How to make the most of your unicorn moments

We've all watched from the sidelines as other companies receive massive attention for their public reaction to newsworthy events, with some gaining huge social followings or new business growth as a result.

However, it can be near impossible for brands to decide which of these significant moments are worth reacting to, as most may not prove fruitful from either a business or brand perspective.

"A 'unicorn moment' for a business is when you realise you have an opportunity to jump on an external event that can bring enormous success to your team."
Fred Schebesta, Co-founder and director at

A 'unicorn moment' for a business is when you realise you have an opportunity to jump on an external event that can bring enormous success to your team.

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There's a process I use to uncover and develop these key social plays. These are the four steps to uncovering opportunities for your brand through unicorn moments.

  • Identify and rank the unicorn moments happening around you.

    In the middle of the 2013 NFL Super Bowl in the US, the lights went out and the entire event was left in darkness. Then a single brand beat the others to the punch, gaining over 10,000+ retweets on Twitter and 18,000+ Facebook likes within just one hour.

    Of all the brands surrounding the event, the winner was Oreo, who tweeted a stylised picture with the words “you can still dunk in the dark”.

    A major part of their success was how neatly they infused their brand colours and styling into the event, all while simply commenting on a blackout.

    In a similar way, your brand needs to rank external moments not only by how popular and newsworthy it is but how relevant your core values are to the opportunity - and how concisely that can be communicated to today's time-poor audience.

    The events that offer the best 'cut through' can have the biggest impact.

  • Create small-scale blueprints to mimic your brand's approach.

    Once you've identified potential opportunities, you need to strategise exactly how you'll make your approach.

    Perfecting the art of small-scale experiments is key here and remember: people will be focussing on the external event itself so their attention is elsewhere. It's your aim to cut above that noise with a concise, clear angle on the event.

    This step is where you'll likely cull the majority of your approaches, picking a few key unicorn moments along the way.

    For an example of a massive brand that didn't experiment enough before going live with a social project, look no further than Google Glass. is the biggest credit card comparison site in Australia, yet it began when a single blog-page credit card guide for students actually became a massive hit with the target audience.

  • Assess and optimise the rest of your business.

    By now you've already invested a significant amount of time in research and you're only going to get busier.

    Before any further action, optimise the rest of your business to handle both the new workload for your unicorn moment and the extra traffic you can expect as a result. When this step is overlooked, websites break and customers get pissed off.

    If, when you're assessing potential unicorn moments, you realise it won't be possible to optimise the rest of your business, then you have one option: ditch that unicorn moment and move on to the next candidate on the list.

    No publicity stunt or social commentary is worth crippling your business.

  • Go live, and take no survivors.

    By now you've got a targeted, concise list of unicorn moments that have survived your ruthless cull and it's time to take out all the stops.

    The advice I give here is quite unconventional but I think it's brilliant: how far can you take each potential moment? Choose the one that you can push the furthest and get pushing.

    For the next sprint of your business, this unicorn moment is your moment of truth – you know it can do well so put everything you can behind it.

    You're not a CEO anymore, you're an astronaut and you're about to land in some epic, unknown territory and make new waves. If your business is optimised, it's time to take the plunge!

Fred Schebesta is co-founder and director at

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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