Why do Lady Gaga fans sleep on the streets of New York in glittery underwear just to score tickets to her shows? Why do sports enthusiasts wear hats made out of cheese in support of their favorite team? What motivates political activists to knock on doors during election season, and how did Oreo come to dominate America’s cookie market with more than 33 million Facebook fans?
There’s a commonality here. The brains behind these branding efforts were able to mobilize fans with emotion and inspire them to become full-blown advocates.
But what about the toilet paper, tampon, and household supply brands of the world — brands that undoubtedly face greater advocacy battles than markets like entertainment or dessert? While social media has helped glamorous industries accelerate word-of-mouth, others struggle to reach consumers who now opt-in to much marketing. How do you drive advocacy for brands that aren’t as innately moving — brands that many use and love, but just don’t think to engage with or advocate for as often?
We all know of products that won’t ever have the innate allure of an Oreo or Lady Gaga tickets — but there are core understandings about engagement that lead people to become emotionally invested. These understandings can help marketers in more challenging spaces drive advocacy, and ultimately, sales.
1) Develop participatory systems
Consumers prefer to engage by providing their perspective. Research shows 70% of consumers cite listening to feedback as the top reason why they participate with brands. In categories where people tend to make fewer emotional connections with brands, asking consumers for their opinion can also build an important bond between brands and consumers where there was none.
This bond is partially a result of the Hawthorne Effect — the principle that people who are involved in research become more engaged because of the extra attention they receive. From a marketing perspective, 64% of people asked to weigh in on things like flavors, bottle art, product names, and new offerings said they were highly likely to consider purchasing the product.
2) Give people a mission beyond just a product or service
Along with offering up an opinion, consumers become emotionally involved when they understand and identify with the problems a brand aims to solve, its mission, and its higher-level values. Yet research shows brands aren’t being clear. More than half of consumers are unaware of how brands give back, contribute to society, or create utility in their lives. Nearly all major brands invest in efforts like charitable giving, but does a lack of clear communication about the utility and social consciousness brands offer hurt consumer’s willingness to advocate?
Dish soap maker Dawn guessed the answer was yes. To create greater clarity around social consciousness, Dawn made it a major corporate and social priority to support wildlife following the BP oil spill. Dawn’s Facebook page dedicated to the effort, Dawn Everyday Wildlife Champions, has 497,629 likes, whereas the brand’s traditional page sits at 67,850. The brand’s recent social engagements speak loudly about fan’s excitement toward Dawn’s effort.
“Because of your efforts to help wildlife, I only use Dawn. I tell everyone I know about this and ask them to use it exclusively. Thank you Dawn for caring” wrote one fan this week, with several postings much the same.
3) Join in on the conversation
Before, brands in difficult spaces could rely on methods like TV advertising to get in front of consumers. Today, with greater importance placed on social media and content marketing, consumers dictate whether they even see many of a brand’s best messages. But how do you drive engagement when you market a product people need but just don’t think about often? You turn to consumers.
In its “Feel Good” campaign, Kleenex used social media to find 50 people tweeting about feeling sick. The brand then sent surprise care packages to the 50 sick people, and all 50 uploaded a photo of the Kleenex care package to their social networks. After launching the campaign, Kleenex continued to receive social love from sick consumers who wanted their attention.
Some brands may look to word-of-mouth as a challenge. But if more welcome the challenge as Dawn and Kleenex have, it will be interesting to see truly innovative, consumer-centric campaigns emerge that allow brands to market “with” rather than “at” consumers.