Ocean Spray and Sherwin Williams: A Tale of 2 Companies and How They Embrace Social Media

By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the viral Ocean Spray TikTok moment. Nathan Apodaca riding a longboard down an off ramp sipping on a jug of Ocean Spray after his car broke down.

The viral moment spawned tens of thousands of copycats (including one from Mick Fleetwood) and online visibility Ocean Spray only dared dream of. The company reacted, fairly quickly, and offered Apodaca a new truck packed full of Ocean Spray juice. The CEO of Ocean Spray posted his own TikTok in response to Apocada–an homage of sorts.

All in all, Ocean Spray handled its viral moment quite well.

They were patient–they didn’t react too quickly, or too slowly.

They embraced behavior and visuals that are most certainly not “on brand” (you think a guy longboarding down an interstate drinking Ocean Spray is “on brand” for the company?).

And, they responded and participated on the platform where the original video took off.

Overall, Ocean Spray did a lot well here. They reacted like a socially-savvy company.

Now, on the other hand…

…we have Sherwin Williams. This is the viral moment you may not have heard of quite yet. Tony Piloseno, an Ohio University senior who worked part-time at a Sherwin Williams was fired earlier this year for creating TikToks where he performed creative paint mixes on the popular social network (read the full story here).

His TikToks created millions of impressions for the brand.

And, they fired him for “gross misconduct”, “wasting properties [and] facilities,” and “seriously embarrass[ing] the Company or its products.”

What’s worse: Piloseno said he actually pitched Sherwin Williams the idea of being more active on TikTok with some of his videos. Piloseno says it took TWO MONTHS to get in touch with corporate marketing and they “basically told me that there wasn’t really any promotions going on so there wasn’t a need to see the presentation.”

Oh boy.

So, on one hand we have a company that embraced its viral moment. Who participated actively and has reaped the rewards. Millions of impressions. Tons of positive media stories about the brand. And surging sales of its product.

On the other hand, we have a company that seems to have its head in the sand. One that is stiff-arming a clear opportunity to generate awareness and engagement most brands would die for. One that, to be honest, just doesn’t seem to understand social media marketing at all–AND WE’RE LIVING IN THE YEAR 2020!

Now, we don’t know the full story, really. We’re only getting Piloseno’s side for now. But, Sherwin Williams did release statements in the Buzzfeed story above (although I’ve seen nothing on their social channels about this–expected since Piloseno was fired).

But, the dichotomy here is startling. Again, one company embraced its viral moment–and saw immediate marketing and business rewards. The other stiff-armed it–and is getting (rightfully so) mocked and ridiculed (just search “Sherwin Williams” on Twitter for proof).

So, how do you avoid having your company being mocked and ridiculed like Sherwin Williams? How do you cultivate a culture like Ocean Spray’s that embraces the moment?

Education. It’s as simple as that. And, more importantly, ONGOING eduction.

Because, look at where both of these viral moments started: TikTok. Neither Ocean Spray or Sherwin Williams had a presence on TikTok before these moments (SW still doesn’t). So, maybe the marketing teams of both orgs had mentioned TikTok in a meeting or two here or there. But, there was most likely no education of executives or key leaders as to the opportunity of this platform.

Let that be a lesson to us all. With social media marketing, it’s incumbent on us to ALWAYS be educating our partners. About new platforms. New features. Trends. Because you never know what’s around the corner.

Your viral moment may happen this week.

I guess the question is: Do you want to be an Ocean Spray company or a Sherwin Williams company?