If you’re a founder or a marketing professional—I’m sure I don’t have to tell you just how difficult it is to secure brand awareness…especially these days. I’m also certain that there’s no need to remind you that the demand for consumer attention has never been higher than it is today.
Not only do you have to deal with competitive brands in your industry vying for the attention of your audience; you also have to compete for their attention with things like social media, television, gaming, podcasts, streaming platforms, and even the metaverse (as crazy as that may sound now—soon it will be a way of life).
So, since I don’t have to remind you of all of those things that I just subtly reminded you of (do I get points for self-awareness?) I’d be totally remiss if I didn’t give you ways to overcome the noise out there that’s doing its best to demand the attention of your target audience—attention that your brand should be receiving.
One of the best ways to topple the noise requires utilizing the most effective form of marketing there is—good ol' word-of-mouth. In this case, that involves converting consumers into marketers for your brand. Here’s three ways that will help you do it.
Give them the VIP treatment
One of the most effective ways to persuade consumers to take a desired action is by utilizing the power of exclusivity. That’s because from a sociological perspective—people enjoy belonging to groups that aren’t easily accessible to the masses—especially when that group represents prestige. This is why becoming a member of an elite country club is such a joyous occasion for the few that get accepted into them.
You could use the power of exclusivity to encourage consumers to market your brand by granting them access to become a member of an exclusive group that’s reserved only for the best of the best—which are the VIPs.
Create a VIP club (please...name it anything except a rewards club) that has valuable perks that would give your customers bragging rights by becoming a member of it. But here’s the thing, the only way that customers could get admitted into this club—is if they provide proof-of-marketing your brand on their social media pages.
That proof should come in the form of something your brand could track.
If they were to retweet all of your brand’s tweets for thirty days straight.
Or take a selfie with your products and posted it on their Instagram page (but they’d only qualify if they have a certain amount of followers).
Even making a clever TikTok video showcasing your product while including a hashtag connected to your brand is VIP club-worthy.
The key to success here is making sure that your VIP club is something that's so cool— consumers would brag about being a member of it to their peers. Which is why you can’t allow admission to just anyone.
This is only for the customers that are the crème de la crème. Therefore, the benefits provided to members of this club must be a reflection of that.
In her book Sway, author and chief marketing strategist Christina Del Villar, affirmed, “Nothing says ‘I love you’ to a customer more than inviting them to a special VIP event.”
Think of ways that you could hold an event only for your VIPs in which they could all gather. And at that event, provide two things they’ll absolutely love—food and fellowship (people appreciate those who help them socialize…and feed them well).
Show them the money
Another way that you could convince consumers to market your brand is by flat out bribing them—with a prize, that is. A great example of a company that successfully put up prize money to encourage consumers to market their brand is the shoe brand Aldo.
In 2020, Aldo created the #StepIntoLove social media campaign which targeted Gen Zers—offering consumers a prize of $5,000 to create and share videos of themselves dancing and including the hashtag for the prize.
The campaign was a total success! According to Nielsen, the campaign generated over 5 billion views and increased Aldo’s brand awareness by 2.5%.
Author and marketing legend Seth Godin, foreseen this approach to consumer marketing becoming more prevalent and writes about it in his book, Unleashing The Ideavirus. “Companies like Mercata, All Advantage, and even Amazon are offering inducements to customers that compensate them for spreading ideas to their friends and acquaintances in an attempt to acquire new customers.”
Godin went on to predict that, “As the value of creating ideaviruses increases, we’ll see more of this, and we’ll also see more and more people becoming promiscuous sneezers—basically, we’re paying folks enough to corrupt them into spreading ideas in exchange for cash.”
If offering cash prizes to consumers in exchange for them marketing your brand is something you consider unethical—I say totally avoid it. But I’m here to tell you what works. And as Aldo could attest, offering a cash prize to consumers is an effective incentive.
Create a ritual
I often speak about tribalism as it pertains to marketing because it’s one of the most important factors of the science we call marketing. But instead of going on a tangent about how important it is for marketers to understand tribalism—I’ll simply provide examples of how two brands utilized tribalism to increase growth and awareness.
The Mary Kay brand is world-renowned for its culture and the dedication of its beauty consultants. Their dedication to the brand is so unique—many psychologists have compared it to that of a cult. And in every cult—there are rituals.
One of the most intriguing rituals that Mary Kay orchestrates is their process of recruiting beauty consultants to sell their products. Not only does Mary Kay offer prizes like a pink Cadillac to beauty consultants that sell the most products. Beauty consultants also receive a commission when they recruit others to sell under their distribution network.
The Mary Kay recruitment process has now become a ritual to the point that it’s a social expectation for every new recruit to also recruit others into the tribe. Those that do not—would be sort of like pariahs to the tribe.
Another example of a brand that has successfully utilized the ritual approach is Clubhouse—the social media app. When the app first launched—the only way that someone could become a member on Clubhouse required them receiving an invite from an insider that was already a member.
That process created a ritual—and it worked for the brand in a few ways.
The insiders wanted their friends to become members of the cool new social media app for the same reason that you’d want all your friends to have a cell phone if you had one and they did not—it wouldn’t be as useful to you if you were the only person you knew that had access to communicate on it.
Also, it created tension due to FOMO (fear of missing out) for those that knew about the app but could not receive an invite to become a member.
One way you could create a ritual for consumers to recruit others to engage your brand is by creating a members-only system with certain components of your brand.
For example, let’s say you’re the CMO of an online grocery store. You could create a system where only consumers who share your store's coupons with at least two people—would receive the discounts from those coupons themselves. And the two people that received the coupon offering would have to enter a special code during checkout on your website to confirm that they received them from the sender.
Of course the discounts would have to be of enough value to invoke the action from both the sender and receiver—but it would be well worth it in the long run.
In his book, The Culting Of Brands: Turn Your Customers Into True Believers, author Douglas Atkin, cautioned, “As the leader of an organization, you cannot guarantee that an event will gain repeatable status within an organization. But you can set up the right conditions for it to occur.”
By applying any one of the aforementioned actions in this article—you’ll be setting up the right conditions of converting consumers into marketers for your brand. But it’s the benefits that your brand provides to those consumers is what will truly determine how often the process will be repeated once they do take the action of marketing your brand.