Copy This Marketing Strategy For 75 Million Free Impressions
Starting a company and getting it off the ground is one of the more difficult paths you could choose in life. It takes an incredible amount of work, determination and focus just to get a real business operating.
Then, once you’re live, it’s often difficult to stand out, get attention and start attracting customers. Below is the step-by-step marketing strategy I’ve used to repeatedly generate more than 75 million press impressions per activation for brands.
We’ll cover how you can use partnerships and creative activations to make a statement, create a press worthy story, and generate a mass media frenzy around your company.
These steps apply to companies at almost any size, and with a little creative work you can manufacture a ton of press for your brand.
Step 1: Branding, Brand Positioning, Tone-of-Voice
From the beginning, it can’t be emphasized enough how important it is to spend the time to create a brand that people respond to. Great branding equals creative freedom. It gives you the flexibility and personality to connect with customers in ways that generic brands simply can’t. Always gut check your brand and the content you put out into the world against a simple question, “Is this really f*cking cool?” This applies to consumer brands as well as B2B. People respond emotionally to branding, and you always know when a brand nails it.
You need to determine how you’re going to communicate with your customers. What’s your tone of voice? Will your brand be aspirational but funny, serious and sophisticated, or approachable and light hearted? Knowing how you want to communicate with your users will drive everything from your logo, imagery, colors and eventually tone-of-voice across all platforms (web, social, email, customer support). Consistency is key, and that translates into the types of activations and brands you’ll work with.
Taco Bell is an incredible example of a company who has perfected their tone-of-voice. (See some of their highlights here on Buzzfeed) They understand their customers, and their marketing and brand resonate with the audience they’re speaking to. That type of focus wins them awards like AdAge’s Marketer of The Year, and sets them apart in the industry. By comparison, Del Taco just sells tacos, and they let you know if any coupons are available. Nobody has a personal connection to Del Taco like they do to Taco Bell, and the difference is just branding.
Chubbies, Bumble, Equinox, SoulCycle, DryBar, Virgin, Casper are all brands who know exactly who their customers are. As the saying goes “a brand for everyone is a brand for no one,” and that’s never been truer than it is today. Flying Virgin America is an experience, everything from the lighting, music, uniforms, food choices, safety video, down to the boarding pass shape/quality has been thought through. Conversely, United Airlines just flies you places. If you nail your personality as a brand, then your customers know who you are.
Step 2: Identifying the Right Partners for Activations
Once you’ve figured out your brand’s identity, look for companies that share the same customer and style of communication. Going after big companies is admirable (and probably more achievable than you think with a creative idea), but to gain traction fast, focus on businesses similar in size and who share your same consumer demo. It’s important that you both are on the same page regarding tone-of-voice and objective, offering a cohesive message for consumers and maximizing the ability for press outlets to tell your story.
A perfect example of this is Bumble (the dating app) and Betches (the content site). The two companies partnered early on, have a very similar demographic, and have been able to leverage each other’s content and offerings to capture substantial audiences. It’s part of how Bumble, who was started years after Tinder, has established an engaged Instagram following 4X larger than Tinder’s.
Casper and West Elm are another perfect partnership. You would think Casper, a mattress start-up, would partner with a mattress store right? Like Sit n’ Sleep? No, they went for a brand (West Elm) whose customer demographic mirrored their own, had a complementary aesthetic, and a massive engaged following on the same social channels Casper uses.
Once you find partners who use the same channels to communicate with customers (Instagram, Email, Contests, Push Notifications etc), with an audience and tone-of-voice that matches your own, then you can start to approach them with activation ideas.
Step 3: Co-launch an Activation That Gives People Something to Talk About
People aren’t just going to give you access to their customers because you’re fun and likeable, you need to bring something interesting to the table. If you’re a similar sized company, it’s easier to do an activation/collaboration together and drive growth. However, if you’re a much smaller business, it’s your responsibility to get creative, handle planning and make it easy for the other party to say yes.
When you’re talking about grabbing mass media attention, you need to give the people something to write about. A beauty product offering samples at the mall this Tuesday just isn’t going to cut it. The first question to ask yourself, is “what would you click on” if you read the headline. Companies like Uber have nailed viral activations by doing things like delivering on-demand cuddly kittens.
At Saucey (Disclaimer: I’m CEO and Co-founder), we created a similar media frenzy in partnership with MeUndies that generated over 75 Million press impressions at zero cost, simply by doing something creative together that we knew would grab headlines. Saucey and MeUndies had very similar customer demographics, both our brands we’re edgy, so we knew doing something scandalous would resonate with people. Together, we created “Sleepover packs” available in Saucey’s app that had MeUndies underwear for guys and girls, and included a bottle of wine or tequila along with some chocolates and swag. We launched the activation across both our email lists, social and in-app, where if you ordered a “sleep-over pack” it might be delivered by MeUndies underwear models.
After feeding the activation to press ahead of launch, hundreds of press outlets picked up the story, including LA Times, Uproxx, LAWeekly, Total Frat Move, Huffington Post, KROQ had us on the radio, local television sent reporters out to both our offices. Within a week we hit more than 75 Million press impressions. Point being, Saucey first knew it’s customer and tone-of-voice. Then found a partner with a similar audience and persona, and we brainstormed an activation that we knew would grab headlines.
MeUndies and Saucey have gone on to do this multiple times with different partners:
Step 4: How To Feed The Press
Depending on the activation, you’ll need to decide whether you’re going to do an announcement or let it happen organically.
For Uber kittens to be a success, people had to know about it, and knowing about it drove the frenzy that generated press. If Uber drivers just showed up at people’s doors with cats, people would be confused, and it’s unlikely press would pick up the story. Same with Saucey and MeUndies, if someone in their underwear showed up at your door, it might be a little uncomfortable if you didn’t know it was coming.
Telling people that if you do X, Justin Timberlake is going to deliver to you is exciting, but not as exciting as Justin Timberlake just showing up at your door unannounced. He’s someone that doesn’t require an explanation (kittens and underwear models need explanations). So taking an organic approach works better for something like a celebrity partner, or an activation whose pure surprise doesn’t need an explanation. With Saucey and Channing Tatum, we just let him show up at people’s houses, knew customers would take and post photos from their phones, and then we just made sure 1-2 press outlets saw those photos on Instagram.
Some stories tell themselves, while others require you feeding the press the headline you want them to write. Like finding the right partner for an activation, you need to identify the press outlets whose audience will love the story, as well as the specific writers who cover your sector. You also need to consider timing. Launching an activation on the fourth of July may sound like a good idea, but there is so much noise around major holidays. Consider that in some circumstances a “random Tuesday” may be a better timing where outlets are looking for news to cover.
With a Planned Press activation, reach out to all the writers on your list with a short description of what’s coming up, along with a launch date. You’ll be surprised by how many writers prefer to speak directly to founders instead of PR teams. Some writers will love the story, others will pass (don’t take it personally). Work closely with the ones that love what you’re doing and get them all the information, logos and pictures they need to make the announcement.
When you launch the activation, use the initial few stories that drop, and email all the other press outlets with the news starting to go live. Many of the outlets that passed on the announcement will come back and pick it up if you start to get larger publications covering the activation. Don’t forget to post the coverage on both your personal and company social, and link to and thank the writers. In turn, many of the writers will retweet or republish your own social coverage of their coverage. Let this snowball start to take effect as you continue to hit more and more publications, showing them how much coverage is taking place. This all needs to be done day-of. Nobody likes to write about old news.
In an Organic Press activation, the approach is similar but more refined. Identify the publications and writers that you want to hit, and as organic content surfaces, start forwarding them all the user generated content. It’ll be up to them to take it from there.
Anyone can create a mass press frenzy for their business to drive growth. It all starts with building a brand people love and by knowing your customers. Develop relationships and partnerships with companies whose audience matches your own, and create concepts that resonate with real people. “Is this f*cking cool?” Will people have a real emotional connection to what you’re doing?
Once you know that the answer to both those questions is yes, then it’s all about finding the best writers at the right outlets to tell your story.
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