We spoke with the corporate communications head who hooked up TikTok sensation Nathan Apodaca with a new Nissan truck, and she swears the win-win social media triumph came together organically.
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Unless you’ve been living under a cranberry bog, you know that 37-year-old Idaho potato-farm laborer Nathan Apodaca aka TikTok user @420doggface208 posted a wildly popular clip of himself longboarding to work while chugging Ocean Spray juice and dreamily lip-syncing to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” That video elicited a reciprocal “cheers” of sorts from Mick Fleetwood himself. Since then, “Dreams” has surged in sales. And to round out that media exposure, Ocean Spray delivered Apodaca a cranberry-red Nissan pickup truck — no more longboard to work for him! — filled with Ocean Spray products, which he purports to be his favorite.
Even Ocean Spray CEO Tom Hayes took the “Dreams” challenge, as it has been dubbed, and released a statement about how, “When I first saw Nathan’s video, I knew Ocean Spray wanted to help. We’re so glad we could gift Nathan a cranberry-red truck, and be a part of movement that is bringing such positivity worldwide.”
Sure. But also, it’s a major marketing coup for Ocean Spray, at a time when every business is looking for ways to boost its signal without breaking the bank. So a few hours after images of Apodaca aboard his new ride circulated far and wide, we tracked down Christina Ferzli, Ocean Spray’s Head of Global Corporate Affairs and Communication. She gave us the scoop on how she and her colleagues seized the viral momentum.
So, Nathan’s video starts going viral on Sept. 25. How long is it before its on your guys’ radar?
A week from yesterday [Sept. 29] I’d say is when he came to our digital team’s attention. I grew aware about early to mid-week last week.
Was your first instinct to just ride the wave of unexpected viral promotion?
[Laughs.] What we thought was actually, “How do we help this guy?” What really struck my team was the positive energy it brought to everything. In this crazy 2020, seeing everyone root for Nathan was so meaningful. Then we took a couple days to get a truck located and get in touch with his agent Gina [Rodriguez] and figure out what we could do. We didn’t want to just repost his video or post a video of Tom doing a rendition of it without giving [Apodaca] something to celebrate that he wanted and needed. We finalized that, located a truck in cranberry red in Idaho Falls. We did all that virtually, we never even saw it. The dealership guys at [Sayer Nissan] were amazing. They were our boots on the ground. I literally called them and was like, “We need to buy a truck for this guy and I’m not gonna be there, and I need you to then go and pick up this product and put it in the back. And also, will you film it?” So that took a few days. Our first reaction was that we wanted to help him.
I believe that, but wasn’t there an element of being shrewd in claiming this as a marketing opportunity?
The way we’re actually looking at marketing is from that authentic lens. So yes, we are so delighted and grateful for the positive spotlight that this viral video put on our product. What we’re trying to do from a marketing perspective is use that authenticity to organically engage with consumers in a meaningful way, and we are trying to optimize our marketing strategies in real time to foster more of a two-way dialogue with a younger audience…. We didn’t make an entire marketing model and assessment. We just tried really quickly to join the conversation.
Was this an awakening that you’d been under-leveraging social media marketing?
I feel like we always try to optimize our social-media strategies in different ways. Ocean Spray has launched a few new brands in pilot markets, so in terms of engaging consumers [through social media], we’ve been doing that through [our] smaller brands, but this has shifted our focus back to the master brand as well.
Nathan now has an agent and is looking to turn this into something bigger. Are you hoping Ocean Spray can keep carrying the momentum forward for their benefit as well?
So Gina Rodriguez, we absolutely love working with her. She is genuinely interested in Nathan’s wellbeing, which is so refreshing. In terms of moving forward, all I can say for now is stay tuned. We’re just trying to stray true to spreading love for Nathan and seeing where that goes. I wish I could give you more, but that’s literally the whole story.