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What is Reactive Marketing?

Reactive marketing refers to campaigns, adverts or social media marketing posts that are responsive and relatively unexpected or sudden. It is the opposite of a proactive marketing strategy, where a brand plans ahead for events or holidays to release relevant marketing posts or campaigns at the right time.

Social media has revolutionised marketing in more ways than one, but none more so than reactive marketing. It’s easier than ever for brands to get their audience talking with witty or relevant posts, so long as they keep their finger on the pulse and respond effectively. A reactive marketing strategy is a great way to get others to share your content.

Risk and Reward

Reacting to current events means that the public are engaged with the topic and more likely to engage with your brand if you speak out. However, being unable to plan ahead means that many reactive marketing posts or campaigns are pushed out quite quickly. This can make it easier for brands to miss the mark or be seen as exploiting events for their own gain.

Having a reactive marketing strategy also helps your customers or clients see your business as more human and interactive, which can boost your reputation. Reactive marketing is a high-risk, high-reward strategy. Now, let’s take a look at some notable reactive marketing examples.

Reactive Marketing Examples on Social Media

1.     Entertainment

Innocent Smoothies are an example of social media marketing done to a very high standard, and their reactive marketing is quick and witty. They keep up with current events but also follow recent trends and memes and even frequently comment on the weather.

With a chatty, conversational writing style and meta posts where the marketing team takes the spotlight, Innocent’s social media pages read more like a friend than a brand. In addition, their snappy, humorous responses to international events have seen them go viral many times.

Other significant brands that take this style include McDonald’s, Oreo and Specsavers.

2.    Informational

The Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream brand takes a different approach to reactive marketing. Rather than aiming to use events for comedy or entertainment, when Ben and Jerry’s gets reactive, their posts get political and informative.

The brand is known never to shy away from controversy and for standing up for their beliefs – some notable campaigns have included:

  • Cannabis Justice: raising awareness for the disparity between how white and black weed smokers are construed and prosecuted.
  • Cone Together: calling on Home Secretary Priti Patel to end inhumane detention.
  • Climate Justice: educating and trying to influence climate change policies.

Ben and Jerry’s will often begin to advertise or post about these campaigns as these important events unfold. Most recently, they have taken the decision the stop selling their ice cream in occupied Palestinian territories.

IKEA is another company that does similar branding, with many social media posts focusing on what they’re doing to promote sustainability and support local communities.

3.     Brand Banter

You’ve likely seen some examples of brand banter around the internet over the last few years, as it’s become a popular way for brands to interact with each other and promote engagement.

A great example of a reactive marketing strategy involving brand banter started with a tweet from Weetabix at the start of the year. The brand regularly shares topping suggestions for the cereal, but their latest suggestion – baked beans – caused an uproar.

Many brands jumped on this tweet to add their thoughts, with reactive marketing replies from National Rail, Nandos, West Yorkshire Police, Moonpig and Tinder, to name a few. The campaign quickly went viral, and people loved to see the interactions between brands.

Brand banter can be a powerful reactive marketing tool, so much so that some brands make it part of their core strategy – Marvel vs DC, Pepsi vs Coke and McDonald’s vs Wendys (an American fast food brand) are all well-documented ‘feuds’ that can promote engagement for both brands.

Reactive Marketing on Webpages During Lockdown

It’s hard to talk about reactive marketing strategies without looking in detail at some of the incredible marketing that happened during the Covid-19 pandemic over the last year, as brands scrambled to stay afloat as the outbreak of coronavirus impacted the economy and market.

We’ve compiled some of the ways that brands rose to the challenge by adjusting the sails of their marketing efforts and changing their webpage content to stay relevant.

4.     Free People

Selling whimsical and free-spirited apparel when your customers are in lockdown isn’t easy. Free People made a smart move by changing its homepage to showcase loungewear to stay relevant while its customers were stuck at home.

The copy was clever and fun, adding some light relief to this situation. The same could be said for their activewear campaign further down the page. While not endorsing attending the gym or spending lengthy time outdoors, Free People offered clothing solutions for short bursts of outdoor activity, in line with government guidelines.

Free People Reactive eCommerce

5.     ASOS

In a similar vein to Free People, ASOS featured loungewear for comfortable quarantining, cosmetics for at-home self-care, homewares, and activewear for your ‘front room gym’.

reactive marketing


H&M has adopted a holistic approach to selling a lifestyle and vibe to aspire to, rather than marketing a group of specific products. The hero image leads the user to a page with a collection of loungewear, homewares, and kids’ pyjamas. Rather than asking the user what it wants, H&M is telling its customers what they need by creating a beautifully curated edit to help them achieve a cosy and tranquil home setting during this season of self-isolation.

H&M Reactive Marketing
Image sourced from H&M

7.     Sweaty Betty

While Sweaty Betty relies on outdoorsy and active types to build up their collection of fitness gear, lockdown put a dampener on budding athletes who wanted to train at the gym or outdoors. No gym? No problem. Sweaty Betty switched its message to appeal to seasoned gym-goers and beginners alike by targeting anyone investing in a home fitness routine.

reactive marketing
Sourced from Sweaty Betty

8. The Savoy

The Savoy took a different approach to its neighbouring London hotels. Unlike the Ritz and The Ned, the Savoy didn’t just list information about closures but appealed to their prospective guests’ more emotional and sentimental side.

The Savoy website promoted a feeling of solidarity and reassurance that normal life would resume one day by instilling a message of hope and strength over an overlay of London by night. The Savoy has now reopened its doors, welcoming new guests and retaining its status as a leading London hotel. This hero image was carefully placed above the booking tool, encouraging users to enquire about availability for future bookings.

The Savoy Reactive Marketing Example
Image sourced from The Savoy

At Zelst, we have a long track record of helping businesses be seen and get found online, and some of our clients even saw significantly increased revenue during the pandemic with our help.

We’d love to chat about how we can help you with your reactive marketing strategy or digital marketing as a whole. See our blog for more great marketing tips, and feel free to contact us.