Doing a lot with a little: Inexpensive online brand success stories

Doing a lot with a little: Inexpensive online brand success stories

One of the big misnomers of brand managers looking to find their market is that they have to spend big bucks to do it. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the age of social media, consumers are willing to “help” brands virally, as long as the content has appeal. Here are some examples of web and social media marketing successes that can be adapted inexpensively for businesses large and small.

Your story through others’ eyes

Virality is the fuel that fires digital marketing. You know when you see it, but creating it can be a formidable challenge. Many viral campaigns start by tackling this problem first – by appealing directly to their consumers and constituents to tell a story on their brand’s behalf.

One recent success story in the tourism space comes from the Connecticut Office of Tourism. Their challenge was to create a brand identity and attract the attention of potential visitors in a competitive market … with small budget. Their solution was a relatively cheap social media contest (a $1,000 prize), asking their friends and fans “What’s Your Connecticut Story?”

The result was a deluge of videos that directed the state’s marketing experts toward a campaign focusing on the historic assets of the state, with the tagline to match: Still Revolutionary. And the effort resulted in some impressive stats, according to Marketing News (May 2013). Between February-October of 2012 the social media campaign racked up 1.1 billion media impressions and 140,000 facebook fans, while the social media contest garnered over 12,000 votes and 1,800 nominations.

History became their calling card, and it is a great platform to urge web visitors, and social media fans and friends to do their storytelling for them.

Build your brand aspirationally

Visitors who love Seattle, Wash. associate a few iconic images and brands with the Pacific Northwest’s “Emerald City,” and right up there with the Space Needle and Starbucks Coffee is the Pike Place Fish Market. In the social media space, the photos and videos of the market workers hucking huge salmon to the delight of tourists is more than a coincidence.

The fish market didn’t become famous without a plan, and, according to ownership the plan started as “Hey! Let’s be world-famous.” With that simple ambitious turn of a phrase, their business became more than fresh seafood: It became showmanship and an experience that cannot be authentically duplicated anywhere else.

Without any money to advertise, the Pike Place Fish Market would have to rely on word of mouth and public relations. A curiosity drew attention, brought more visitors, and over time became a staple stop for out-of-towners and visitors alike. Over time, the market’s “fame” even migrated over to social media, where it boasts more than 8,000 followers on facebook – not bad for a fish market!

Make it about someone else

Philanthropy in the digital world is exploding – brands are combining charity and digital marketing as a creative way to reach new and existing customers. All the while they’re taking advantage of consumers’ newly acquired fluency and comfort with online transacting.

One of the great charity success stories of 2012 happened online through the auction service eBay. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the company waived some transaction fees and encouraged participation in their shopping carts to raise a whopping $54 million for its Giving Works program.

Dollar for dollar, the cost to eBay to raise this money was relatively cheap – little extra labor, and even less digital marketing budget – but the effect of the campaign was invaluable: Consumers connected the eBay’s brand to community awareness while feeling inspired to do good with their shopping activities. All the while, eBay and its loyal customers are making a positive impact in the world.

Get Cheeky

Remember Old Spice’s “Smell Like A Man” campaign? How could you forget? The social media marketing managers at agency Wieden & Kennedy brought new life to an old brand with a daring experiment: Destroy it, then rebuild it. And rebuild it they did. Gone are the days of your grandfather’s Old Spice, replaced by something hip and attractive to a new generation of consumers.

Through a combination of laugh-out-loud, oddball TV commercials (the first of which aired on the 2010 Super Bowl), YouTube videos and interactive websites, young people came to know “Mustafa,” the Old Spice Man, and his quippy catchphrases (“I’m on a horse”). The campaign was built for virality, and Old Spice benefited with millions of YouTube views. And then the coup-de-gras: A social media marketing campaign focused on YouTube where Mustafa published personalized video responses to questions asked by fans on Twitter and YouTube. These videos became the foundation for another round of viral hits, amassing more amazing response to this seemingly silly campaign.

The proof is in the pudding. Check out Old Spice’s YouTube channel. Hundreds of millions views have propelled this campaign into the ether. It could very well become the first of its kind to reach 1 billion views.


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About Milena Regos

Marketer, Consultant and Creator of the Simple Marketing Blueprint online marketing course for busy professionals.

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