It sounds like the strangest idea. After all, isn’t the point of advertising to show off the products that your company sells or the services that your company offers? How else will potential customers know what they’re buying if they don’t see your product plastered all over social media?
Well, as anyone who’s ever sat in a company’s marketing department will tell you, selling a product is only the beginning. Advertising also involves building a brand – a reputation that will get new and old customers alike curious about what else your company offers, besides the item that initially caught their eyes. And that means doing more than focusing only on a product.
Now that so many businesses have long been established on social media, advertisers are fully aware of how important it is to think beyond the company walls. They’ve shifted their attention to providing information on all the topics that interest their customers. They’ve embraced the stories that have grown around their brands, because as Beth Comstock, GE’s Chief Marketing Officer, put it, “You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything.” And the most successful of these advertisers have built followings that have only grown with time.
So here’s to the new advertising… which makes the product being sold a secondary focus of the promotional campaign. How can you make it work for you? Take a look at what the following companies are doing on social media that we think works extremely well, and see if you feel inspired!
Trust us – as a company that sells custom pens, we know just how hard it can be to make pictures of pens stand out in a social media feed. So we like the route that Kuretake, a Japanese manufacturer of high-end pens, chose. Kuretake UK’s Instagram pictures do indeed show the pens being sold. But they show those pens alongside illustrations that artists created with them, to demonstrate just how well those pens work.
In addition to posting illustrations from employees, Kuretake also will share art that non-employee artists have uploaded to their own personal accounts and tagged with the #Kuretake hashtag, showing that even pen manufacturers can interact with their fans.
How do you advertise The World’s Most Versatile Camera? Well, if you want to do it successfully, you probably don’t do it by sharing pictures of the camera itself. Cameras and webcams are boxy and plastic, with glass lenses. What more do consumers need to know?
Well, they might be interested in how well the camera works or what it can do. GoPro’s cameras are made to be taken out into the world. They’re small, waterproof, and easy to mount. To show exactly why these features matter, the company fills its social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram alike) with customer action shots and videos that users have taken with their GoPro cameras. And how many camera companies can say that their products travel well with surfers?
To get their images featured, users submit their photos and videos on GoPro’s website. Not only will GoPro share its favorites; it also has cash prizes for the best of the best.
Guitar Center is a retail chain that sells musical instruments, including, yes, guitars. For a lot of musicians, a picture of a vintage Fender Telecaster posted on Instagram would be enough to make them swoon and open their wallets.
Music, however, is about more than image and looks (despite what the success of some pop stars might lead you to believe). So Guitar Center goes further and also posts videos of musicians playing music with those instruments that the company wants customers to buy. We think it most successfully does this on its YouTube channel, where you can find plenty of videos of artists performing at the Guitar Center store in Hollywood.
Of particular note is that “At Guitar Center with Nic Harcourt” series of videos, which lends credibility to the whole endeavor by having influential California DJ Nic Harcourt interview the musicians featured.
Workout clothing and athletic gear, in theory, should be really easy to sell, especially on image-rich social media. Just show how fancy the products look, have athletes in peak physical condition model them, and you’re good. Under Armour follows this philosophy well (and for the record, we’re forever happy to see Misty Copeland represent them).
But Lululemon takes a different approach and presents not just pictures of its yoga and running gear, but pictures of all the locations where you can wear it. Its Instagram feed shows Lululemon fans wearing its clothing in exotic and thrilling locales:
Meanwhile, its Pinterest page has a board called “Sanctuary” dedicated to relaxing, inspirational home spaces:
The total takeaway? Oh, the places you’ll go… with Lululemon!
Ben and Jerry’s
When you name one of your products after a member of the Grateful Dead and another product after the band Phish, it’s safe to assume that you’re going for a neo-hippie, love-the-Earth vibe with your brand image. Ben and Jerry’s certainly achieves it.
However, it does more to solidify that image than just market its ice cream goodies to the kind of crowd that gets a special kind of midnight munchies. As a certified B corporation, Ben and Jerry’s is committed to social and environmental responsibility and transparent legal dealings in its business activities. Even before the B corporation certification existed, though, Ben and Jerry’s publicly championed causes for the social good, such as not treating dairy cows with artificial growth hormone.
The Ben and Jerry’s Twitter feed shows just how dedicated the company is to causes beyond selling tasty ice cream. Among its recent efforts were tweets urging progress at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference:
— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) December 11, 2015
The message was that a healthy environment that’s good for its customers is an issue that’s important to Ben and Jerry’s, too.
Putting It All Together
What each of these brands does in its promotional campaigns, besides show what the company sells, is suggest that what it sells can help customers achieve a better life. Kuretake pens will let you create amazing visual art; instruments from Guitar Center will let you make music. Lululemon workout clothing is comfortable to wear anywhere, and wherever you go, you’ll be able to record and share the experience with your GoPro. And when it’s all done, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream you’re treating yourself to is good for your body and good for the planet.
This is advertising that embraces the idea of putting the customer first. To be sure, each company’s products are still prominent. Today’s savvy shoppers don’t just want products, however. They want stories and ideas that make them feel something; they want experiences that are worth the time they spend on social media. They want to believe that by letting companies know more about them, they’ll get a shopping experience more in line with their interests in return.
So ask yourself: what can your products do for your customers, and what can they do with your products?
Then go show off the answer on social media.