Rockefeller Tree Arrival Provides Lesson in Social Media Response

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

‘Tis the season to break out of the COVID-19 doldrums and deck the halls. The holidays seem to be arriving even sooner, as many look to find some joy through decorating, music and trying to fixate on the spirit of the season, rather than 5,000 awful news items swirling around them. 

Queue the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, which made its appearance at 30 Rock Nov. 14, after two days of travel. Rockefeller Center tweeted a photo of the chosen tree, which surprised many with its somewhat forlorn shape

Users wasted no time in uncanny and concerned replies, with many leaning into the 2020 lexicon. Even this tree seemed to be having its worst year ever. 

Now, it’s no secret this posed a challenge for the brand representing the famous tree. Ignore the hate or embrace the opportunity? Especially on Twitter, where a well-timed clever response can elevate one to some of the greatest digital media turns of all time. How can any brand overcome becoming the butt of a social media joke?

Justin Buchbinder, social media director, Finn Partners, didn’t see much difference from the unfurled tree to that of opening any sort of delivery. 

 “The Rockefeller Christmas tree is the perfect example of the power of social media, and our lack of patience and context,” he said. “According to tree experts (aka: Rock Center, themselves), this is what the trees always look like when they are first unfurled. It will fill out over time. Much like so much in 2020, we just need to be patient. If I may provide a comparison: think of a Casper mattress. What does it look like when you first slice it out of its shrink wrap? Does that look like what you’re laying on now? Exactly.”

Buchbinder noted the opportunity presented to the Rockefeller Center account, and that brands can choose to lean into their situation. This can be done through full transparency; explain the issue to users with factual information or humor. 

“If this sad looking pre-evolution photo can bring some joy to people, I am 100% on board,” Buchbinder said. “If it’s not truly damaging to your brand or your bottom line, I believe leaning into it is a great opportunity to engender goodwill and engagement. An example is the recent situation of XBOX’s new system being caught up in a fake video of the system smoking (someone actually vaped into it). Xbox decided to lean in, and it went well.”

Ultimately, Rockefeller Center decided to embrace the moment and send fans a good ole’ quip. 

If anything, the arrival provided levity, a break from the news doldrums and great publicity. Overall, users were excited by the tree and had faith it would turn out spectacular as always. Charlie Brown would be proud. 

Nicole Schuman is a reporter for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal