How many Apple products do you own? Is that your second cup of Starbucks? Uber’s 5 minutes away! Oh, just Venmo me!
What do all these brands have in common?
They all deliver a highly memorable, personalized, consistent experience each time you interact with them, and that’s why you keep buying their products/services! This makes you their ‘brand advocate’…a walking, talking, outstandingly free promoter of their brand.
So the real question is – With competition always lurking, instant ways to openly communicate dissatisfaction, and people’s flaky mindset (those millennials), how do you create brand advocates?
It’s tough for any brand to produce loyalists, but it’s a trickier road for long established companies that have to prove their legacy to the next generation of buyers. Typically traditional organizations are guilty of – practicing the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” methodology or just taking a conservative approach to innovation – 2 things that go against advancement. Although these strategies can still generate revenue in the short-term, either tactic is a recipe for extinction in the long run. So where do you start…it’s essential to first agree on the need for a change and then envision how to position the brand in today’s digital, ever-evolving world. This requires gathering the right people to join the conversation…ones that will be honest about the risks, paranoid about missed opportunities, and enthusiastic forward-thinkers. The dream team should include people of all ages, backgrounds, expertise, and most importantly those that are empowered (mainly because it’s contagious). The objective should be to create a brand that shows next gen buyers that it is persistently adapting and innovating, while maintaining one constant – a stellar experience (and by experience, I’m not just talking about good call center service).
Make Me Feel Like I’m 1 in 85M
There are so many ways to attract customers to a brand, but making them life-timers is the key. One classic way companies lure consumers is through incentives (millennials love free or discounted stuff, right?). Yes, sure, a free t-shirt with your logo on it will make them happy for a day or so, but do you really think it’s enough for them to channel their inner-cheerleader? Believe it or not, millennials crave a more tailored experience. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing off-putting about free giveaways, but it’s an incentive – not a memorable, personalized, consistent experience. Let’s define ‘incentives’ and ‘experience’ (Webster)…
Incentives – something that encourages a person to do something
Experience – the process of doing and seeing things and of having things happen to you
Based on the definitions, incentives require you to give something to someone in order to get them to do what you want, whereas an experience implies active and equal involvement from all parties. Incentives seem short-lived and momentary, while experiences are more permanent and unforgettable. So with millennials’ spending power on target to drastically increase by 2017, organizations need to start thinking about how they can establish themselves as timeless brands through unique experiences. For industries like financial services and retail that rely heavily on their incentive programs to appeal to customers (reward points and cashback benefits), the focus needs to shift from offering lucrative deals to the masses to delivering authentic, ‘just-for-you’ moments.
Sell the Journey
Now that we established the need for an experience strategy (survival), it’s all about how you transition an ordinary consumer into a brand advocate. For millennial buyers, one of the most engaging things an organization can do is host an event. Branded VIP parties, exclusive sneak peaks, and influencer-only events appeal to spontaneous millennials who want to feel like trendsetters among their peers. A successful event should take its attendees through a journey – made up of multiple genuine experiences (including giveaways…remember incentives are okay as long as they don’t define the whole brand). The host’s job is to make everyone feel like a unique character throughout the journey, and then towards the end or after the event, paint the bigger picture to show them that they were all part of something great. This approach taps into a millennial’s desire to have a highly tailored interaction that is unforgettable, collaborative, and purposeful…and if done right, it truly delivers an exceptional experience for both the organization and consumer. So how can you beautifully execute this?
Before the event: Create quality content that can boost interest and begin sharing it out 10 weeks in advance. Use email teasers to get everyone excited and think of 2 hashtags to keep conversations trending around the event. Tweets with hashtags get 2x more engagement than those without, but be careful because using more than 2 actually reduces engagement by 17%.
During the event: Encourage relevant discussions, line up engaging speakers, good music, and worthy participants for successful networking opportunities (don’t forget the free swag either). Continue to promote the event on check-in apps and social media. If you’re fundraising, you’ll raise 10x more online. According to Adweek, 81% of millennials shared a photo on social from an event they went to, 71% used the event’s hashtag, 67% followed the brand on social, and 56% signed up for an email list. Also, depending on the type of event, live streaming is a great option for those that couldn’t attend…watching it virtually usually encourages them to attend in-person next time.
After the event: Keep in touch with your attendees by continuing to use the hashtags to share fresh content about the brand and future events. Create a Facebook album or Instagram pictures from the event and encourage participants to tag themselves. Send a personalized email to those that signed up for the email list including a link to a survey. Leverage the data you gather from social media and the survey to design a lead generation campaign based on their event experience. And finally, keep hosting these events to gradually convert more and more of your customers into brand advocates…it’s all about the journey!
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