Needless to say, we live in a world dominated by brand names. We drive around in BMWs, while talking on our BlackBerrys (hopefully not at the same time, because that’s just illegal!) and wearing our Gucci sunglasses. The majority of us even find ourselves looking for the nearest McDonalds even when visiting a new and exotic part of the world, and although we won’t admit it, we feel a tinge of disappointment when we have to settle for the local alternative. It seems we’ve just become too used to our creature comforts. Some might view this as the death of adventurousness (yes, that’s a real word); however, no one can deny the stellar job the fast-food giant’s global marketing team has done made of getting the name out there.
So how do you move away from being the consolation prize, to become the brand people go searching for? We can look to the major players for some advice…
Benefit yourselves while you benefit others:
I was recently referred to a blog post about ‘How to Use Social Media to Promote Non-Profit Events’ and one of the factors discussed was the use of corporate sponsorship to raise the profile of a charity event. This got me thinking about corporate social responsibility (CSR), and why companies feel compelled to donate their time and effort (and their name) to causes such as helping the needy or the environment. Aside from the feel-good factor, what do they get out of it? And the answer to this is major positive brand recognition.
Let’s use one of the above-mentioned brands as an example – through the establishment of Ronald McDonald House Charities – an institution solely dedicated to creating, finding and supporting programmes that directly improve the health and well-being of children across 52 different chapters around the globe, McDonalds has successfully managed to show the softer, more human side to capitalism. Not to say that such organisations only see charity as a means of marketing and don’t have a philanthropic perspective – on the contrary, such companies should be praised for recognising that they have the resources to help others, and by doing so, receive the added benefit of becoming that much more likeable as a brand. Implementing such initiatives can win the hearts and minds of numerous potential consumers.
On a more personal note: About a week ago, I was involved in the organisation of a charity event to help raise funds for the treatment of children with cancer, and was very pleased to have the wonderful people at Cinnabon UAE come on board as sponsors who contributed a generous amount of tasty treats. Although they may not have received a great deal of publicity from doing so, as it was a relatively small event, they were still able to directly target potential customers (more about this later) with samples of their product while aligning with a great cause.
Build an army…of supporters:
Retired talk-show queen, Oprah Winfrey, has shown us the importance of celebrity endorsement. This doesn’t just include the Lady Gagas and Tom Cruises of the world – look to influential members of your local community for support. This could include a prominent spokesperson of a well-known company or a respected journalist or editor of a publication or TV/radio outlet. In fact, in this modern age, some of the most influential people are online – active bloggers and tweeters have the capacity to reach a rapidly increasing network of individuals, so getting these cyber superstars on your side is essential.
Offer free samples for product reviews and if they are happy with the goods, it’s very likely that they’ll do what they can to share their experience with their peers. Even though Apple had no problem promoting the iPad when it was first released, they made sure to reach their target audience by getting a local radio host on board. Catboy, of The Catboy and Geordiebird Breakfast Show on Dubai 92 fame, discussed the product on the popular morning show and on his social media outlets – he even went as far as to dedicate an entire blog to a review of the iPad, where he talked about all the versatile uses of the iPad and openly declared his love for the tablet. All in all, it was a win-win situation for everyone.
Make a lasting impression:
Differentiate yourself from other players in the industry by drawing attention to your unique selling points or going that extra mile for your customer. KLM has always been known for its quirky PR stunts, but one that particularly stands out from the rest was their KLM Surprise campaign at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
The creative Dutch airline found a unique way to connect with their passengers by doing a search on twitter for those who had checked-in for their flights, and using it as a medium to communicate with them and inform them that they had a special ‘surprise’ waiting for them. They then arranged to meet the person somewhere at the boarding gate, and present them with a personalised gift (chosen specifically based on the individual’s interests determined by their twitter activity/profile). Not only did this result in some very happy customers, but these active tweeters took to the social media portal to spread the word about how fantastic KLM were, resulting in a whole lot of ‘word-of-mouth’ advertising (by giving 28 passengers personalised gifts, KLM generated 1 million impressions over 88 countries, and all within 3 weeks) – which, quite frankly, can’t be bought!
My last blog post on The Art of Guerilla Marketing touched on the importance of adding humour to your campaign – this is yet another factor to bear in mind when establishing that special connection, mostly because you want to make this experience (and by default, your brand) memorable. One of my favourite examples of this is The Accidental Test Drive by Nissan, which was implemented right here in Dubai. By double-parking their new SUV model behind people’s cars, with a note that read “Sorry had to run, feel free to get inside and move the car…Sorry”, Nissan literally forced users into testing out the vehicle. That’s 50% of the job done already! As for the number of people who actually took the initiative to take the car out for a test drive, 78% of people signed up – the results speak for themselves.
Admittedly we don’t all have the resources to go to such great lengths, but have a think about what you can do to relate to the people you want to buy your product or service – adding that personal touch can make a world of difference.