Load shedding… try say it out loud without your face smearing into a grimace. If there was one thing that upset South Africans in 2014, it was load shedding. Not to mention the threats of power cuts during the festive season.

Thankfully our favourite parastatal kept the Christmas lights lit and merry. However Eskom recently announced we’re using too much power, and load shedding could become a reality once again. No surprises there.

There is fortunately a positive side to this negative for marketers: light at the end of this dark Eskom-induced tunnel. A unique opportunity to be proactive in how we think about content marketing. Here’s what we noticed last year when the power went out:

We’re unnervingly over-dependent on electricity. From our inability to make coffee, to squinting with paranoia at low battery warnings, we ultimately found ourselves powerless (‘scuse the pun. Too good an opportunity to pass up).

The moment the power went out, people across the country grabbed their phones.

Whether it was WhatsApp’ing a loved one to tell them that the power had died or to tweet expletives at @ESKOM, we all turned online, looking for a soapbox or simply to quell the boredom.

From a digital marketer’s point of view, this is a good thing. John F. Kennedy was quoted as saying “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis’. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity”. Strictly speaking, this is inaccurate, but as a sentiment, it’s bang on.

Lightbulb Moment

Thanks to Eskom’s load shedding roster, we can cast an educated guess at who will be online, as well as the time and location. In working terms, for example, we know Sandton will be offline between the hours of 1pm and 3pm. Assuming people follow the trend, we can be assured of a spike in online traffic, in that region, during that time. What does that mean to you?

 Imagine you or your client sells a brand of solar powered lamps. During the time of an outage, it’s safe to assume that a percentage of infuriated, fed up consumers will be online, searching for a reliable illumination alternative. As potential customers, they are already primed for the sale. It makes sense to give ‘em what they want.

Using Google Adwords and Facebook’s powerful ad targeting suite, you can effectively position ads in front of people, during the time of the outage, right down to the suburb!

There’s Always a Next Time

You may think this information is too little too late. But here’s the thought-starter that applies for any situation at any time:

Get back to basics. Understand human nature. We don’t mean LSMs and age groups – we mean real human insights. This means resisting the urge to become absorbed in the frustrations of daily life. Put your anthropological hat on and become a spectator of the human condition.

In the case of load shedding, by carefully tailoring content and using clever scheduling, you are able to put meaningful brand-related content in front of consumers whose interest is primed. And you know they will be consuming it; after all, what else is there to do?

As marketers, finding opportunities is what we do. The next time Eskom flicks the switch, don’t be caught under a dark cloud – look for the silver lining.