We recently attended the Glossy Digiday Digital Commerce Summit where many high-profile eCommerce brands like Gap, Tarte Cosmetics, Canada Goose, Footlocker and more shared the key marketing strategies they’re currently implementing. The insights were highly interesting, especially given that 2020 was such a turbulent year for brands. As many were forced to pivot in their marketing, businesses had to get creative and focus on different initiatives than they perhaps otherwise would have.
We noticed many brands are honing in on a similar set of overarching themes from which to guide their marketing strategy into the future. They are:
- Setting a standard of diversity, inclusion and social justice
- Adhering to more sustainable business practices
- Democratizing the brand to give more voice to communities
Why are these three values important? Furthermore, how can you metabolize them for your brand and let them guide your marketing strategy? We’ll cover this and more in this post.
Diversity, inclusion and social justice
Today, we have so much visibility into the lives of everyday people thanks to abundant digital platforms and social media. For any brand, the daily lives of its fans and customers are likely already visible to some extent via personal social media accounts.
To create meaningful connections with consumers, it’s more important now than ever for brands’ marketing to reflect and celebrate the diversity of their real-life customers and employees. To do this, brands are turning their marketing over to the people in their communities to amplify their voices rather than just blasting the corporate megaphone. This gives people of different backgrounds a voice and lends a platform for those individuals to tell their stories. This type of content is not only compelling to audiences, but it resonates on a deeper level with followers because it focuses on unique, relatable individuals.
Gap wanted to collaborate with emerging voices for a multi-generational apparel collection and take inspiration from their founding year in 1969. They aimed to highlight how each person had their own approach to shaping culture and making their own unique mark on the world.
Under their campaign, Be the Future, Gap initiated a call-to-action via a TikTok challenge targeted toward Gen Z under the hashtag #ShareTheGapDream. For this campaign, TikTok users were encouraged to recreate their version of a Gap TikTok dance while wearing Gap apparel. In return, Gap pledged to donate $10 for every video created up to $50,000 to Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Gap also launched an adult-focused campaign, Stand United which, according to Gap, “highlights the power of standing together as a collective of diverse individuals, voices raised, for a more equitable future.”
Things your brand can do
- Try turning your brand’s social media accounts over to everyday people and content creators rather than trying to have total control over your output. This allows you to amplify the voices of a diverse range of people.
- Implement user-generated content (UGC) into your marketing to bring more visibility to your real customers, employees and brand fans—helping to ensure all walks of life are reflected in your brand’s messaging and imagery.
- Try not to overthink things. Observe what people are saying and liking and give the chosen content creators for your brand the power to have fun with it.
- Fold influential voices and micro-influencers into your digital storytelling. You can do this with live social media broadcasts or have someone host a zoom happy hour.
As the safety of the planet increasingly becomes a large concern for the world, people are looking to big brands and holding them accountable. Shoppers want to buy products with a clear conscience, knowing that the money they’re investing goes toward the betterment of the environment. As a result, consumers are becoming much more selective over which brands they support, viewing sustainability as a core factor in choosing brands and products.
Many eCommerce and retail brands are embracing a sustainable mindset not only in how they make products but also in how they go about marketing them. The year of the pandemic provided many opportunities for brands to get creative with running more sustainable, virtual marketing experiences for consumers.
Example: Canada Goose
Canada Goose pledged to be carbon-neutral by 2025 and eliminate single-use plastics in all of its facilities. Not only did they launch their most sustainably made parka yet, but they also announced a new platform advocating for sustainability called HUMANATURE.
Canada Goose also used the COVID-19 moment when people were more accepting of virtual experiences to create a VR environment for their products. Users were able to create their avatar wearing the Canada Goose Standard Expedition Parka to showcase its suitability in three types of California climates.
Things your brand can do
- Make a commitment toward sustainability and transparency, then communicate that commitment to your customers across as many touchpoints (social, website, app, store, etc.) as possible
- Find creative ways to get your customers involved with your sustainability program whether it’s through a hashtag campaign or asking them to share themselves wearing or using your sustainably made products
- Think of ways to bring the in-store experience virtual to reduce your brand’s overall carbon footprint and that of your customers too.
Brands are realizing that the way to cultivate brand enthusiasm and loyalty is to have a focus on the community around the brand. A while back, Lush Cosmetics UK decided they would no longer have branded social media accounts. Rather, they decided to engage their active community of advocates directly—allowing their advocates and employees to be the social voice of their brand.
If you think there is too much risk in handing over content to any group other than your internal marketing team, think again. While democratizing your brand does require you to give up a bit of control, it also vastly broadens the abundance and variety of content you’re able to share with your community—expanding the depth and breadth of perspectives your brand can emote, and helping to forge deeper bonds with your audiences.
At the Glossy Digital Commerce Summit, one jewelry brand founder said that what she sees resonates most with followers and clients is content that’s NOT perfect. She reported that imperfect regular-looking photos versus staged photography perform much better as far as engagement and sales go.
This is because audiences today are looking for authenticity. One study we conducted found that consumers are 2.4x more likely to say user-generated content is authentic compared to brand-created content.
L’Oreal took an unrestrictive approach toward its influencer marketing program back in 2016 when they launched their #beautysquad campaign. Instead of choosing one giant beauty influencer to work with, they localized their influencer strategy, instead choosing to work with a greater number of smaller influencers in each country they wanted to target.
They even updated their slogan from “Because I’m worth it” to “Because we’re all worth it.”
Things you can do
- Start thinking of customers, employees and influencers as creators in their own right and give them the freedom to tell their story through your brand.
- Gifting can go a long way. Try out a gifting strategy with micro-influencers to stimulate several groups of smaller communities to engage with your brand.
- Give your employees a voice in your brand. Have different teams within the brand do social media takeovers, answer Q&As on what it’s like to work for your brand, etc. Your followers will appreciate getting to know the people behind the logo.
- Create guidelines you want those in your brand community to follow. Examples could be things like having a specific aesthetic or sharing about a particular product.
- Think of working with your brand communities and micro-influencers as a partnership instead of collaboration.
- Build out a more long-term advocate program under your brand. Tools like Stackla’s Organic Influencers can help your team create and cultivate a community of creators, members to create high-quality content for your brand.
As marketers, we all learned so much from 2020. It was a year when we had to put many things on hold, pivot toward initiatives that better serve our communities and instrumentally change the way we engage with consumers.
By focusing on these marketing brand values, you’ll be better equipped to listen to your customers and do things in a way that not only garners more appreciation and respect for your brand but also works toward creating a better society, which is beneficial to us all.