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Press Release from the Journal of Marketing: Using Improvised Marketing Interventions to Build Brand

Matt Weingarden

Chicago, January 29, 2020 — Researchers from Insead, Leeds University, and Imperial College published a new paper in the Journal of Marketing that analyses improvised marketing interventions (IMIs) and how they can generate brand awareness and firm value. 

The study, forthcoming in the March issue of the Journal of Marketing, is titled “Improvised Marketing Interventions in Social Media” and is authored by Abhishek Borah, Sourindra Banerjee, Yu-Ting Lin, Apurv Jain, and Andreas Eisingerich.  


Conventional wisdom suggests that a firm’s marketing message is best pre-planned well ahead, organized, and kept one hundred percent under control by the firm. The potential advantages of such an approach are well understood. However, this strategy can also lead to a brand being seen as distant from its target audience and failing to capture the Zeitgeist (the trends, feelings, and ideas typical of the time).

This new study in the Journal of Marketing analyses improvised marketing interventions (IMIs) that firms can create to generate virality and firm value. For example, when Tesla debuted its Cybertruck in November 2019, the company’s top designer unintentionally shattered the truck’s window. In quick response, Lego tweeted a picture of a Lego truck with a text that said, “The evolution of the truck is here. Guaranteed shatterproof” with an emoji displaying a grimace. This tweet led to about 28,500 retweets for Lego.

Instead of aiming for hundred percent corporate control, the research team urges marketing managers to carefully consider not only what they say, but, importantly, how and when they say it using social media. Lego’s response elucidates this point. Lego’s response to Tesla’s misfortune demonstrates that firms can generate viral tweets if they are created with humor and generate surprise or with humor and are timely. Via this tweet, Lego created greater brand awareness, was seen as being au courant on trends, and generated free media coverage because it will likely be included in the ongoing conversation about the event.

Typically, in-house marketing teams lack the responsiveness and latitude to use the opportunity presented by a current event to tie their brand message to the event for maximum impact. The study highlights this hidden opportunity for managers to spot trends and utilize those trends to seed social media campaigns, which can become viral.

Numerous brands have yet to discover the potential of this marketing method. The researchers encourage firms to empower marketing teams to be given the freedom to keep a close eye on trends and spontaneous chatter and to quickly formulate witty messages in response to these events. Because people employed in marketing departments will not have advance knowledge of some of these events, they need to be empowered to react spontaneously to unanticipated opportunities. This flexibility may necessitate relinquishing some level of control over the message at times and it is possible that a marketing team may hit the ‘send’ button too quickly. Thus, it is important that firms find the right employees to execute IMI. For example, their sense of humor and timing should be on point and not offend the public or humiliate another company.

Nightmarish examples abound of consumer backlash against a brand’s own social media posts when a company’s brand reputation is fragile. However, given the right employees who are empowered to act, IMIs—social media actions composed and executed in real-time proximal to current events—have the potential to enhance brand awareness. They also cost a fraction of the advertising expenses for sponsoring events like the Olympics or World Cup. Furthermore, the study shows the extent to which the characteristics of IMI affect not only perceptual metrics like virality, but also the objective metrics of a firm’s stock returns—a metric of immense interest to a firm’s managers and shareholders.

Social media platforms such as Twitter constitute a significant source of additional, novel information for investors. Still, managers often believe that the only time they can influence stock market investors is when the firm releases its quarterly or monthly sales reports. The findings show that managers need not wait for quarterly or monthly sales reports to have an impact on investors. IMIs can provide investors with instantaneous, critical information or live diagnostics about the firm’s marketing performance. Firms are encouraged to make use of IMI messages by using humor paired with timeliness and humor paired with surprise because these messages can influence investor behavior and subsequently the stock market.

Ultimately, managers need to consider IMIs proactively in order to be part of and shape the current Zeitgeist—rather than be driven by it—and to achieve greater virality and generate stronger stock market returns.

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About the Journal of Marketing 
The Journal of Marketing develops and disseminates knowledge about real-world marketing questions useful to scholars, educators, managers, policy makers, consumers, and other societal stakeholders around the world. Published by the American Marketing Association since its founding in 1936, JM has played a significant role in shaping the content and boundaries of the marketing discipline. Christine Moorman (T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University) serves as the current Editor in Chief.

About the American Marketing Association (AMA) 
As the largest chapter-based marketing association in the world, the AMA is trusted by marketing and sales professionals to help them discover what’s coming next in the industry. The AMA has a community of local chapters in more than 70 cities and 350 college campuses throughout North America. The AMA is home to award-winning content, PCM® professional certification, premiere academic journals, and industry-leading training events and conferences.

Matt Weingarden, Vice President, Communities & Journals, leads the diverse team that supports the AMA’s network of community leaders from its three broad communities and four scholarly journals.