Trendjacking: How to Successfully Ride the Wave of Internet Phenomena

Jake Repko
4 min readApr 30, 2015

Trendjacking: the act of capitalizing on an existing trend in order to bolster one’s brand in the marketplace.

You see it every time something goes viral. Brands jumping at the chance to “join the conversation” in an effort to gain attention, appear relevant, and increase their social media presence. Great idea — in theory.

The problem with trendjacking is two-fold.

a) Almost everyone is doing it wrong, and…
b) they try to do it too often

I work for a major fitness brand and we’ve successfully trendjacked 3x. We’ve only tried to trendjack 3x. Before we get into the examples, let’s define the components of a successful trendjack.

  1. The sentiment around your post is 90–100% positive.
  2. Engagement rates are at least 2x, if not 3x, your normal rates.
  3. The content is on-brand.
  4. The post is relevant ( within 12 hours of peak virality, if not sooner).

Now, let’s take a look at our examples:

Kim Kardashian | #BreakTheInternet

One of the biggest trends ever, KK #BreakTheInternet was jacked by everyone from Nissan to the Democratic Party. Kim’s ass was in full view, and everyone wanted a piece of the action.

Here was our trendjack from Shakeology — a lifestyle health shake brand.

Let’s put it to the test:

  1. Is the sentiment positive? This is just a screenshot of a subset of comments, but as you can see, the fans are digging it. ✓

2. Are engagement rates 2–3x average? Normal rates for us fall somewhere between 900–1,000 per post. This particular post received 3.1x that many. ✓

3. Is the content on-brand? This one is a bit more subjective and is defined by the brand team, but for the most part, a common sense test will do the trick. Our brand is about health, skews female, and is slightly on the conservative side. We do incorporate a good amount of “dry humor” into our posts, and this was a perfect time to do exactly that. We also knew we couldn’t push it too far and kept our model fully clothed.

By using a photograph of our model throwing the shake into the air, we were able to capture a visually compelling image, and have it play perfectly into our “Are we doing it, right?” caption. We were kind of making fun of ourselves and the whole general idea that KK drums up this kind of attention. It felt perfect, and our fans agreed. ✓

4. Is the post relevant? We came into work the morning of November 12th and Kim was all over the internet. We had a few ideas that were easier to execute than the final version, but we knew they weren’t as strong. Without time for seeking permission from the executives, we went all DIY on the process. I concepted the photo, grabbed my Canon 6D, borrowed a few strobes and lightboxes from our production department so we could properly freeze the Shake throw, did a few test shots and were ready to roll.

I fired off about 30 different photos of various expressions and then used photoshop to piece them together. Surprisingly, it required very little Photoshopping. The only two things manipulated from the original photo are the Shakeology Shaker Cup on her butt, and the roundness. We wanted to exaggerate it slightly, but not go over the top. From there, we just had to place the proper typography elements in the image and voilá, out the door.

Now, it was time to get permission to post. I have a good relationship with the CEO and felt he would be on board so went looking for him. He wasn’t in his office. Shortly thereafter I was walking back to my desk with my manager when we ran into President and CMO, and he gave us the greenlight. Well, no need to waste any more time.

The image was posted by 3pm that same day and there were only a few brands that had gotten anything worth a trendjack attempt up to that point. Relevant? ✓

Successful trendjacking is knowing your community inside and out. What types of things do they find funny? What trends are relevant to them? Just because the whole world may appear to be talking about it, doesn’t mean your audience relates their affinity to your brand with said trend.

Lastly, don’t try to jump on every trend. #TheDress trend was huge. It was an internet phenomenon, and some companies were successful, but most fell flat and looked desperate. Sometimes less is more.