Confession: I have the social media habits of a 13-year-old. But, as chief creative officer of a digital-forward agency, I also have a job that justifies this addiction.
So, I consume a lot of social media — and some of it is even in the pursuit of better marketing: I monitor Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok to learn what people are talking about because I believe the conversations they’re having on platforms like these will influence future advertising. I think social media is the cultural zeitgeist — it reflects what society cares about. Naturally, I also read advertising trades and blogs and view the work of my competition as something of a sport, but I don’t get in too deep — the last thing Human Design wants from its creative department is derivative work.
What really captures my attention as a creative person and marketer tends to be the “work” I see when my guard is down: stuff I stumble onto on social media during my playtime. So, rather than speak about the latest brilliant creative campaign or ad execution, I’m here to talk about The Rock.
In case you haven’t noticed, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is owning social media right now. On Instagram
alone, he has more than 150 million followers, which means more people keep tabs on his daily doings than watched the Super Bowl this year (CBS reported 98.2 million viewers for LIII). He has more than 220 million followers when we aggregate his Facebook
and Instagram legions.
Despite his mass base, The Rock is still genuine and relatable to the wide range of fans he’s culled over 20 years — first as a pro wrestler, and then in his uncharacteristically smooth move to the role of actor/producer. (This is a guy who heard the phrase, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice” at age 15 and made it his motto). And, I’d argue, he’s making an equally easy transition to savvy social-media marketer.
Using social media as a platform to tell the daily story of The Rock brand, Johnson and team shoot daily vignettes that allow audiences to engage with him after the cameras turn off. The film-heavy posts provide access to his “normal” life, which includes workouts at the Iron Paradise (his personal gym), visits to film locations and special events and other activities that naturally weave into his life story — which is also the stage for brand sponsorships and personal business ventures.
Now, celebrity endorsements are not exactly rocket science. Any actor can hold up a tube of toothpaste and flash those pearly whites. To me, what’s genius about the way Johnson promotes the brands he creates and chooses to work with is the seamlessness. This word is overused but underutilised in practice. Brand integrations always appear to be natural, worthy beneficiaries of The Rock’s consistent creative energy.
Now don’t get me wrong — this is no smooth sell. The Rock is unabashedly pitching you products. His enthusiasm is palatable, and these are not sophisticated, scripted spots created by some agency. What you see is a genuine guy who really loves what he does and tells you (repeatedly) about stuff he likes and puts his name on. This includes, among other things, his line of Project Rock workout gear for Under Armour, and soon, his own tequila brand.
And isn’t that preferable to, say, a Kardashian possibly lying her way through a six-figure paycheck to socially shill some dubious “diet” lollipop?
Clearly, The Rock doesn’t need marketing advice from me. In fact, I think brands and their agencies could learn a few tricks from him (besides his Rock Bottom and People’s Elbow wrestling moves, which might also be handy to know):
- The Rock is the product: And he has fun selling it, so fans come back frequently to see what he’s up to.
- The Rock is never off. Film sets and gyms are known for their down time, and this hard-worker is also a well-known natural ham. So, he picks up a camera between takes and reps and entertains his audience when he’s bored. Johnson’s social stream is one consistent, joyful “commercial” for The Rock, this charismatic, larger-than-life character who stars in movies (Jumanji 2, Fast & Furious) and TV shows (Ballers), serves as a paid spokesperson and creates his own brands. And fans don’t see seams, so they don’t turn off either.
- The Rock knows media: As a wrestler, he raised a brow and spoke to the TV set to make pleas to his audience. Is it a surprise that he now chooses social, a medium that also lets him engage directly with fans and create a constant flow of content? It would be obtuse to limit himself to the same stale and expensive media channels that competitors use and still expect to stand out.
The Rock has been teasing out the tequila story for nearly a year with posts showing him tasting añejo, silver, and reposado varieties and discussing the history of the spirit.
The 2019 Time 100 honoree used Facebook Live to announce his Project Rock shoes, shirts, sweats, socks and other training gear of which all occupied slots on Under Armour’s Top 10 best-selling products.
In May, Johnson teamed with Under Armour and JBL to design the Project Rock True Wireless In-Ear Headphones with hardcore trainers in mind. The day they launched, The Rock posted a live video message on IG from the set of his HBO show Ballers to get the word out. Before the day was done, the video received nearly seven million views and the headphones were UA’s best-selling product worldwide.
And being the suave, seamless marketer that he is, The Rock never misses a beat. “They’re like tequila in your ears,” he says, before announcing that he’s giving a pair of headphones to every member of the Ballers crew to celebrate the milestone. As everyone cheers, he pretends that he thinks the camera is off and acts like his alter-ego: “OK, we’re done. Give ’em back now!” he snaps, before cracking into a big grin.
It makes me wonder, could Siri have synchronised this