts related to every scenario in this post. But, in my book, these brands are doing something right for themselves and their customers. Around here, we call that a Nguyen-Nguyen situation.