How to Spark up Your Brand with Participation Marketing

You have been bogged down with how to take your brand to another level, you are so obsessed with the idea but utterly confused on how and where to start, stop the fret, you’ve just hit the jackpot, participation marketing is your antidote. By leveraging participation marketing, you ensure that your brand is on everybody’s lips.

With participation marketing or customer participation, you create promotional efforts with the intention of drawing your audience into ongoing engagements, experiences, and conversations with your brand. They will at the end have greater access to a wider variety, faster and more secure products, and market-leading customer service.

You confer the status of a living object to your brand and your customers literally see the brand in their shadows and every day living. They will walk, work, talk, eat, and dream your brand. It becomes their next door neighbor, a familiar face down the street.

Participation marketing is an innovation brought to the bare, it does not require a big budgeting, it’s something you can carry along in a stride. The overall essence is to directly engage your customers in your marketing campaigns with little or no financial involvement.

You will unwittingly transform them into ambassadors, influencers, and campaigners for your brand. Since you have made them to see themselves as stakeholders of the brand, with their sheer word-of-mouth referrals, an amazing transformation will occur in the ROI of your company.

Who has done this?

Coca-Cola, the leader in the nonalcoholic ready-to-drink beverage (NARTD) industry is by any standard an enormous brand that already has millions of customers – but while other companies might be contented to rest on their laurels (and their customer bases), the brand keeps on dishing out one innovative marketing campaign after another. While it’s true that most marketers won’t be able to match Coca-Cola budget, but we can take a page from their campaigns.

It’s on record that in the United States, the average person drinks the equivalent of 275 (12oz) cans of Coke per year so you should expect the brand to be satisfied with its market share. But what did it do rather?

The brand launched a participation marketing –  “Share a Coke” campaign (replacing the logos on Coke cans with popular names among young people) encouraging customers to share a Coke with a friend. Devastatingly simple, Coke was inviting buyers to participate in a massive social/referral marketing experience.

The brand reports that the participation marketing campaign generated huge customer participation, particularly online and amongst millennials with 341,000 posts on Instagram with the hashtag #shareacoke from last campaign and that 96% of consumer sentiment toward the campaign was either positive or neutral.

Another well thought out and beautifully packaged participation marketing campaign was the one launched by Apple. In order to advertise the camera capabilities of its iPhones, Apple started the “Shot on iPhone” campaign.

Apple allows iPhone users to submit photos or videos for the chance to be featured on an Apple billboard, Apple Instagram post, or an Apple television commercial. Through the campaign, Apple has situated itself as providing users the means to capture and share beautiful moments from their lives.

Furthermore, the company emphasizes its interest in including customers in its larger brand story by showcasing certain photos and videos.

Coca-Cola and Apple have big budgets so you may not be able to copy what they do, you are absolutely correct. That, however, shouldn’t be the end of the world. Why not start simple?

What if you go about getting your customers even at your small startup to provide constructive suggestions and share their ideas on how to shape product and service offerings? If for instance you market handbags, don’t you realize you can start a participation marketing campaign by asking buyers to vote on the styles, sizes, qualities, or colors you plan to stock next season.

This sounds simple but it’s overwhelmingly effective. According to a senior executive of a global specialty retailer: “We spend millions on market research yet fail to take note of what our customers could tell us every day.”

Building an Instagram campaign with your customers wearing your branded t-shirt could be the magic wand you need for transformation in your restauranting business. You don’t need the budget of Coca-Cola or Apple to enhance such devastatingly effective participation marketing campaign.

When you encourage your customers to provide feedback and suggestions you succeed in tying them more closely to the business. Brands can even recapture and re-engage faltering or defecting customers simply by contacting them and encouraging them to participate.

Participation marketing enhances a brand’s shift in focus – from focusing solely on acquiring new customers, to turning them into superfan consumers and engaging them throughout the customer lifecycle.

Photo Credit: SupportPDX Flickr via Compfight cc

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About John Ejiofor

John Ejiofor is a curious life-researcher, whose quest to finding answers to life's pertinent questions has led to founding Nature Torch. This blog aims to debate and explore many questions about our earth -- including those a lot of people are uncomfortable with asking. He has been published on some of the internet's most respected websites, which you can find online.
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