An increasingly important element in brand development is the role that consumers play through social media. More now than ever before it is essential that brands maintain a dialogue with their consumers to preserve the balancing act of retaining loyal customers whilst fostering new ones. After moving beyond the one-dimensional “like” feature of Facebook, brands are using social networking sites as platforms to actively encourage consumer participation. Crucially it is the confectionary brands that have been experiencing the best responses as their target audience is younger and so more likely to engage with online campaigns.
Skittles demonstrated their ability to master the social media strategy with their “Blue campaign”. The brand embraced consumers’ demand for a blue skittle and then allowed them to participate in the arrival of the new flavour. Fans were able to track the truck driver’s progress from the factory in the Czech Republic across the continent and into the UK.
Whenever this eccentric trucker was feeling “blue”, Skittles instructed their Facebook users to send messages of encouragement and to like his updates.
When the blue Skittle finally launched it sold out in three weeks and Skittles sales in the UK increased by 29.9%. The brilliance of the campaign lies in the involvement of the consumers who were given a reason to participate and feel part of a community. Indeed the inspiration for the blue Skittle originated from the fans themselves and so providing them with such a unique intimacy with the brand demonstrated an intelligent perception of their consumers.
In a similar vein Rowntree’s launched their aptly named Randoms brand by floating a giant “Foamy Gnome” across the British skies, whilst making considerable noise in the social networking ether about its location.
The campaign motivated 600k to network with the brand on Facebook and saw #foamygnome trend nationally on Twitter. In order to strengthen these networking inroads, Rowntree’s began another campaign where fans had to locate seven “Phoney” gnomes hidden in packets of Randoms. This second campaign utilised the brand’s established online presence to encourage fans to take part, which naturally drove sales as, to participate, you had to purchase a packet.
The most effective social media campaigns are also the ones that have a straightforward objective. As a way to thank their one million followers on Facebook, Cadbury Dairy Milk decided to construct a giant chocolate thumbs-up.
Again the participation of the fans, who were able to watch the live footage and reward the workers with tea and cake, was essential to the campaign’s success that saw 350,000 users interacting with the brand.
By celebrating their fans instead of the reverse, Cadbury displayed their ability to transform the archetypical role that brands usually play on social networking sites. Rather than posting an impersonal message of thanks, Cadbury recognised an opportunity to be both creative and interactive.
However, social media is an open platform and as such there are risks. Brands can suffer when social media strategies are not well thought through and clearly defined. Skittles exemplified this reckless approach perfectly when in 2009 it turned its website into a live tweet stream that automatically displayed any post that contained the word “skittles.” By volunteering their brand to twitter users with no restrictions, Skittles became open to a torrent of unwanted and obscene posts.
Social media campaigns must therefore actively involve fans beyond the perfunctory “like” gesture and give them a reason to keep socialising around the brand. Consumers are hungry for novel and innovative ways to interact with brands and brands recognise that a key to driving loyalty is engagement. But don’t just engage for the sake of engagement, be smart, know your audience, define your strategy and set yourself targeted outcomes.